Abcarian: Ride a Bird scooter. Have an accident. Pay out a mighty price

A few several years in the past, Danny Peña, then 23, was on his way to a position job interview at a sandwich store, using a Fowl e-scooter. He was an experienced rider in a lot less than a yr, he had rented e-scooters a lot more than 400 situations in Los Angeles.

On that vivid, sunny working day, he had traveled just about a mile when his Chook crashed into a sidewalk buckled by invasive tree roots.

Eyewitnesses testified that just after he hit the uplifted concrete, he pitched headfirst into an Indian laurel fig tree and finished up in the street, a greatly trafficked stretch of La Brea Avenue just south of Washington Boulevard. In the crash, two parts of his cervical spine and element of his skull were fractured.

Peña would by no means wander once more.

I always knew that catastrophic e-scooters crashes would turn into component of the urban landscape.

Abcarian: Ride a Bird scooter. Have an accident. Pay out a mighty price

Belief Columnist

Robin Abcarian

When they very first rolled out in 2017, e-scooters created chaos on streets, sidewalks and bike paths till metropolitan areas had been forced to control them, develop procedures and use engineering like geofencing, which renders scooters inoperable in specified places.

Electric scooters are enjoyable and cheap to experience, but their usefulness has been relentlessly hyped by corporations these types of as Fowl, which have no way to implement their have guidelines.

These organizations have made disingenuous advertising and marketing promises about how scooters would simplicity site visitors and preserve the setting by delivering eco-friendly transportation for “the past mile” between buses and subways and the workplace, even though stating in its terms of provider arrangement that backpacks might not be worn throughout rides. (Who goes to perform with out a backpack?)

The scooters aren’t quite secure, minor youngsters simply evade the age demands, handful of riders wear helmets and people normally double up for rides. In California, it’s against the legislation to journey them on streets where by the velocity restrict exceeds 25 mph and there is no bike lane, or on sidewalks.

But, as Peña testified in a deposition, he’d generally ridden on sidewalks exactly where the avenue was also risky (like that extend of La Brea). He stated he was hardly ever stopped or cited, even while police officers had witnessed him quite a few instances.


In November 2019, Peña submitted a lawsuit from the town of Los Angeles, alleging it was accountable for the crash.

He and his lawyer, Gabriel Avina, contend that the damaged sidewalk brought on Peña to shed control of the scooter, and a badly managed tree brought on his injuries. Both of those sidewalk and tree are owned by the metropolis, which realized or really should have recognised, they claim, about the harmful conditions.

The city missing a movement to get the lawsuit thrown out and turned to Hen for assist with the situation. In the unsuccessful motion, lawyers for the town argued the city did not know about the damaged pavement or fig tree, that Peña accelerated down the hill (which Peña denies), that he experienced consumed a “large sum of cognac” the night before, that he was over the scooter bodyweight restrict by 15 lbs and was putting on a backpack.

As it turns out, when Fowl and the city made their company arrangement, Hen agreed to indemnify the town in opposition to lawsuits connected to its scooters. Chook is obligated to spend for the city’s protection and presumably any damages Peña could be granted.

But here’s where the tale will take a head-spinning twist:

When Peña downloaded the Chicken application and agreed to its conditions in August 2018, he unwittingly indemnified Chicken versus any lawsuits. Chook now promises that Peña owes the organization $322,171, the total it has used so far defending Los Angeles from the lawsuit.

Even far more abominable, Bird argues that if the lawsuit goes to demo and Peña is awarded damages, it is Peña who will have to pay out the damages … to himself.

“This is like a snake consuming its individual tail,” Avina told me when we spoke by cellular phone Thursday early morning. “This male life on Medicare. He’s paralyzed.” Avina stated industry experts estimate that Peña will demand about $15 million for treatment around his life time.

I have in no way experienced a substantial regard for e-scooter providers, but I had no notion how lower Bird could go.

In reaction to my request for an job interview about the scenario, a Bird spokeswoman emailed:

“Bird is not a bash to Mr. Pena’s lawsuit towards the City of Los Angeles. His incident and the extent of his resulting injuries are unfortunate. The accident happened while Mr. Pena was allegedly operating a Fowl scooter illegally on a metropolis-managed sidewalk with a BAC [blood-alcohol level] more than the lawful restrict, examined positive for cannabis and in violation of the California Motor vehicle Code.”

Fowl may well not technically be a party to the lawsuit Peña has filed in opposition to the city, but it is having to pay for the defense. Also, just previous month, Bird demanded Peña be forced into arbitration with the company over its declare he owes them cash to defend the lawsuit he introduced towards the metropolis.

As for whether or not Peña was lawfully drunk or large at the time of the crash, that is unclear. A judge who dominated from the town when it asked that the lawsuit be tossed wrote in her buy that no forensically defensible blood liquor take a look at experienced been administered. Avina told me that two toxicologists agreed that when cannabis may have demonstrated up in Peña’s urine, there was no way to tell when it was ingested. (Hashish can be detected very long following its outcome fades.)

I have no plan what the outcome of this scenario will be, but I am rooting for Bird’s arbitration need to be tossed, for a jury to weigh in, or at the incredibly the very least for the city to settle with Peña.

And I genuinely hope Chook lays off its inane assert that Peña owes it income.

“People should really know when they lease these scooters that Fowl will occur just after you,” explained Avina. “I never fault the metropolis way too much, but what Chook is accomplishing is repugnant.”

You are going to get no argument from me on that.