Uber lawsuits timeline: company ordered to pay out $161.9m since 2009

Uber – which at its latest valuation of $62.5bn is the world’s most valuable private startup – has paid huge sums of money in legal settlements across the world since the taxi-hailing company was founded in 2009.

As the increasingly powerful ride-sharing startup continues its rapid growth, we’re tracking the diverse court battles forcing Uber and its investors to pay out. Its strategy of disrupting traditional taxi businesses, and confronting political and legislative hurdles as it does so, has forced it to pay out at least $62m (£44m) since it launched, and it also faces more than 170 lawsuits in the US alone.

‘Safe ride fee’ suit: $25m (£18m)

Status: settled

In its latest settlement in California, Uber agreed to change its marketing language and said it would no longer call itself the “safest ride on the road” nor describe its drivers’ background checks as “the gold standard”. A $1 “safe ride fee” will also be renamed a “booking fee”.

Prosecutors in San Francisco and Los Angeles alleged that it was false for Uber to say it was the leader in screening drivers when its background checks were inferior to the process taxi drivers undergo, since Uber does not include fingerprint checks.

In a settlement approved by a San Francisco judge on 7 April, Uber agreed to pay at least $10m, but will have to pay a further $15m if it does not comply with the terms over the next two years.

Class-action safety complaint: $28.5m (£20m)

Status: settled

In two class-action lawsuits that raised similar safety concerns, Uber agreed to pay $28.5m in February 2016 to settle the cases.

That settlement, which entitled riders to a tiny cut of the reward (less than $1 each), was also in response to complaints that Uber misled consumers with safety claims in marketing materials.

Uber has faced a number of high-profile PR nightmares tied to safety concerns, including stories surrounding the rape of a passenger in India and a recent shooting spree by a driver in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

French court: $1.3m (£911,000)

Status: settled

In January 2016, a French court ordered Uber to pay €1.2m (£911,000) to a rival taxi group in response to a complaint that drivers were violating rules. A court ruled that drivers for Uber were illegally collecting fares while waiting in the street – a practice that is only authorized for taxi drivers who pay for licenses.

Data failure: $7m (£5m)

Status: settled

In January 2016, Uber agreed to pay more than $7m to the California Public Utilities Commission, an agency that regulates transportation companies and had alleged that the startup failed to comply with data reporting requirements. Uber appealed the decision, but agreed to pay the fine so that its license to operate would not be suspended.

The commission had accused Uber of failing to report operational data, including statistics on customers who requested vehicles that can accommodate the disabled and figures on the cause of driving accidents.

Driver who slept in her car: $15,000 (£11,000)

Status: settled

Hephzibah Dollar, a California Uber driver who said she was living out of her car, filed a complaint in 2015 with the state labor commissioner’s office alleging that the company owed her more than $15,000 for her driving time due to unauthorised deductions and reimbursable expenses.

Uber decided to settle, but disagreed with the woman’s claims.

New York settlement: $20,000 (£14,000)

Status: settled

Uber agreed to pay a $20,000 penalty in New York after the state attorney general’s 14-month investigation into Uber’s privacy practices and the use of a so-called “God View” tool to track riders.

The settlement required Uber to encrypt rider geo-location information and levied the fine for Uber’s failure to report unauthorized third-party access to drivers’ personal information after a data breach incident.

Alaska dispute: $78,000 (£55,000)

Status: settled

Uber agreed to pay $77,925 in 2015 to the state of Alaska after facing accusations that it misclassified drivers as independent contractors instead of employees.

State labor officials had alleged that Uber was avoiding paying unemployment insurance, taxes and worker compensation premiums by incorrectly classifying its drivers. Uber had operated in Anchorage for six months, but ceased operations when it could not come to an agreement with the local government.

Wrongful death lawsuit: undisclosed amount

Status: settled

In 2015, Uber agreed to pay an undisclosed amount to settle a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of Sofia Liu, a six-year-old girl killed in a collision with an Uber driver on New Year’s Eve in 2013.

After Liu’s death, Uber claimed the driver Syed Muzzafar was “not providing services on the Uber system” during the crash, since he did not have a passenger in his vehicle. California lawmakers subsequently passed a law requiring ride-share drivers and companies to have liability insurance coverage at all times when drivers are using the application – including when they are searching for fares.

‘Employees, or contractors?’ suit: $100m (£70m)

Status: settled

The most significant of Uber’s lawsuits started with three drivers who sued Uber in federal court in San Francisco, contending that they should be classified as employees, not independent contractors.

The case later became a class-action suit that sought to set a precedent establishing Uber drivers not as independent contractors but as employees entitled to expenses, gas and vehicle maintenance.

Uber has said the contractor model is a key part of the company’s success, not least because if its drivers were defined as employees it would seriously dent revenues, obliging the startup to pay social security, unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation.

But on 21 April, Uber agreed to pay $100m to settle the suit. Under the agreement, its drivers would still be classified as independent contractors, but will have some changes to working conditions that include allowing them to solicit tips, and not being able to terminate a driver without notice. The settlement includes $84m for drivers and a further $16m contingent on the success of the company.

Antitrust lawsuit

Status: ongoing

A district judge in New York dealt a blow to Uber’s chief executive, Travis Kalanick, when he failed to dismiss an antitrust lawsuit accusing him of scheming to drive up prices for passengers. The case, led by Spencer Meyer of Connecticut, challenges Uber’s algorithm for setting fares, arguing that it fixed prices in a way that drove out rivals.

The complaint targets the practice of “surge pricing”, in which Uber raises rates during periods of peak demand.

New York taxi lawsuit

Status: ongoing

Taxi owners in New York City sued the city and its taxi and limousine commission in November 2015, alleging that the proliferation of Uber is destroying their businesses and threatening their livelihoods.

The complaint filed in federal court alleges that the city violated yellow cab drivers’ exclusive right to pick up passengers on the street by allowing Uber drivers to get passengers via the phone app.

Sexual assault lawsuit

Status: ongoing

Uber targets its marketing toward women who have been drinking, but fails to protect them by routinely hiring people with criminal histories and inadequately screening drivers, according to one lawsuit filed in US district court in San Francisco. The suit was filed over two alleged sexual assaults by Uber drivers.

Total so far: $161.913m (£112.82m)

  • Missed one? Send us a message: sam.levin@theguardian.com
  • Last updated 21 April

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