United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO TRANSFER RE: DKT. NO.
William H. Orrick United States District Judge
Jane Doe brings this tort suit against defendant
Uber Technologies, Inc. (“Uber”) based upon an
alleged sexual assault perpetrated against her by an Uber
driver in Minnesota in August 2016. Uber moves to transfer
venue to the District of Minnesota pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1404(a). Because the majority of the evidence and key
third party witnesses are in Minnesota, and Minnesota's
local interest in deciding this controversy is substantially
stronger than California's, the case should be tried
there. I GRANT Uber's motion.
a “transportation network company” incorporated
in Delaware and headquartered in San Francisco, California.
Complaint (“Compl.”) (Dkt. No. 1) ¶ 6. Since
its inception in 2010, Uber has grown into a multi-billion
dollar enterprise with operations in approximately 555 cities
worldwide. Id. ¶¶ 3, 6.
2014, Uber had more than 160, 000 regularly active drivers
and the company estimated in October 2016 that it provides
transportation services to 40 million active riders monthly.
Id. ¶ 10. It provides a downloadable smartphone
application (“App”) that connects individuals in
need of a ride with drivers who transport passengers in their
own personal vehicles. Id. ¶ 11. Individuals
use the App to request a ride, and are then paired with an
available Uber driver who picks the rider up and drives them
to their destination. Id. Customers pay Uber for
each ride with a credit card through the App. Id.
Uber sets fare prices for rides without driver input,
collects the rider's credit card payment, pays the driver
a portion of the collected fare, and keeps the remainder.
Id. ¶¶ 11, 34.
rider demand, “Uber solicits and retains tens of
thousands of non-professional drivers” to provide
transportation services through the App. Id. ¶
12. It has “minimum requirements” to be a driver,
requiring that all drivers be over 21 years old and have a
valid U.S. driver's license, an eligible four-door
vehicle, and at least one year of experience driving in the
U.S. Id. ¶ 29. Prospective Uber drivers apply
entirely online by “filling out a few short forms and
uploading photos of a driver's license, vehicle
registration, and proof of insurance.” Id.
¶ 43. Uber does not verify that the information provided
by applicants is complete or accurate, or that “the
documents submitted are accurate or actually pertain to the
applicant.” Id. ¶¶ 43, 50. It
generally uses third party vendors to conduct background
checks on applicants. Id. ¶ 50. These vendors
run the drivers' social security numbers through
databases that, according to plaintiff, capture information
only dating back seven years and do not capture all arrests
or convictions. Id. Drivers hired by Uber then
become “available to the public to provide
transportation services through [the] App.”
Id. ¶ 12.
markets itself as a better and safer alternative to taxis and
advertises its services as the “safest ride on the
road” and “a ride you can trust.”
Id. ¶¶ 64-65. It emphasizes its
“focus on rider safety before during and after every
trip, ” and represents to customers that “[e]very
ridesharing and livery driver is thoroughly screened through
a rigorous process we've developed using industry-leading
standards. This includes a three step criminal background
screening for the U.S.-with country, federal and multi-state
checks that go back as far as the law allows-and ongoing
reviews of drivers' motor vehicle records throughout
their time on Uber.” Id. ¶¶ 70-71.
Its advertisements target the market of intoxicated late
night riders, particularly women. Id. ¶ 76.
Uber's website and marketing platforms display
“numerous pictures of smiling women entering and
exiting vehicles, who are meant to appear
‘safe.'” Id. ¶ 79.
Doe resides in Roseville, Minnesota. She began using Uber in
2013. Id. ¶¶ 83-84. In choosing to use
Uber, she relied on Uber's advertisements representing
that Uber is “a safe and reliable option for female
passengers.” Id. ¶¶ 84-86.
August 5, 2016, Doe and her two friends used the Uber App to
request a ride to a brewery in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Id. ¶¶ 87, 89. Uber driver Abdel Jaquez
picked them up and drove them to the brewery. Id.
¶ 89. At the end of the fourteen-minute ride, Jaquez
exchanged phone numbers with the women so they could request
an Uber ride to their next destination later that night.
eating and drinking at the brewery, Doe and her friends
contacted Jaquez to request transport to a second bar in
Minneapolis. Id. ¶ 90. Jaquez drove Doe and one
friend to the second bar. “It was their understanding
that Uber was continuing to charge them for this second ride
via the Uber App, ” and that “Jaquez continued to
act as an Uber employee, on the clock.” Id.
Doe sat in the passenger seat during the ride, and played
music on her phone through the vehicle's auxiliary cord.
Id. ¶ 91.
exited Jaquez's car at the second bar, she realized that
she had left her phone in his car, and went back to retrieve
it while her friend went ahead into the bar. Id.
When Doe returned to Jaquez's car, he attempted to kiss
her. She told him that she was not interested. Id.
¶ 92. Jaquez told her to “shut the [profanity]
door, ” and accelerated forward while Doe was still
partially in the car. Id. Jaquez drove to an
isolated stretch of road at the end of the block, where he
“climbed on top of  Doe, forcibly kissing and groping
her, ” and “gained access to and assaulted her
breasts.” Id. Doe was shocked and terrified,
and “kept repeating: ‘Please let me go. I
don't want to do this.'” Id. She
managed to escape from the car and ran back to the bar where
she immediately told her friends that “the Uber driver
had attempted to rape her.” Id. ¶ 93. Doe
had “visible bite marks to her lip, scratches and
bruising to her arm, and a button missing from her
shirt.” Id. ¶ 95. She reported the sexual
assault to both the police and Uber. Id. ¶ 97.
Since the incident, Doe has received treatment from a
therapist for “anxiety, depression, feelings of guilt,
and suicidal ideation resulting from the sexual
assault.” Id. ¶ 96.
to Doe, Jaquez “had a record of moving
violations” and “a prior criminal record of a
sexual crime against another woman.” Id.
¶ 88. Doe alleges that “a detailed
fingerprint-based background check of the type conducted
regularly within the taxi industry” would have revealed
Jaquez's criminal history. Id. At the time she
filed her complaint, Jaquez was allegedly still “an
authorized Uber driver.” Id. ¶ 97.
February 23, 2017, Doe filed this action against
Uber. Dkt. No. 1. She asserts seven claims for
relief: (1) Negligence (negligent hiring, negligent
supervision, and negligent retention); (2) Fraud (intentional
misrepresentation, concealment, and false promise); (3)
Negligent Misrepresentation; (4) Battery; (5) Assault; (6)
False Imprisonment; and (7) Intentional Infliction of
Emotional Distress. See Compl. ¶¶ 108-156.
Doe brings claims four through seven under a theory of
respondeat superior. See id. ¶¶ 125-156.
Doe seeks non-economic, economic, punitive, and exemplary
damages, attorneys' fees and costs, and pre- and
now moves to transfer venue to the District of Minnesota
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Uber Mot. to Transfer
(”Mot.”) (Dkt. No. 21-1). It contends that
transfer is appropriate because the relevant facts all arose
either in Minneapolis-where the alleged assault took place
and evidence regarding that assault and any damage to
plaintiff is located-or in Chicago, from where Uber runs its
Minneapolis operations. Reply (Dkt. No. 30) at 4. Doe opposes
transfer. Opposition (“Oppo.”) (Dkt. No.
the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of
justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to
any other district or division where it might have been
brought or to any district or division to which all parties
have consented.” 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Section
1404(a) “requires two findings-that the district court
is one where the action might have been brought and that the
convenience of parties and witnesses in the interest of
justice favors transfer.” Hatch v. Reliance Ins.
Co., 758 F.2d 409, 414 (9th Cir. 1985) (internal
quotation marks omitted). A “district court has
discretion to adjudicate motions for transfer according to an
individualized, case-by-case consideration of convenience and
fairness.” Jones v. GNC Franchising, Inc., 211
F.3d 495, 498 (9th Cir. 2000) (internal quotations marks and
the convenience inquiry, the “defendant must make a
strong showing of inconvenience to warrant upsetting the
plaintiff's choice of forum.” Decker Coal Co.
v. Commonwealth Edison Co., 805 F.2d 834, 843 (9th Cir.
1986). The defendant must point to, and the court must weigh,
“private and public interest factors affecting the
convenience of the forum.” Id. Courts in this
district generally consider the following eight factors:
(1) the plaintiff's choice of forum; (2) the convenience
of the parties; (3) the convenience of the witnesses; (4)
ease of access to the evidence; (5) familiarity of each forum
with the applicable law; (6) feasibility of consolidation of
other claims; (7) any local interest in the controversy; and
(8) the relative court congestion and time [to] trial in each
Gerin v. Aegon USA, Inc., No. 06-cv-005407-SBA, 2007
WL 1033472, at *4 (N.D. Cal. Apr. 4, 2007) (citing
Jones, 211 F.3d at 498-99); accord Lax v. Toyota
Motor Corp., 65 F.Supp.3d 772, 776 (N.D. Cal. 2014);
Barnes & Noble, Inc. v. LSI Corp., 823 F.Supp.2d
980, 993 (N.D. Cal. 2011); Vu v. ...