There is a legal dustup after a crash.
A company operating in San Francisco and a company that supplied it with human test drivers are at odds over who should pay for an accident.
The case is likely to show that at least an equal number of jobs will be created for lawyers even if there are fewer human drivers. The company sued in the United States. The District Court in San Francisco claims that Actalent Inc., a Maryland company that provided test drivers for its vehicles, should pay for an accident that happened in 2019.
There is a dispute over a scooter that was stopped at a red light facing south at the intersection of Haight and Market streets.
Judd moved to the intersection when the light turned green. Judd observed a Cruise vehicle with four people inside running a red light at the same time.
Judd could not avoid a collision. The rear passenger door of the Cruise vehicle was hit by him.
Judd was injured in his health, strength and activity, sustaining injury to the body and person, all of which have caused and continue to cause him great mental and physical pain and suffering.
Judd sued Cruise in state court in San Francisco, asserting several claims, including one that he said arose from Cruise’s “conscious decision to dangerously test” their vehicles on San Francisco streets “in blatant and willful disregard for the safety of pedestrians, bicyclists and other motorists.”
Cruise was founded to create and develop vehicles. Lawyers for the company say that their mission is to build all electric, zero emission, automated vehicles that will help save lives, reimagine cities, reduce carbon pollution, redefine time in transit and restore freedom of movement for individuals.
Cruise has a permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles and has been operating a fee based ride sharing service in San Francisco.
San Francisco’s hilly terrain and urban density made it an ideal location for testing new technology.
The streets of San Francisco are some of the most complex and unpredictable driving environments in the United States. Cruise vehicles are more likely to encounter construction, cyclists, pedestrians and six way intersection in San Francisco than they are in suburban environments.
To test the technology, Cruise needed the services of several autonomous vehicle test operators.
In September 2020 Cruise signed a staffing agreement with Actalent, under which Actalent would provide AVTOs and other staff.
The agreement states that the people provided to Cruise will be employees of Actalent, even though they work in San Francisco in Cruise vehicles.
Actalent allegedly agreed to indemnify Cruise against any claims asserted against Cruise by third parties based on the acts or omissions of Actalent’s employees.
When Judd sued Cruise for the scooter accident, he also sued an individual named Justin Lee, who was allegedly in the driver’s seat of the vehicle. Lee was an employee of Actalent and worked for Cruise.
Cruise demanded that Actalent defend him against the suit. Actalent declined that opportunity, as it did with another lawsuit that also involved an AVTO employed by Actalent, this one claiming the AVTO was fired on account of a disability
In February of this year, Actalent sued Cruise in federal court in Maryland, accusing it of not paying its invoices. Cruise was accused of owing Actalent more than $400,000.
Cruise wants the San Francisco court to determine that Actalent violated the staffing agreement and should not have to pay him.
There are great opportunities for the legal profession because of the kerfuffle.
According to court records, the Maryland lawsuit requires three law firms, one for Actalent and two for Cruise. The state court suit in San Francisco brought by Judd involves five law firms, according to the court docket two for Cruise, two for Lee and one for Judd.
Three firms are listed on the docket of the suit with employment claims.
Cruise’s new federal suit only involves one law firm this one on behalf of Cruise and that firm is also involved in the Maryland action so some economies of scale may be obtained. The case is brand new and Actalent will need lawyers to mount a vigorous defense.
If Actalent can get away with one law firm, that will bring the total to a dozen.
The situation suggests that the legal profession is likely to be one of the main beneficiaries of the technology.
Lawyers for Cruise, Actalent and Judd did not return requests for comment.
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