It has been many months that Keller Lenkner, the firm which represents cases on behalf of a few thousand drivers, has been convinced of Uber’s aim to have the firm disqualified from proceeding any arbitration cases against the ride-hailing service in the court of law.
Uber is no stranger to arbitration cases, as the company has been accused by many drivers for unfair practices with respect to the way it conducts business especially with its policies.
The cases, which are thousands in number, would obviously inflict a massive blow to Uber if awarded in favor of the drivers who have filed them against the company.
Whether Uber has been trying to have Keller Lenkner disqualified is another story which needs a lot more evidence to be considered true, however, as of now, Judge Edward Chen, who serves in the San Francisco district, has found Keller Lenkner to be worthy of disqualification at least as far as the class action lawsuit is concerned.
Possible Access to Privileged Information
According to the ruling proceeded by Judge Chen, one of the partners working for Keller Lenkner, Warren Postman, may have information regarding Uber which can be considered privileged in the legal context.
Before working as a partner in the firm, Postman was associated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, working with Uber in fighting off an ordinance proceeded in Seattle which, if passed, would’ve given drivers the right to assume collective power in negotiating with ride-hailing service companies.
Although Postman never had Uber as one of his clients, a fact which Judge Chen himself acknowledged, and also the fact that the context of the Seattle ordinance case varies greatly compared to the cases of unfair practices in conducting business which Uber is now facing, however Judge Chen still reached the conclusion that Postman had dealt with Uber in the past when he was working with the Chamber of Commerce which ultimately paved way for a possibility that he held privileged information about the company that could be used against the same in this lawsuit.
Once the relationship between Uber and Postman was proven to be significant, at least in the eyes of the law, Judge Chen rendered the law firm Keller Lenkner unable to represent clients in the federal court against Uber.
Not Only Uber
Uber is not the only company moving a motion against Keller Lenkner, as another ride-hailing service Lyft has also filed a motion on the same grounds.
Although Lyft was not even a part of the Seattle ordinance case, it has still moved the motion that Postman, with his previous position in the Chamber of Commerce, may have access to privileged information which could be used against Lyft in the mass arbitration that Keller Lenkner is proceeding against it..
What About the Drivers?
In December 2018, around 12,500 drivers had moved a motion in court against Uber compelling the latter to pay up the fees incurred on the initial filings which they would be making with JAMS (previously called the Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services). This motion did not mention Keller Lenkner in the legal documents filed in court, but were instead signed by another law firm, Larson O’Brien.
However, the petitions filed by the drivers do mention Keller Lenkner in some of the emails attached as exhibits, which hints that the law firm is indeed the driving force behind the mass arbitration that Uber is facing. But, since it is Larson O’Brien lawyers who have signed the filings, the litigation cases would most likely still proceed even if Keller Lenkner is disqualified.
Also, and quite interestingly, the power to disqualify Keller Lenkner may not lie with Judge Chen at all.
Although the judge has raised concerns about the firm’s appropriateness to represent drivers in cases against Uber, to disqualify a law firm may be out of his hands as his authority in such a decision will stay within the perimeters of his courtroom. Essentially, this means that Uber cannot bar the law firm from proceeding arbitration cases, especially with an isolated decision given by Judge Chen.