University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
new search
page permalink
Case Name National Federation of the Blind of California v. Uber Technologies PA-CA-0002
Docket / Court 3:14-cv-4086 NC ( N.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Disability Rights-Pub. Accom.
Public Accomm./Contracting
Special Collection DOJ Civil Rights Division Statements of Interest
Attorney Organization Rosen, Bien, Galvan & Grunfeld
Case Summary
On September 9, 2014, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), along with several of its members who had been discriminated against by Uber drivers because of their service animals, filed this lawsuit in the U.S District Court for the Northern District of California. They sued Uber under Title ... read more >
On September 9, 2014, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), along with several of its members who had been discriminated against by Uber drivers because of their service animals, filed this lawsuit in the U.S District Court for the Northern District of California. They sued Uber under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (42 U.S.C. §§ 12811 et seq.), the California Unruh Civil Rights Act (California Civil Code §§ 51 & 52), and the California Disabled Persons Act (California Civil Code §§ 54-54.3). Represented by Disability Rights Advocates and private counsel, the plaintiffs sought injunctive and declaratory relief as well as damages for the named plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs accused Uber drivers of, among other things, refusing to provide service to people with service dogs, mistreating the dogs and their owners, unfairly giving them negative feedback scores, and charging inappropriate cancellation fees. They alleged that Uber’s response to complaints about driver behavior was opaque and insufficient: Uber generally failed to notify service dog owners of whether the company had investigated complaints, and denied responsibility for drivers’ behavior.

On October 22, 2014, Uber filed a motion to dismiss, claiming that the NFB and the named plaintiffs all lacked standing to sue under both state and federal law. Uber also argued that even if the plaintiffs had standing, Uber wasn’t a public accommodation and thus wasn’t covered by Title III of the ADA.

The United States Department of Justice issued a statement of interest on December 23, 2014. It asked the court to consider the Department of Transportation’s Title III regulations, which are granted considerable weight since the DOT is responsible for implementing the ADA. DOT regulations state that Title III applies to any “demand-responsive” service that doesn’t operate on a fixed route, and that private entities cannot “contract away” any responsibilities under the ADA. 49 C.F.R. § 37.3; 49 C.F.R. pt. 37, app. D § 37.23. The DOT regulations further require entities covered by Title III to permit service animals to accompany their owners into vehicles, and requires entities to apply eligibility criteria that don’t screen disabled people out, unless doing so would make it impossible to provide the service. 49 C.F.R. § 37.167(d); 42 U.S.C. § 12184(b)(1); 49 C.F.R. § 37.5(f). The regulations also require positive action on the part of private entities to make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures when necessary to avoid discrimination (except when those modifications would fundamentally alter the service), and to ensure that their personnel are trained to properly assist disabled individuals in a respectful and courteous way, with appropriate attention to the difference among individuals with disabilities. 42 U.S.C. § 12184(b)(2)(A); 49 C.F.R. § 37.173.

On April 17, 2015, the court denied Uber’s motion to dismiss. It found that even if not all Uber drivers discriminated against blind people with service animals, discrimination by some drivers was sufficient injury for the plaintiffs to bring suit. The court also found that the NFB could sue even if some of its members had signed binding arbitration agreements with Uber, because many of its members had not. The court didn’t directly respond to the DOJ’s statement of interest, finding instead that since there was a possibility that Uber was covered by the ADA and the California statutes, the parties should have the opportunity to litigate the question. 103 F. Supp. 3d 1073.

On December 6, 2016, the court approved a settlement agreement. Uber agreed to:
  • Require its drivers to provide service to blind people with service animals
  • Modify its cleaning fee policy for messes caused by service animals
  • Make it easier for service animal owners to file complaints
  • Implement enhanced procedures for investigating complaints
  • Dismiss drivers receiving multiple plausible complaints
  • Submit to third-party monitoring
  • Pay the NFB $75,000 per year for three years
  • Pay a lump sum of $45,000 for distribution among the named plaintiffs
  • Pay the plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees and costs
Uber also agreed to a class certification for purposes of the settlement, extending to all blind people with service animals who had used, attempted to use, or been deterred from attempting to use transportation through the Uber app.

The settlement was to last for a default period of 3½ years. Retired Judge Margaret A. Nagle was appointed as a neutral monitor to oversee compliance. The monitor had authority to extend the agreement by 1½ years if Uber failed to substantially comply with the terms of the agreement in the second or third year. Any disputes related to the monitor would first be referred to an arbitrator, and if that failed, the court would exercise jurisdiction.

Two weeks following the approval of the settlement agreement, on December 15, 2016, the court awarded the plaintiffs $2,485,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs. Uber appealed this decision to the Ninth Circuit, which dismissed the appeal with prejudice on March 7, 2017.

On November 8, 2019, the court ordered Uber to pay the plaintiffs a total of $313,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs incurred in monitoring and enforcing the agreement.

On July 15, 2020, the court denied the plaintiffs’ motion to modify the settlement. As of July 20, 2020, the court’s jurisdiction over the settlement agreement is ongoing.

Ryan Berry - 05/24/2016
Sichun Liu - 03/17/2019
Gregory Marsh - 07/20/2020


compress summary

- click to show/hide ALL -
Issues and Causes of Action
click to show/hide detail
Issues
Content of Injunction
Develop anti-discrimination policy
Discrimination Prohibition
Implement complaint/dispute resolution process
Monitor/Master
Monitoring
Reasonable Accommodation
Recordkeeping
Reporting
Required disclosure
Defendant-type
Transportation
Disability
Visual impairment
Discrimination-area
Accommodation / Leave
Discrimination-basis
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
General
Access to public accommodations - privately owned
Disparate Impact
Disparate Treatment
Failure to discipline
Failure to supervise
Failure to train
Reasonable Accommodations
Reasonable Modifications
Transportation
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Causes of Action Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.
Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997 et seq.
State law
Defendant(s) Uber Technologies, Inc.
Plaintiff Description All blind or visually disabled individuals nationwide who travel with the assistance of Service Animals and who have used, attempted to use, or been deterred from attempting to use transportation arranged through the Uber Rider App.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Rosen, Bien, Galvan & Grunfeld
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Declaratory Judgment
Attorneys fees
Damages
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2016 - 2020
Filed 09/09/2014
Case Ongoing Yes
Case Listing DR-VT-0002 : National Federation of the Blind v. Scribd, Inc. (D. Vt.)
Additional Resources
click to show/hide detail
  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  National Federation of the Blind of California, et al. v. Uber Technologies, Inc., et al.
https://dralegal.org/
Date: Apr. 30, 2016
By: Disability Rights Advocates (DRA)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  An Analysis of CRIPA Findings Letters Issued to Jails for Constitutional Violations by the Department of Justice
Date: Apr. 15, 2016
By: Jeff Mellow, Bryce E. Peterson & Mijin Kim (John Jay College of Criminal Justice Faculty)
Citation: Am. J. Crim. Just. (April 2016)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
3:14-cv-04086-NC (N.D. Cal.)
PA-CA-0002-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/15/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Guide-Dog Users Combat Discrimination by Uber
PA-CA-0002-0007.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date:
First Amended Complaint for Violations of The Americans With Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., The California UNRUH Civil Rights Act, CAL. CIV. CODE §§ 51 & 52, and The California Disabled Persons Act, CAL. CIV. CODE §§ 54-54.3 [ECF# 17]
PA-CA-0002-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/12/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Statement of Interest of the United States of America [ECF# 29]
PA-CA-0002-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/23/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Denying Motion to Dismiss [ECF# 37] (103 F.Supp.3d 1073) (N.D. Cal.)
PA-CA-0002-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 04/17/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Complaint for Violations of The Americans With Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., The California UNRUH Civil Rights Act, CAL. CIV. CODE §§ 51 & 52, and The California Disabled Persons Act, CAL. CIV. CODE §§ 54-54.3 [ECF# 1]
PA-CA-0002-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/23/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Joint Motion For Preliminary Approval of Class Settlement and Related Motions [ECF# 84]
PA-CA-0002-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/29/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Settlement Agreement and Release [Proposed] [ECF# 85-1]
PA-CA-0002-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/29/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Requesting Amicus United States of America to Respond to Settlement [ECF# 93] (N.D. Cal.)
PA-CA-0002-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/09/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting Motion to Amend Complaint and Approve Settlement [ECF# 112] (2016 WL 9000699) (N.D. Cal.)
PA-CA-0002-0009.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 07/13/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amended Complaint [ECF# 113]
PA-CA-0002-0010.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/14/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Motion for Approval of Settlement [ECF# 128]
PA-CA-0002-0011.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/27/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting Final Approval of Class Settlement [ECF# 139] (2016 WL 10920461) (N.D. Cal.)
PA-CA-0002-0012.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 12/06/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting in Part Plaintiffs' Motion for Attorneys' Fees and Costs; Denying Plaintiffs' Administrative Motion to Seal [ECF# 193] (N.D. Cal.)
PA-CA-0002-0013.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/27/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amended Order Granting in Part Plaintiffs' Motion for Attorneys' Fees and Costs; Denying Administrative Motion to Seal [ECF# 203] (N.D. Cal.)
PA-CA-0002-0014.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/08/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Denying Plaintiff's Motion to Extend the Court's Jurisdiction and Modify Settlement; Granting in Part and Denying in Part Motion to Seal [ECF# 213] (N.D. Cal.)
PA-CA-0002-0015.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/15/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Cousins, Nathanael M. (N.D. Cal.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
PA-CA-0002-0004 | PA-CA-0002-0006 | PA-CA-0002-0009 | PA-CA-0002-0012 | PA-CA-0002-0013 | PA-CA-0002-0014 | PA-CA-0002-0015 | PA-CA-0002-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bien, Michael W. (California) show/hide docs
PA-CA-0002-0008 | PA-CA-0002-9000
Elder, Timothy R. (California) show/hide docs
PA-CA-0002-0002 | PA-CA-0002-0008 | PA-CA-0002-0010 | PA-CA-0002-9000
Galvan, Ernest (California) show/hide docs
PA-CA-0002-9000
Marks, Julia Zoog (California) show/hide docs
PA-CA-0002-9000
Nunez, Michael S (California) show/hide docs
PA-CA-0002-0001 | PA-CA-0002-0002 | PA-CA-0002-0005 | PA-CA-0002-0010 | PA-CA-0002-9000
Paradis, Laurence W. (California) show/hide docs
PA-CA-0002-0008 | PA-CA-0002-0010 | PA-CA-0002-9000
Riess, Melissa (California) show/hide docs
PA-CA-0002-9000
Seaborn, Stuart (California) show/hide docs
PA-CA-0002-9000
Smith, Mary-Lee Kimber (California) show/hide docs
PA-CA-0002-0011 | PA-CA-0002-9000
Trapani, Cara Elizabeth (California) show/hide docs
PA-CA-0002-9000
Zisser, Aaron B. (California) show/hide docs
PA-CA-0002-9000
Defendant's Lawyers O'Connor, Emily E (New York) show/hide docs
PA-CA-0002-9000
Spurchise, Andrew M (New York) show/hide docs
PA-CA-0002-9000
Wang, Alice Hsiu-Wen (California) show/hide docs
PA-CA-0002-9000
Other Lawyers Winslow, Sara (California) show/hide docs
PA-CA-0002-9000

- click to show/hide ALL -

new search
page permalink

- top of page -