Key plaintiff objects to deal in Uber driver lawsuit

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An Uber car is seen parked with the driver's lunch left on the dashboard in Venice, Los Angeles, California, United States July 15, 2015. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
An Uber car is seen parked with the driver’s lunch left on the dashboard in Venice, Los Angeles, California, United States July 15, 2015.

Reuters/Lucy Nicholson

A key plaintiff in a driver class action against Uber said he does not support a proposed settlement in which thousands of drivers would receive up to $100 million, but remain independent contractors instead of employees.

Uber and smaller rival, Lyft, are attempting to settle lawsuits by drivers who contend they should be classified as employees and therefore entitled to reimbursement for expenses, including gasoline and vehicle maintenance. Drivers currently pay those costs themselves.

In a court filing on Monday, plaintiff Douglas O’Connor said the deal “is not in my interest or in the interest of any Uber driver.”

The lawsuit had often been informally referred to among lawyers as the “O’Connor” case, and his opposition to the agreement could increase pressure on the San Francisco federal judge overseeing the deal to reject it.

Shannon Liss-Riordan, an attorney for the drivers, has defended the deal since it was announced last month, saying the hardest working drivers could receive thousands of dollars each. Drivers also risked getting nothing if the case proceeded, she said.

However, several drivers and attorneys have criticized the settlement as too small, particularly because the total potential damages in the case reached $852 million.

O’Connor asked that celebrity Los Angeles lawyer Mark Geragos represent him instead of Liss-Riordan, according to the court filing. Geragos filed an objection to the settlement last week.

In a statement, Liss-Riordan said O’Connor had not been officially certified as a lead plaintiff, though was kept in the loop on the case.

Liss-Riordan said the attorneys seeking to represent O’Connor “may have a history of jumping on big cases and making some noise so they can try to get a piece of it.”

A hearing on the settlement is scheduled for June 2.

(Reporting by Dan Levine; Editing by Chris Reese and Alan Crosby)