Uber Executive Accused of Taking Lyft Data May Turn Tables

  • Ex-Lyft COO claims company viewing Dropbox invaded his privacy
  • Travis VanderZanden wins tentative ruling in San Francisco

A former Lyft Inc. executive accused of taking confidential information when he moved to Uber Technologies Inc. may get some fresh ammunition to turn the tables against his ex-employer.

Travis VanderZanden, who was sued by Lyft in 2014 over his defection to its larger rival, on Friday won a tentative ruling allowing him to pursue a claim that Lyft invaded his privacy by looking inside his personal Dropbox account.

Lyft’s case against VanderZanden, its former chief operations officer who then became Uber’s president of international growth, is set for a jury trial in five weeks. He’s accused of breaching his contract by transferring Lyft’s most sensitive documents to his Dropbox account in the days and months before he left the company in August 2014.

Now as then, the San Francisco-based startups are locked in a worldwide rivalry to dominate the multibillion-dollar car-sharing business.

‘Sole Property’

A San Francisco state judge said in Friday’s ruling that while VanderZanden’s lawyer complained about Lyft accessing her client’s Dropbox the same month that he was sued, the extent of what was viewed wasn’t clear until a computer report was produced last month. Superior Court Judge Harold Kahn said Lyft’s argument that VanderZanden is legally barred from claiming invasion of privacy “may lack merit” because the company has admitted that the Dropbox was its former employee’s “sole property.”

“Even though trial is imminent, the strong policy favoring resolution of claims on their merits fully supports” letting VanderZanden proceed with the invasion of privacy counterclaim, Kahn wrote. A hearing on whether to make the tentative ruling final is scheduled for Monday.

Lyft argued in a court filing that because VanderZanden was storing personal information on a company laptop, he should have had “zero privacy expectations” that it would remain confidential.

“Any documents that were reviewed were done so on a Lyft-owned computer,” Brandon McCormick, a spokesman for Lyft, said in an e-mail.

An Uber representative didn’t immediately respond after regular business hours to an e-mail seeking comment on Kahn’s ruling. Peter Meier, a lawyer for VanderZanden, didn’t immediately respond after regular business hours to a request for comment.

Lyft has alleged VanderZanden took documents containing future financial information, strategic planning, customer lists, private personnel data and international growth plans. He countersued claiming that Lyft found out he was in talks with Uber before he defected by accessing his personal e-mails and text messages.

The case is Lyft v. VanderZanden, GCG 14-542554, California Superior Court, San Francisco County.

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