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Cullinane v. Uber Techs., Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

June 25, 2018, Decided

No. 16-2023

Opinion

 [*55]  TORRUELLA, Circuit Judge. This case concerns the enforceability of an arbitration clause contained in an online contract. Plaintiffs-Appellants Rachel Cullinane, Jacqueline Núñez, Elizabeth Schaul, and Ross McDonagh, (collectively, "Plaintiffs"), filed this putative class action in Massachusetts Superior Court on behalf of themselves and other users of a ride-sharing service in the Boston area against Defendant-Appellee Uber Technologies, Inc. ("Uber"). In their complaint, Plaintiffs alleged that Uber violated a Massachusetts consumer-protection statute by knowingly imposing certain fictitious or inflated fees. Uber removed the case to the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, and filed a motion to compel arbitration and stay or dismiss the case. The district court granted Uber's motion to compel arbitration and dismissed the complaint. For the reasons explained below, we reverse and remand.

I. Background

Because Uber's motion to compel arbitration was made in connection with a motion to dismiss or stay, we draw the relevant facts from the operative complaint and the documents submitted to the district [**3]  court in support of the motion to compel arbitration. Gove v. Career Sys. Dev. Corp., 689 F.3d 1, 2 (1st Cir. 2012).

A. Factual Background

Uber provides a ride-sharing service that transports customers throughout some cities, including Boston, for a fee. Uber licenses the Uber mobile application (the "Uber App") to the public so that users may request transportation services from independent third party providers in the users' local area. To be able to request and pay for third party transportation services, Uber App users must first register with Uber by creating an account. At the time Plaintiffs created their accounts, prospective users could either register through the Uber App or register directly through Uber's website.

All four named Plaintiffs downloaded the Uber App on iPhones and used the Uber App to create Uber accounts between December 31, 2012 and January 10, 2014. On September 13, 2013, Plaintiff Jacqueline Núñez ("Núñez") used the Uber App to order transportation to Boston Logan International Airport ("Logan Airport") and was charged, in addition to the cost of the transportation, $8.75 for a Massport Surcharge  [*56]  & Toll1 (the "Massport Surcharge"). Plaintiff Rachel Cullinane ("Cullinane") used the Uber App to request transportation [**4]  from Logan Airport on

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893 F.3d 53 *; 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 17222 **

RACHEL CULLINANE, JACQUELINE NÚÑEZ, ELIZABETH SCHAUL, and ROSS MCDONAGH, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs, Appellants, v. UBER TECHNOLOGIES, INC., Defendant, Appellee.

Prior History:  [**1] APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS. Hon. Douglas P. Woodlock, U.S. District Judge.

Cullinane v. Uber Techs., Inc., 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 89540 (D. Mass., July 11, 2016)

Disposition: Reversed and Remanded.

CORE TERMS

screen, users, hyperlink, button, terms, Card, conspicuous, arbitration, notice, displayed, font, registration process, blank, blue, dark, motion to compel arbitration, district court, transportation, Surcharge, register, online, click, box, arbitration clause, communicated, bold, terms of the agreement, compel arbitration, capital letters, rectangular

Business & Corporate Compliance, Alternative Dispute Resolution, Arbitration, Arbitrability, Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, Clearly Erroneous Review, De Novo Review, Pretrial Matters, Judicial Review, Federal Arbitration Act, Arbitration Agreements, Evidence, Burdens of Proof, Allocation, Contracts Law, Contract Conditions & Provisions, Arbitration Clauses, Contracts Law, Contract Interpretation, Commercial Law (UCC), General Provisions (Article 1), Definitions & Interpretation, Conspicuous