Today’s article is a continuation of my open letter to Scoot, Skip and other providers of the electric, app-based, scooters that are littering our cities. For part 1, please visit “Time for scooter companies to be responsible” and stay tuned: I will inevitably need more than these two columns to provide my readers with the “full scoop” on the greedy and cynical way that scooter companies are behaving and endangering us all, riders and non-riders alike.
Your products present an unreasonable risk of harm to pedestrians, especially the disabled and visually impaired, who trip and fall over the unattended scooters. Many of the scooters are dark in color and not easily seen on a dark sidewalk. While one manufacturer has some lighting on their boards to make them more visible at night, most don’t. As a result, sidewalk, parking lot, and roadway obstructions often cannot be appreciated until someone gets injured by tripping or falling over a scooter. Unlike electric City Bikes, which must be docked to terminate the ride and end user liability, or Jump bikes, which include a locking mechanism for use only at suitable location, your scooters are not required to be returned to fixed or organized locations. Instead, they are left strewn about the sidewalk in random locations. While you “encourage” riders to park them safely, and San Francisco has an ordinance requiring that they be parked near and between certain objects to reduce tripping hazards, let’s face it: your users largely just get off and drop them wherever they want.
California’s basic liability law is contained in California Civil Code 1714 which reads: “(a) Everyone is responsible, not only for the result of his or her willful acts, but also for an injury occasioned to another by his or her want of ordinary care or skill in the management of his or her property or person, except so far as the latter has, willfully or by want of ordinary care, brought the injury upon himself or herself.” These scooters are YOUR PROPERTY and you are responsible to use care to manage that property. Suggesting that riders park safely does not get you off the hook if you are not taking reasonable steps to manage your property in a safe manner. You should fulfill your legal responsibility by adopting docking stations so that the scooters are left at pre-arranged, well-marked locations in a safe and organized fashion.
As a lawyer who represents unfortunate, blameless people who are injured by the “want of ordinary care” in the management of property, whether it be bikes, skateboards, electronically motorized boards, scooters, cars, slippery steps or driveways, collapsing staircases, unsafe balconies, etc., I would have no problem extending my use of the law to sue a scooter company on behalf of anyone who trips or falls over them.
Your products are endangering innocent property owners in many locations, such as Richmond, San Francisco, and other cities, where they are held responsible for the maintenance of the sidewalks in front of their buildings. As I previously noted in my April 20, 2017 column for this paper, “San Francisco is Obligated to Inspect Public Sidewalks for Hazards,” California State and Highways Code Section 5610 states that “owners of lots or portions of lots fronting any portion of a public street … shall maintain any sidewalk in such condition that the sidewalk will not endanger persons or property.” Likewise, San Francisco Public Works Code Section 706 mandates that “owners must maintain sidewalks surrounding their property in a reasonably safe condition.” If a landowner is aware of an obstruction and fails to remove it, they are exposed to financial liability for injuries sustained as a result of the obstruction. By allowing your customers to arbitrarily drop off scooters on sidewalks, where they sometimes cluster around certain buildings, you may cause landowners to be sued for not removing them.
Your terms and conditions are unconscionable and show your lack of concern for users. In your agreements, which you must know most customers fail to read before accepting, you include some of the most unbelievable, self-serving, and, in my opinion, unethical language seeking to shield you from any responsibility for the harms your products cause. It is unfathomable that you seek to escape responsibility from even improper maintenance of scooters, which can and will break and injure or kill people. You go even so far as to require injured riders to waive their rights against scooter manufacturers if the provided vehicle is defective in design or manufacturing.
SCOOTER RIDERS READ THIS CAREFULLY: These scooter contracts include provisions stating that users assume all risks of harm, injury and death, and release manufacturers and vendors from all liability caused by the use of their products, even if those companies are at fault for the injuries.