Recently SFist wrote of a $27 million proposed agreement for drivers to settle with Lyft, a deal to keep them contractors rather than employees in California. That settlement was brokered by the same lawyer, Shannon Liss-Riordan, who had negotiated a $100 million settlement with Uber in California and Massachusetts. And the news was enough to send Gabe Ets-Hokin to our comments section.
"Uber and Lyft lawsuits: $40 million plus for Ms. Riordan, about $800 to me if I'm lucky," Ets-Hokin wrote. "Maybe I should have tried to pass the bar just one last time."
The Guardian was quick to report on similar rumblings of dissatisfaction from within the ranks of Uber drivers last week, when new court documents showed that Uber might have been forced to pay $852 million in damages had it been defeated in court. Instead, under the proposed agreement covering around 385,000 drivers, $84 million will be paid out, with $16 million more provided Uber takes its company public.
Bloomberg reports that another lawyer pursuing similar class action cases, New York's Hunter Shkolnik, has even asked that Liss-Riordan even be removed from the case. “The entire class was thrown under the bus and backed over.” Bloomberg quotes Shkolnik, while noting that his request to the judge to remove her is unlikely to succeed.
Liss-Riordan, naturally, disagrees with Shkolnik. In an emailed statement, she writes “It is easy for others to come in and second guess, but cases are settled all the time, and it is the lawyer’s duty to assess and balance the risks and make recommendations,” That will be, in part, up to a judge. On June 2nd, US District Judge Edward Chen will hear more, and perhaps offer preliminary approval for the deal once, lawyers like Liss-Riordan provide breakdowns of their hours and so forth.
“If this settlement is approved, the next stage of the case will be the food fight of all the lawyers coming in trying to take a piece of this fee for this case that I litigated,” Liss-Riordan wrote. ”I expect the lawyers making these objections are going to be first in line trying to get a piece of it.”
Today, Reuters reports in Fortune that a key plaintiff in the Uber case, Douglas O’Connor has turned on Liss-Riordan. The deal “is not in my interest or in the interest of any Uber driver,” O'Connor wrote in a court filing. In fact, he's removing himself from the case.
That might be a problem: It's O'Connor whose name is often invoked to signify the case, as in "the O'Connor Case." Instead of Liss-Riordan, O'Connor has sought the services of celebrity LA lawyer Mark Geragos.
But those who might hope to represent O'Connor and others at this stage, says Liss-Riordan, are little more than legal scavengers — the types, she tells Reuters, who "have a history of jumping on big cases and making some noise so they can try to get a piece of it.” Further, O'Connor isn't certified as the lead plaintiff in the case that, colloquially, bears his name.