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Kauders v. Uber Technologies, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

May 1, 2017

CHRISTOPHER P. KAUDERS, LEE C. S. KAUDERS, and HANNAH KAUDERS, Plaintiffs,
v.
UBER TECHNOLOGIES, INC., RASIER LLC, and JORGE MUNERA, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

          F. Dennis Saylor IV, United States District Judge

         This is a claim for disability discrimination under Massachusetts state law, arising out of the alleged refusal of certain Uber drivers to permit a guide dog to accompany a visually-impaired rider. The matter was filed in state court and removed to this court on the basis of diversity of citizenship.

         Following removal, plaintiffs filed an amended complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a), adding a non-diverse defendant-Jorge Munera, one of the Uber drivers alleged to have engaged in discriminatory conduct. Munera is a Massachusetts resident whose joinder, if proper, would destroy diversity jurisdiction. Defendants have moved to dismiss Munera as a fraudulently joined party. For the reasons stated below, that motion will be denied and the action will be remanded to state court.

         I. Background

         Christopher Kauders, a Massachusetts resident, is legally blind. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 8). He uses a guide dog for assistance and his impaired vision prevents him from qualifying for a driver's license. (Id. ¶ 9).

         Uber Technologies, Inc., is an online transportation network company. It features a mobile software application for smartphones that enables customers to submit trip requests for transportation in private vehicles. (Id. ¶ 10). Rasier LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Uber, contracts with drivers for Uber and imposes certain requirements on those drivers concerning their duties and vehicles. (Id.).

         According to the complaint, Kauders frequently relies on Uber to travel, including for work purposes. (Id. ¶¶ 12-16). He has taken more than 100 rides with Uber drivers since opening an account with the company in 2014. (Id. ¶¶ 13, 16). His guide dog accompanied him on approximately half of those rides. (Id. ¶ 17).

         The complaint alleges that on three separate occasions between August 26, 2015, and March 25, 2016, Kauders was denied service by Uber when its drivers refused to allow his guide dog into their vehicles. (Id. ¶¶ 12, 28, 37, 45). His wife Lee and daughter Hannah witnessed one of those occasions. (Id. ¶ 37). According to the complaint, Kauders, his wife, and his daughter have all suffered emotional distress as a result of the alleged discrimination. (Id. ¶¶ 49, 52-53).

         On February 2, 2016, Kauders filed a complaint against Uber with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (“MCAD”). (Id. ¶ 54). However, because Kauders serves on the MCAD Advisory Board, MCAD determined that it could not investigate his allegations due to concerns about a conflict of interest. (Id. ¶ 55). Instead, on February 22, 2016, MCAD issued a letter to Kauders informing him that the case was administratively closed, that his administrative remedies were considered exhausted, and that he could file a civil suit. (Id. ¶ 55 & Ex. B).

         On April 28, 2016, plaintiffs served a demand letter on Uber and Rasier pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, § 9. (Id. ¶ 122). After receiving an extension to the 30-day response deadline, Uber and Rasier responded on June 15, 2016, denying any liability and stating that plaintiffs' allegations failed to demonstrate that Uber's policies and procedures were unlawful. (Id. ¶ 124).

         On July 12, 2016, Kauders filed a complaint in Massachusetts state court asserting claims against Uber and Rasier for (1) violation of Massachusetts anti-discrimination law, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 272, § 98A; (2) intentional infliction of emotional distress; and (3) violation of the Massachusetts consumer protection law, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A.

         On August 15, 2016, defendants removed the action to this court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. On August 25, 2016, plaintiffs filed a motion to remand, contending that defendants had failed to establish diversity of citizenship and that they had failed to attach the summons served on Uber to their notice of removal. That motion was denied.[1]

         On September 9, 2016, defendants filed a motion pursuant to 9 U.S.C. §§ 3, 4 and Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) to compel arbitration and dismiss the action. On September 30-that is, 21 days later-plaintiffs filed an amended complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1)(B). The amended complaint added Jorge Munera, one of the Uber drivers who allegedly discriminated against Kauders, as a defendant. Munera is a resident of Massachusetts. (Am. Compl. ¶ 6). The amended complaint, like the original complaint, asserts only state-law claims.

         Defendants Uber and Rasier have moved to dismiss the claims against Munera on the ground that he was fraudulently joined in order to destroy diversity jurisdiction. For ...


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