On December 6, 2016 a San Francisco federal court entered an Order granting final approval of a groundbreaking settlement between Uber and blind and low-vision persons who use service animals.  The settlement resolved a lawsuit—National Federation of the Blind of California, et al. v. Uber Technologies, Inc.— brought to ensure that guide dog users have full and equal access to vehicles in the Uber network. This is the first nationwide class-action settlement of its kind against an app-based transportation network company.  Plaintiffs are represented by Michael Bien, Ernest Galvan and Michael Nunez of Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld LLP, Mary-Lee Smith and Julia Marks of Disability Rights Advocates, and Timothy Elder of TRE Legal.  Larry Paradis,  co-founder and executive director of Disability Rights Advocates, was lead counsel for the plaintiffs up until his death in 2016.  

A Daily Journal article on December 27, “After a major year of scrutiny, sharing economy will continue to raise questions in 2017,” quotes RBGG’s Michael Bien and Gay Grunfeld on the settlement’s impact and future legal issues facing companies like Uber.  According to the article, “Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld partner Michael Bien stressed the importance of the blind being allowed access to Uber rides, as it is easier for them than calling a cab or taking a bus.  Although the application of civil rights laws is usually consistent, Bien said enforcing them is harder with companies such as Uber because they have a transient workforce with high turnover.”

“The whole idea of how do you apply the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to this kind of shared economy is one of the challenges that we’re facing.  Who do you sue?  Who is responsible?” said Bien.

Later in the article, RBGG’s Gay Grunfeld says that compliance with the law will benefit companies like Uber.  “It equals more revenue, more customers, and happier customers,” she said.