Ninth Circuit says Uber doesn’t have to provide wheelchair-accessible ride service in Jackson, New Orleans
JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A Fondren man has lost his legal battle to require Uber to provide wheelchair-accessible vehicles in Jackson.
Monday, the U.S. Ninth District Court in California ruled against Scott Crawford and one other in a suit that would have required the ride-share service to provide UberWAV services in Jackson and New Orleans.
The decision came following a bench trial, and nearly five years after three New Orleans residents initially filed suit against the company, arguing that failure to implement accessible ridesharing was a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Crawford joined the suit later, saying that Uber also refused to provide the service in Jackson, the largest city in the Magnolia State.
“Uber made no sincere attempt to provide accessible service, but instead claimed it was too burdensome,” he said. “This could have been economically resolved years ago.”
He has not decided whether he will appeal the decision. “My lawyers need time to analyze the prospects for success before sinking more time into this already massive effort,” he wrote.
Plaintiffs presented several options on how Uber could implement the services locally.
Attorneys for Uber, though, argued that the programs would cost too much and would likely not work in either municipality.
In his 23-page ruling, Chief Judge Richard Seeborg, an Obama appointee, said the plaintiffs failed to present adequate evidence that Uber had violated the law and entered an order in the company’s favor.
Crawford, a Fondren disabilities rights activist, said he was disappointed in the decision, and that it was ironic that the decision came on the eve of the president’s signing of ADA.
President George H. W. Bush signed the act into law on July 26, 1990.
“Uber is a $70 billion corporation and could figure this out if they wanted,” he said. “Moreover, placing the responsibility to design/fund/implement a wheelchair-accessible transportation service on Stephen Namisnak and [me] is an impossible bar to clear.”
Crawford likened it to asking a business owner to provide accessible entrances for disabilities and then requiring the person in the wheelchair to design, fund, and construct the wheelchair ramp.
Uber argued that implementing one potential modification, such as partnering with a commercial fleet operator, in Jackson would cost the company $550,000 a year, or approximately $1,000 per ride.
The court says that based on the evidence presented, the costs were based on 16 hours of service on weekdays and 10 hours of service per day on weekends and that even with three UberWAV vehicles available at any given time, some ride requests would likely go unfulfilled.
Uber currently offers services to accommodate wheelchair users in several other cities, including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Boston.
The company uses commercial operator agreements to fulfill the service in each of those cities.
In other places, like Philadelphia, court documents show that Uber entered into third-party agreements with car rental companies to provide the service.
Also in New York, the company uses a dispatch program, which allows requests for WAV services to be provided by other ride-share providers, like Lyft.
Court records state that New Orleans had considered an ordinance to require Uber to provide WAV in the Crescent City, but “Uber lobbied against that ordinance and dropped New Orleans from its WAV launch priority list immediately after the city declined to adopt the ordinance.”
Uber has not considered implementing WAV services in Jackson, records say.
Crawford is calling on state lawmakers to mandate ride-share services to provide WAV accommodation during next year’s legislative session.
District 29 Sen. David Blount said the purpose of that bill was to ensure uniform for ride-sharing drivers across the state. It also restricts the regulation of such businesses by local governments.
Blount said he had not seen the ruling in Crawford’s case, but said he was interested in reading the findings and speaking with Crawford further.
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