The dockless scooter industry may be doomed to failure if prominent scooter rental distributors fail to prevail in a recently reinstated trip-and-fall lawsuit, courtesy of a California appellate court panel.
Bird promotes clean, car-free alternatives with fewer motor vehicles on the road, leading to cleaner air and safer streets. Their scooters are touted as all-electric, carbon-free alternatives. The company partners with cities and universities to provide transportation options that complement public transit.
Founded in 2017, the tech company led the way in providing cities with thousands of non-gasoline-powered e-scooters to rent via cellphone apps. Their start-up was the first to reach $1 billion in valuation.
The best of intentions leads to the worst of consequences
Putting the lawsuit back in play means that Bird can be held liable for injuries when users leave the scooters on sidewalks instead of parking them, resulting in slip/trip-and-fall injuries. One justice dissented, claiming that holding dockless bicycle and scooter companies accountable for the actions or inactions of customers would result in these types of businesses shuttering.
Detractors deemed the transports “an eyesore,” with users dropping them off on sidewalks, streets, public rights-of-way, and residential front lawns and driveways. The company’s attempt to financially incentivize users to put the scooters back on chargers in designated locations fell on deaf ears.
Bird is no longer the darling of the e-scooter industry. The company already shuttered locations in cities that imposed burdensome regulations. The vacuum created, and the continuing controversy opened the door for other companies to move in with their own scooters.
Once approaching $3 billion in value, Bird is now at penny stock status that is barely hanging on.
Companies may have the best intentions in introducing cutting-edge products that are good for the environment. However, if the result is accidents that result in serious injury, personal injury lawsuits can doom their existence.