AUSTIN (KXAN) — An Austin man is suing the Lime scooter company, claiming the electric scooter he was on malfunctioned and the brief ride could have killed him.
Jeremiah Mahoney and his attorney, Brad Bonilla, filed a lawsuit in Travis County District Court. They say Lime failed to properly repair its fleet and failed to take faulty scooters out of service.
“I was completely baffled by what had just happened,” said Mahoney.
He told KXAN that last Wednesday he got on a Lime scooter after getting off the city bus on Guadalupe Street in downtown. He’s used to riding electric scooters because he doesn’t drive a car often.
Just three minutes into the ride, “Literally, the scooter just stopped,” Mahoney said. “It just locked.”
He said the sudden stop threw him into the middle of the road. Luckily, there weren’t any cars. “That’s what scares me. This could’ve been so so bad.”
Bonilla said this isn’t the first time he’s hearing about a situation like this.
“Lime has recalled scooters in New Zealand,” he said. “They recalled scooters in Switzerland for a glitch where a wheel locks mid-use.”Bonilla said it’s also hard to get information about each scooter.
“If you’re involved in a car wreck and your car gets damaged and towed, you can always inspect it later,” he explained. “Here, when Jeremiah went back later to where he fell, the scooter is gone.”
Bonilla believes Lime should be held accountable.
“As a transportation company, our contention is they’re considered a common carrier. They have a high duty of care because passengers that use their products should have an expectation that they can use those products safely.”
Despite this, Bonilla said the number of injuries caused by scooters keeps increasing. “These are underreported injuries.”
In reference to how the City of Austin tracks scooter injuries by tracking the number of times EMS brings people to hospitals, Bonilla went on to explain, “EMS trips don’t really show the true gravity of the problem.”
After his injury, Mahoney said he doesn’t think he’ll ride a scooter again.
“After seeing all the other types of injuries as well as having this happen to me personally, I don’t feel safe.”
He wanted to speak about his experience, however. “I’d like the public to have more information about the possibility of these faulty mechanical issues.”
Lime did not respond to calls and emails about the lawsuit.
City inspections of scooters
In Austin, five companies actively operate scooters. One additional company offers commuter scooters that allow you to sit while riding.
The Transportation Department told KXAN, “The city inspects each type of scooter during the permitting process or when new generations are introduced to the market.”
Each dockless device has an ID number, and “if there are obvious issues with dockless devices seen on the ground, ground transportation enforcement officers report them directly to the companies to repair.”
The department also said the city receives monthly maintenance reports from the companies, but they don’t include the number of times each company responds to a broken scooter.
Company’s roles in maintenance and inspection
While Lime did not respond, KXAN reached out to those other companies about their maintenance and inspection policies.
Spin said their scooters go through a checklist every night. They look for working lights, throttle and brakes and perform a test ride.
If there’s a major issue reported during the day, Spin said they go pick it up within 4 hours to take it out of service.
Bird’s spokesperson sent a statement:
“We strongly recommend reporting any damaged scooters or incidents that Bird scooters are involved in to the company, as we have a support team dedicated to safety that is available around the clock to address questions and reports we receive. Bird provides a number of ways for people to reach us including by email (Hello@bird.co), through our in-app messaging feature, and by phone.”
Uber, which operates Jump scooters said:
Our local Austin operations team carefully monitors the JUMP fleet to help ensure our e-bikes and e-scooters remain safe and well-maintained. When we receive report of any device that requires service, action is taken to remove the scooter’s availability from the app until the unit has been inspected and repaired.
Lyft also sent a statement:
We believe that operational excellence is one of the key ways to provide the best experience to the community, our riders, local businesses, and the City of Austin. As a result, we’ve taken all of the key operations in-house — we’re controlling all aspects of operations, including drop-off, pick-up, charging, rebalancing, cleaning, and fixing within a local warehouse. This will provide the safest, most reliable ride possible. Lyft scooter users can report a broken scooter through the app by tapping “report issue” and let us know what’s wrong.