July 4, 2022

Danny Peña at his condominium in Los Angeles on Friday. He was paralyzed in an e-scooter accident three a very long time up to now. (Christina Residence / Los Angeles Events)

A number of years in the past, Danny Peña, then 23, was on his option to a place job interview at a sandwich store, driving a Chook e-scooter. He was an skilled rider in significantly lower than a calendar yr, he skilled rented e-scooters much more than 400 moments in Los Angeles.

On that shiny, sunny working day, he skilled traveled virtually a mile when his Fowl crashed right into a sidewalk buckled by invasive tree roots.

Eyewitnesses testified that instantly after he strike the uplifted concrete, he pitched headfirst into an Indian laurel fig tree and completed up within the avenue, a carefully trafficked stretch of La Brea Avenue simply south of Washington Boulevard. Within the crash, two parts of his cervical backbone and element of his cranium ended up fractured.

Peña would hardly wander but once more.

I continually understood that catastrophic e-scooters crashes would transform portion of the city panorama.

After they very first rolled out in 2017, e-scooters developed chaos on streets, sidewalks and bicycle paths till cities had been pressured to control them, purchase insurance policies and use technological innovation like geofencing, which renders scooters inoperable in chosen spots.

Electrical powered scooters are fulfilling and low cost to journey, however their usefulness has been relentlessly hyped by firms resembling Hen, which don’t have any option to implement their have guidelines.

These companies have designed disingenuous promoting claims about how scooters would ease guests and assist you to save the setting by providing eco-helpful transportation for “the ultimate mile” amongst buses and subways and the workplace, while stating in its circumstances of service settlement that backpacks couldn’t be worn during rides. (Who goes to get the job performed with no backpack?)

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The scooters will not be actually steady, minimal kids rapidly evade the age specs, few riders put on helmets and people usually double up for rides. In California, it’s towards the legislation to journey them on streets the place the tempo restrict exceeds 25 mph and there’s no bicycle lane, or on sidewalks.

However, as Peña testified in a deposition, he’d usually ridden on sidewalks the place the street was far too dangerous (like that stretch of La Brea). He talked about he was not at all stopped or cited, even though law enforcement officials skilled discovered him fairly a number of events.


In November 2019, Peña filed a lawsuit versus the city of Los Angeles, alleging it was accountable for the crash.

He and his lawyer, Gabriel Avina, contend that the damaged sidewalk led to Peña to lose regulate of the scooter, and a badly managed tree triggered his accidents. Each sidewalk and tree are owned by the city, which knew or will need to have acknowledged, they declare, in regards to the perilous illnesses.

The city lacking a motion to get the lawsuit thrown out and turned to Fowl for assist with the scenario. Within the unsuccessful motion, attorneys for the city argued the town didn’t know in regards to the damaged pavement or fig tree, that Peña accelerated down the hill (which Peña denies), that he had consumed a “substantial sum of cognac” the night upfront of, that he was in extra of the scooter weight restrict by 15 lbs . and was donning a backpack.

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Because it seems, when Fowl and the metropolis created their enterprise enterprise settlement, Fowl agreed to indemnify the city versus lawsuits just like its scooters. Chook is obligated to pay out for the town’s safety and presumably any damages Peña could probably be granted.

However right here’s the place by the story takes a head-spinning twist:

When Peña downloaded the Fowl software and agreed to its circumstances in August 2018, he unwittingly indemnified Hen in opposition to any lawsuits. Hen now claims that Peña owes the enterprise $322,171, the overall it has put in so considerably defending Los Angeles from the lawsuit.

Even much more abominable, Fowl argues that if the lawsuit goes to demo and Peña is awarded damages, it’s Peña who ought to pay again the damages … to himself.

“This is sort of a snake feeding by itself tail,” Avina instructed me after we spoke by mobile phone Thursday early morning. “This man lives on Medicare. He’s paralyzed.” Avina stated authorities estimate that Peña would require about $15 million for care over his life time.

I’ve by no means ever skilled a excessive regard for e-scooter firms, however I had no thought how minimal Chook may go.

In response to my ask for for an job interview in regards to the state of affairs, a Hen spokeswoman emailed:

“Fowl shouldn’t be a celebration to Mr. Pena’s lawsuit in opposition to the Metropolis of Los Angeles. His accident and the extent of his ensuing accidents are unlucky. The incident transpired when Mr. Pena was allegedly functioning a Hen scooter illegally on a city-preserved sidewalk with a BAC [blood-alcohol level] in regards to the licensed restrict, examined constructive for hashish and in violation of the California Car Code.”

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Chook won’t technically be a social gathering to the lawsuit Peña has filed in direction of the metropolis, however it’s shelling out for the safety. Additionally, simply final month, Fowl demanded Peña be pressured into arbitration with the group above its assert he owes them cash to guard the lawsuit he launched in direction of the town.

As for whether or not Peña was lawfully drunk or substantial on the time of the crash, that’s unclear. A choose who dominated versus the metropolis when it requested that the lawsuit be tossed wrote in her get that no forensically defensible blood alcoholic drinks examination had been administered. Avina instructed me that two toxicologists agreed that while hashish could have proven up in Peña’s urine, there was no option to inform when it was ingested. (Cannabis could be detected extended following its consequence fades.)

I do not know what the ultimate results of this state of affairs shall be, however I’m rooting for Fowl’s arbitration have to be tossed, for a jury to weigh in, or on the very least for the town to settle with Peña.

And I actually hope Fowl lays off its inane declare that Peña owes it income.

“Individuals should know after they rent these scooters that Hen will come following you,” talked about Avina. “I don’t fault the metropolis a lot too significantly, however what Fowl is engaging in is repugnant.”

You may anticipate to get no argument from me on that.


This story at first appeared in Los Angeles Durations.