California Judge: Lyft Lawsuit Against Uber Exec Should Go to Trial

By | March 18, 2016

An Uber executive lost a bid to throw out a breach of contract lawsuit filed against him by his former employer, Lyft, in advance of a trial scheduled for next month, according to a tentative ruling by a California state judge on March 17.

Lyft accused its former chief operating officer, Travis VanderZanden, of improperly soliciting Lyft employees to move with him to Uber in 2014 and failing to promptly return proprietary Lyft information. VanderZanden has denied those allegations.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Harold Kahn rejected Vanderzanden’s motion to defeat the lawsuit without the need for a trial. Based on VanderZanden’s emails and texts, Kahn wrote in his tentative ruling that a judge or jury could conclude he breached his fiduciary duties to Lyft.

California judges often issue tentative rulings, which are then finalized after a hearing with few major changes.

Representatives for Lyft and VanderZanden declined to comment.

VanderZanden served as Lyft’s chief operating office until August 2014, when he expressed disagreement with the company’s leadership and approached two board members about taking over as chief executive, according to court filings.

Lyft accepted VanderZanden’s resignation instead, and he eventually became vice president of international growth at rival Uber. Lyft sued him in November 2014.

In court filings, VanderZanden has argued that California law does not recognize “proprietary information,” only trade secrets. Since Lyft did not specifically allege trade secret violations, VanderZanden argued he should win the lawsuit.

The case in Superior Court of the State of California, County of San Francisco is Lyft Inc vs. Travis VanderZanden, 14-542554.

Reporting by Dan Levine; Editing by Leslie Adler

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