(Reuters) — A U.S. judge said Uber Technologies Inc did not violate a federal law protecting people with disabilities by not offering wheelchair-accessible vehicles in all markets the ride-hailing company serves.
In a ruling Monday, Chief Judge Richard Seeborg in federal court in San Francisco ruled against two people from New Orleans and one from Jackson, Mississippi, who use electric wheelchairs and who claimed Uber’s failure to provide rides in their hometowns violated Americans with Disabilities Act.
While rejecting Uber’s claim that it was excused because it had done “more than its fair share” in other cities, Judge Seeborg said it was “unreasonable”; to require the San Francisco-based company to accommodate the plaintiffs because of the costs.
Uber estimated “minimum” annual costs of $800,000 in New Orleans, or about $400 per ride, and $550,000 in Jackson, or about $1,000 per ride, to partner with commercial providers of wheelchair-accessible vehicles.
Judge Seeborg added that even if the money was spent, wheelchair users would likely face “significant” waiting times and gaps of eight to 14 hours a day when no rides would be available.
The judge ruled against plaintiffs Scott Crawford of Jackson, and Stephan Namisnak and Francis Falls of New Orleans, after a three-day non-jury trial in January.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs had no immediate comment Tuesday.
Crawford said in a statement that Uber “made no sincere attempt to provide accessible service” and called on the Mississippi Legislature to address the issue.
Uber said in a statement: “We welcome the outcome and are proud of our efforts to improve accessibility for all users.”
In court papers, Uber said it spent more than $150 million from 2018 to 2020 to provide wheelchair-accessible vehicles in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Phoenix, Philadelphia, Austin, San Francisco, Washington, Boston and Portland, Oregon.
The combined population of New Orleans and Jackson is smaller than that of Portland, the least populous of the 11 cities.
The cases are Crawford v. Uber Technologies Inc. et al, US District Court, Northern District of California, no. 17-02664; and Namisnak et al v. Uber Technologies Inc. et al in the same city.