Cal. Litig. 2019, Volume 32, Number 2

Shared E-Scooters: Proliferation, Litigation, and Regulation

By Zach Heinselman

Zach Heinselman is an Associate at Richards, Watson & Gershon who advises public entities on a variety of issues. zheinselman@

In late 2017, shared electric scooters ("e-scoot-ers") appeared on the streets and sidewalks of the City of Santa Monica. They soon became ubiquitous throughout several cities across the state. These e-scooters—dockless, accessed via smart-phone apps, able to reach speeds of 15 miles per hour, frequently operated on the sidewalk by riders without helmets, and at times haphazardly parked or tossed in the public right-of-way—are despised by some and loved by others. (E-scooters are just one type of shared mobility device; companies also offer other devices in similar dockless, smartphone app-based systems such as electric bicycles and mini electric bicycles.) Researchers have begun to study the extent of e-scooter-related injuries as the devices have proliferated. E-scooter-related accidents have resulted in thousands of injuries and several fatalities. This has prompted questions of who may—and who should—be held responsible for injuries arising from e-scooter-related accidents. This article provides a brief overview of examples of litigation and regulation related to e-scooters following their rapid proliferation.

Depending on the circumstances, liability for a prospective e-scooter accident could arguably be attributed to multiple parties. The list would include, for example, an e-scooter operator riding without due care; a third-party such as a driver crashing into an e-scooter rider; the company that offered the e-scooter for rent; the e-scooter’s manufacturer; and, potentially, a city for injuries caused by a dangerous condition of public property where the e-scooter was being operated. Plaintiffs will likely seek to include as many prospective defendants as possible. And, as is often the case, plaintiffs are likely to target defendants viewed as having deeper pockets.

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