Uber Must Face Cabbies’ Lawsuit Challenging Safety Claims

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Uber Technologies Inc. lost a bid to dismiss a lawsuit over its claims to being safer than taxis.

U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar in San Francisco on Friday allowed the case to proceed, finding that the app-based ride-hailing service has advertised itself as “objectively and measurably safer” than competitors.

Yellow Cab Co. and 18 other taxi services that operate in California metropolitan areas including San Francisco and Los Angeles sued Uber in March, alleging it misleads customers about its background checks for drivers and driver safety.

While letting the case move forward under a federal false advertising law, Tigar tossed the taxi companies’ unfair competition allegations and their demand for restitution under state law.

The judge cited the company’s slogan, “Going the distance to put people first,” as an example of the company’s argument that its advertising claims were nothing more than “puffery.”

‘Reasonable Consumer’

Tigar said other statements could lead “a reasonable consumer” to “conclude that an Uber ride is objectively and measurably safer than a ride provided by a taxi or other competitor service.”

“We’re pleased that the court dismissed a substantial portion of the claims, and we continue to believe that the remainder of the lawsuit lacks merit,” Kristin Carvell, a spokeswoman for Uber, said in an e-mail. “Uber’s innovative technology allows it to focus on safety for riders and driver-partners before, during and after a ride in a way most alternatives cannot.”

Founded five years ago in San Francisco with venture capital funding, Uber has grown to serve 300 cities worldwide, stirring conflict with traditional taxi and car-for-hire businesses in Chicago, New York, Paris and Johannesburg. It has said its market value is $50 billion.

Uber was sued in December by the district attorneys of San Francisco and Los Angeles, who accused it of falsely assuring customers that it used “industry-leading standards” to vet its drivers while failing to use fingerprints to check criminal histories.

The case is L.A. Taxi Cooperative Inc. v. Uber Technologies Inc., 15-cv-01257, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

(An earlier version of this story corrected the summary of the ruling.)

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