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Uber Drivers' Class Action Threatened by Complicated Damage Calculations

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By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on December 02, 2015 8:55 AM

Uber drivers trying to sue the ride share company as a class are struggling with damages and their case has not really even started yet. Last week drivers went before US District Court Judge Edward Chen in San Francisco and asked him to allow the case to continue though it already seems that it would be very difficult to calculate damages if they do succeed in proving that they were employees and not contractors, Courthouse News reported.

Uber drivers were willing to forgo some possible damages in order to be certified as a class. The drivers' lawyer said they did not need to calculate water and mints and other such things that might make damages tough to determine. Meanwhile, Uber's lawyer joked that the opposition was already "giving away half the store."

Class Actions Explained

The lawsuit on the merits of the claim that Uber incorrectly classified drivers as contractors has not even been approved, yet damages are already being discussed. The reason for this is that "classes" -- or groups who seek to sue together as one -- must prove that they are in a similar boat and that a single suit is appropriate for all.

This case has been winding its way to certification for some time now, but class actions are usually considered an efficient means of offering relief to a large number of people. They are common in the product liability context, for example.

Half the Store?

Uber drivers' attorney, Shannon Liss-Riordan, suggested alternatives to throwing the whole case out. She asked the court to hold a mini trial on the miscellaneous damages that are currently in dispute once liability is proven.

"My big-picture argument is that it is very common for courts to certify a class for liability purposes, then have a trial on how liability has been established, then pick up on how to handle damages should there be a finding of liability," she said.

Meanwhile, Uber's lead attorney, Theodore Boutrous, argued that the plaintiffs would be giving up a lot of potential damages. "This is giving away half the store," he said, joking, "I should be representing the plaintiffs."

The hearing took place just ahead of the Thanksgiving weekend and there was no indication which way Judge Chen would go. All parties no doubt eagerly await his decision.

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