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As Number of Uber Sexual Assault Cases Grows, Uber Tries to Disband MDL

On October 4, 2023, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) consolidated all federally filed Uber sexual assault lawsuits in the Northern District of California.

When the plaintiffs first filed the motion for consolidation, there were 22 cases pending in 11 districts. At the time of the consolidation, the JPML was aware of 57 related actions in four districts. As of January 15, 2024, there were over 200 cases pending in the MDL. That number continues to grow and is expected to significantly increase in the coming months.

In a January 15, 2024 joint case management conference statement, counsel for the defendants and the plaintiffs’ co-lead counsel—including Chaffin Luhana’s own Roopal Luhana—proposed an agenda in advance of the case management conference scheduled for January 19, 2024.

The parties proposed discussing Uber’s request to establish a cutoff date for the filing of new complaints, and the company’s request to pause all proceedings while it pursues of writ of mandamus with the U.S. Court of Appeals of the 9th Circuit, seeking to disband the MDL.

Uber Seeks to Disband the MDL

In November 2023, Uber filed a petition for a writ of mandamus, asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to review the JPML’s decision to consolidate these sexual assault cases. (A writ of mandamus orders a governmental body to perform an act required by law when it has neglected or refused to do so.)

Uber stated in its petition that the panel “abused its discretion and made clearly erroneous findings” when it ordered the transfer of all cases to one court. The cases are “governed by a patchwork of different laws that vary from state to state,” according to Uber, and these laws are at the root of the plaintiffs’ theories of Uber’s alleged liability.

Plaintiffs filed an opposition to Uber’s motion on January 5, 2024.

The JPML, in its order to consolidate, found that common issues predominated in these cases, such as Uber’s knowledge about the sexual assaults, its responses to passenger complaints, and its background checks on its drivers. “These actions share complex factual questions arising from allegations that Uber failed to implement appropriate safety precautions to protect passengers,” the panel wrote, “and that plaintiffs suffered sexual assault or harassment as a result.”

Uber Seeks Cutoff Date for Filing Complaints in the MDL

On the agenda as well was Uber’s request to establish a cutoff date for the filing of new complaints in the MDL. Uber’s position is that a cutoff date will allow the parties and the court to “understand the scope of this MDL before it proceeds too far down the road.”

Plaintiffs argue that now, just mere weeks after the court entered an initial scheduling order, is not the time to set a cutoff date. “Arbitrarily capping the MDL now would defeat the purpose of centralization itself,” the plaintiffs argue, which is to resolve cases involving common questions of fact. They add that plaintiffs may be urged to file cases promptly, but that there is no authority to force them to do so.

The proposed agenda also included other issues to be discussed such as discovery, pretrial orders, Uber’s initial motions to dismiss some cases, and administrative matters.

Shortly after the JPML consolidated the cases into California, the Honorable Charles R. Breyer of the U.S. District Court for the District of California appointed Chaffin Luhana Founder and Partner Roopal Luhana as Plaintiffs’ Co-Lead Counsel.

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