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Lead plaintiff in Uber class-action suit fires lawyer, objects to settlement offer

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In the latest development in the Uber driver class action lawsuit against the company, Donald O’Connor, one of four lead plaintiffs in the suit, fired his attorney and slammed the pending settlement offer, according to BuzzFeed. Uber’s $100 million settlement offer still stands and is scheduled for review by a judge on June 2. O’Connor is not the only former or current Uber driver who has objected to the settlement, but his standing as one of the four lead plaintiffs draws more attention.

The lawsuit against Uber was for the drivers to be considered employees, not contractors, and as such, to receive benefits including workman’s compensation and mileage expense reimbursement.

O’Connor previously said, “It is what it is,” when he signed the settlement offer, but now he’s recanting. He is also withdrawing from the class action suit, and is planning to file his own lawsuit with new attorneys.

O’Connor fired Shannon Liss-Riordan, the Boston attorney representing Uber and Lyft drivers against their respective companies. He claimed that he was not kept in the loop during the proceedings up to the settlement offer and only saw the document after its contents were made public. He also says he was encouraged to sign the 100-page document “immediately.”

Since the settlement offer was made public the court ordered Uber data released which showed that, had the drivers been employees during the time period covered by the lawsuit, they would have been reimbursed $850 million for mileage expenses.

In his declaration to the court, O’Connor wrote, “Had I been informed and consulted contemporaneously on the details of the settlement agreement, I would have strongly objected to the terms and methodology used for computing damages. This proposed settlement agreement is not in my interest or in the interest of any Uber driver.” O’Connor wants to keep fighting and thinks his new attorneys, Mark Geragos and Brian Kabateck, will better represent him.

Liss-Riordan is concerned that new attorneys entering litigation at this time could jeopardize the progress already made. She believes a settlement is the safest way for drivers to achieve a real benefit from the class action. The settlement would still leave drivers as contractors but would give them one-time payments (in O’Connor’s case it would have been more than $7,500). Heading back to court this Friday, Liss-Riordan said, “if the judge […] thinks we should have taken the gamble at the Ninth Circuit and before a jury, then I am more than willing to take that chance and plow forward and do what I have to do.”

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