US Uber court win as judge throws out claims that an arbitrator sided with the app through fear

An American arbitrator’s comments about fearing for his life in a case which saw a class action challenge Uber’s surge pricing, has been dismissed as a poor attempt at humour, a Manhattan judge has ruled.

Uber had faced allegations that it conspired with its drivers to coordinate high surge pricing fares during periods of high demand from customers.

A lawsuit was filed, which sought a nationwide ban against surge pricing. Uber denied such claims and insisted that drivers are independent contractors and that its app is merely a technology platform connecting drivers with passengers.

After going through several courts, the lawsuit was sent into arbitration in 2019 in accordance with Uber’s terms of service. Les Weinstein, the arbitrator, dismissed the lawsuit on 22 February.

According to court transcripts, reported by a number of US news publications, Weinstein concluded his ruling by saying: “I must say I act out of fear. My fear is if I ruled Uber illegal, I would need security. I wouldn’t be able to walk the streets at night. People would be after me.”

Lead claimant in the case, Spencer Meyer asked for the ruling to be overturned based on those comments, stating that Weinstein had displayed ‘evident partiality’.

Dismissing the opportunity for the case to be overturned, US District Judge, Jed Rakoff, said on Monday: “After carefully reviewing the full record, the court finds that the arbitrator’s concluding remarks, rather than a sincere confession of fear, were simply an attempt at humor - one of many made by the arbitrator throughout the hearing."

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