A judge ruled Friday against Lyft and the city of Santa Monica’s objections to litigation initiated by an elderly woman who tripped over a Lyft scooter in Downtown Santa Monica.
Dorothy “Dolly” Green, 87, was on her way to class at the Santa Monica Community College Emeritus, a school for older adults, when she tripped over a scooter and sustained multiple fractures to her hip and elbow that required surgery, according to Green’s first amended complaint against Lyft, the city and the Santa Monica Community College District.
On Sept. 24, 2018, Green’s daughter dropped her off in a “passenger loading only” zone in front of the school, which was designated by the city as a “no deployment zone” for electric scooters. When Green stepped onto the curb, she tripped over a Lyft scooter that was parked on the sidewalk and fell back onto the street.
Green tripped over the scooter just five days after the city launched its Shared Mobility Pilot Program, which allowed Lyft, Bird, Lime and Jump, which is owned by Uber, to deploy scooters and bikes in Santa Monica. The pilot program regulates where the devices can be safely deployed and ridden.
Green’s complaint alleges that Lyft and the city were negligent and created a public nuisance in allowing scooters to be parked in front of a loading zone in front of a school for the elderly after designating the area as a “no deployment zone.” The complaint asks for at least $500,000 in damages to be awarded following a January 2021 trial.
“Ms. Green suffered five fractures in her pelvis. Her quality of life and independence have dramatically changed as a result of her injuries,” said Green’s attorney Catherine Lerer, who is also representing plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit against Bird and Lime. “The responsible parties must pay for the harm caused.”
Los Angeles Superior Court Theresa Traber overruled Lyft and the city’s demurrers to Green’s complaint. (The Santa Monica Community College District also filed a demurrer, which has not yet been heard.) Traber wrote in her decision that Green’s allegations justified her case against Lyft and the city.
Traber opined that Lyft deploying its scooters without docks and encouraging users to leave the scooters anywhere created a safety risk that resulted in Green’s injuries. Traber also wrote that the city is liable for Green’s injuries because it did not impound scooters that were placed in a “no deployment zone” that was regularly used by elderly people.
“(The city) argues it is immune from liability because the decision to impound or not impound a scooter is a policy decision. The court disagrees,” Traber wrote. “This decision is not a basic policy decision. Rather, this decision is an operational decision.”
City spokesperson Constance Farrell said an earlier ruling in a different lawsuit affirmed the city’s view that its Shared Mobility Pilot Program complies with applicable federal and state laws. The city council will review a report on the program and decide whether to extend it at its Tuesday meeting.
“The City is dedicated to continuing to improve its pilot program and to working with operators and riders in response to community members’ concerns,” Farrell said.
Lerer said the ruling constitutes a victory for pedestrians.
“Our community members, especially our seniors and people with disabilities, must be able to safely navigate our sidewalks. That is their right,” Lerer said. “These dockless electric scooter companies have taken away that right.”
Lyft has not yet replied to a request for comment.