Scooter rental company, Lime, has been named in a negligence lawsuit suit for allegedly advising riders to “break the law” when using its electric scooters. The lawyers of Ashanti Jordan, a 28-year-old who was struck by a car late last year while using the e-scooter, claim the scooters are illegal in Florida because the company advises users to ride on the streets and not sidewalks. Motorized scooters and bicycles are prohibited on Florida roads.
On December 28, Jordan was on her way home from her job as a security guard at Broward General Medical Center when she was hit by a car in a residential intersection. The collision has left Jordan with a severe brain injury and rib fractures. She remains at Broward Health Medical Center where she appears to be in a vegetative state.
“Lime is operating their business in clear violation of the law,” attorney Todd Falzone of Kelley Uustal said during a press conference this morning. “People are suffering, people are being injured, and people are going to die unless this company stops what they are doing and starts complying with the law.”
Falzone cites that the company instructs riders not to ride the scooters on sidewalks, which is both dictated in the company’s terms of service and on the physical scooter itself. This, he continues, is in clear violation of the Florida law that allows riders on these motorized scooters to use sidewalks because riding them on streets is prohibited.
Electric scooters first emerged in South Florida back in July 2018, after the City of Fort Lauderdale passed an ordinance approving the dockless bike sharing service. Lime, a California based company, would go onto sign a one-year trial period with Broward County, but has experienced an uptick of accidents and complaints from residents.
Unfortunately for rental scooter companies like Lime and Bird, this isn’t the only lawsuit filed in the last few months that has accused them of “gross negligence.”
In October 2018, a class-action lawsuit was filed against the two companies and their manufacturers by the firm McGee, Lerer & Associates.
“We filed this class-action lawsuit against Bird and Lime and the manufacturers of their electric scooters to address the terrible injuries they have inflicted on their riders and pedestrians, and the continuing harm they are causing,” personal-injury lawyer Catherine Lerer told the Washington Post .
The firm, which represents clients injured by rental scooters, claims that the named parties are “aiding and abetting assault” and are a “public nuisance,” since the companies' lack of designated drop-off locations result in sidewalks and streets being littered with the abandoned scooters.
Prior to usage, riders must agree to the terms of service that relinquish companies from legal liability for injuries on their devices. Lime's contract stipulates that operators must acknowledge that "riding the products involves many obvious and not-so-obvious risks, dangers, and hazards, which may result in injury or death to you or others” and that “[riders] agree that such risks, dangers, and hazards are your sole responsibility, including, but not limited to, choosing whether to wear a helmet or other protective gear.”
“Companies have attempted to use [terms of service] for many years to protect themselves from liability, but I’m extremely confident that this particular waiver will be invalid or inapplicable because the nature of this conduct,” Falzone tells New Times. “They’ve been sued now and lawsuits are happening with more frequency, but none of them, to my knowledge, has reached any resolutions. And the law in every state is different, but in Florida, given what we know about the law in the state of Florida, we’re confident that we’re not going to be dealing with that waiver.”
Despite complaints and fatal injuries, electric scooters poll well in metropolitan areas. According to a 2018 report on the surge of micro-mobility, electric scooters have a 70 percent positive rating.
“They expand transportation options, enable a car-free lifestyle, are a convenient replacement for short trips in a personal vehicle or ride-hailing service (i.e. Uber or Lyft), and are a complement to public transit,” Populus reports.
The report goes on to suggest that the availability of these electric scooters make transportation more accessible to lower-income individuals.
While the electric scooters were intended to clear congestion on roads and be an affordable mode of transportation for residents and tourists, Mayor Dean Trantalis hints that their time in the city might be short-lived in his monthly newsletter.
“Unfortunately, our streets and sidewalks have become the Wild West. Public safety has suffered,” the mayor wrote. “City staff believes there are ways to better regulate the scooters. I’d like to see them remain an alternate mode of transportation, but the current situation is untenable. If solutions cannot be found, the City Commission will need to reconsider the program entirely.”
While they are investigating further to see if they have a case against the driver, Jordan’s family and the firm are only suing the electric scooter company and not the city. But Falzone warns that the continuation of electric scooters as they currently stand has dire consequences on the city.
“[The public] needs to contact their legislators that they do not want these laws passed that they are currently considering, because if those laws pass in their current form, they are going to make this situation worse not better,” Falzone said. “These are laws that are designed to only benefit the businesses, like Lime and Bird... People are only going to see carnage if these scooters are allowed on the streets.”