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CA Appellate Court Rules E-Scooter Company Owes Duty to Pedestrians

bird scooter on sidewalk

The California Appellate Court ruled in favor of pedestrians and against electric scooter companies.

Read the court ruling here.

McGee, Lerer & Associates represents an elderly woman who tripped and fell on a Bird electric scooter that was partially obstructing the sidewalk on Abbot Kinney Blvd. in Venice, California. She suffered multiple wrist fractures, requiring surgery and the installation of hardware in her wrist.

Bird Scooter Denied Responsibility

Bird Rides, Inc., denied any responsibility for our pedestrian’s injury. Bird contended it owes no duty to protect pedestrians from negligently parked scooters.

Appellate Court Rules Against Bird and in Favor of Injured Pedestrian

In Hacala v. Bird Rides, Inc. (--- Cal.Rptr.3d ----, 2023 WL 2851729), an opinion certified for publication, the California Appellate Court ruled that having deployed dockless scooters onto public streets, Bird Rides, Inc., has an obligation to remove or relocate a scooter that poses a risk of harm to others. The court stated, “[t]o hold otherwise would be tantamount to declaring Bird bears no legal responsibility to retrieve or remove its property, even under the most egregious set of conceivable circumstances, such as when a scooter lies abandoned for long stretches on a public sidewalk in an especially dangerous and conspicuous location.

The court held that because it was foreseeable that someone could be injured if Bird breached this duty, and because Bird agreed to take measures to prevent such injuries when it obtained a permit from the City of Los Angeles, public policy clearly supports holding Bird liable for injuries proximately caused by its lack of ordinary care in the management of its property.

The court stated that Bird’s duty of care “encompasses an obligation not to entrust its scooters to individuals who Bird knows or should know are likely to leave scooters in hazardous locations where they will pose an unreasonable risk of harm to others.”

The court also concluded that Bird has an obligation to ensure that its scooters are sufficiently conspicuous so as not to become unreasonable tripping hazards to pedestrians on public sidewalks.

Since e-scooters were first dumped on the sidewalks of Santa Monica in 2017, and then on the sidewalks of cities across California, and the nation, the attorneys at McGee, Lerer & Associates have been concerned about the dangers that electric scooters pose to pedestrians, and particularly to elderly pedestrians. The appellate court ruling is a welcome victory for pedestrian rights and we are proud to have been a part of this ruling.

Read the Law360 article here. 

According to firm partner Catherine Lerer of McGee, Lerer & Associates, "This is a huge win for pedestrians. The appellate court made the right call in ruling that e-scooter companies owe a duty to pedestrians. The tide is turning against e-scooter companies, with Paris, France recently banning their use.”

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