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  • John Kulevich

What's In Your Contract With Uber?

Last week, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decided that an Uber passenger traveling from Boston to Somerville, who was permanently paralyzed following a crash that was the fault of the Uber driver, must arbitrate any personal injury claims he has against Uber, instead of having access to a jury trial in the Massachusetts courts. The injured passenger agreed to (but had not read) Uber’s “terms of use” and one of those terms was that all personal injury disputes would be resolved by arbitration.

 

The main issue in this case was whether a contract was formed between Uber and the passenger even though the passenger had assented to Uber’s terms of use without reading them, and the contract terms were nonnegotiable. The type of contract used here (and commonly used in consumer transactions) is known as an adhesion contract which is a “a standard-form contract prepared by one party, to be signed by another party in a weaker position, usually a consumer, who adheres to the contract with little choice about the terms.” The assent process common in digital applications where you can agree to a contract without actually reading it is called “clickwrap.”  

 

In addition to the agreement to arbitrate disputes (which essentially is a waiver of a passenger’s right to a jury trial) the Supreme Judicial Court noted that there were other provisions in Uber’s terms of use contained in the clickwrap, including a limitation of Uber’s liability for accidents and injuries. However, the Court decided that because a contract had been formed between the passenger and Uber, and the enforceability of the other terms of the contract were for the arbitrator to decide.

 

The fact that you can form a contract (and thus be bound to its terms) simply by clicking “I Agree” in order to use a particular digital app may come as a surprise. Not only can you form a contract, but it is possible that by agreeing, you might be giving up very significant rights you would otherwise have against the particular app you are using. If you are an Uber App user in Boston, Hingham, Weymouth, or any other area serviced by Uber, it is a good idea to try to read the terms of your contract! In the event that you are injured in an accident with an Uber, reach out and we can discuss your rights!

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