Uber has lawyered up in a big way to fend off an antitrust challenge from defunct ride-hailing app Sidecar. The company has brought on a team led by Theodore Boutrous Jr. of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher to defend the suit filed last month by Sidecar successor SC Innovations Inc., or SCI.
“Quinn Emanuel has appeared as counsel of record for Uber in approximately 20 lawsuits, in federal and state courts across the country, and has provided counseling to Uber on a broad array of legal matters—including unfair competition (specifically as it relates to pricing) and antitrust,” wrote the Gibson Dunn lawyers. Uber claims that Quinn’s prior work for the company allowed the firm to obtain confidential information material to its current work for SCI, particularly Quinn’s work in a case filed by cab companies against Uber in Maryland in 2014.
Quinn Emanuel’s Ethan Glass and Claude Stern didn’t immediately respond to emails seeking comment Tuesday. But according to email correspondence attached to Uber’s court filings, Quinn’s lawyers don’t see a conflict in their prior work for Uber and their current assignment for SCI.
“That work was not substantially related to this case,” wrote Glass in a Dec. 27 email.
SCI’s lawsuit, which the Quinn lawyers filed Dec. 11, claims that Uber is currently a “monopolist” in the ride-hailing market. The Quinn lawyers claim that Uber stole Sidecar’s business model and “intentionally sustained near-term losses that were designed to drive Sidecar out of the market while Uber acquired a dominant market position.”
Monday’s filings from Gibson Dunn request that the deadline for Uber to respond to SCI’s complaint be pushed back so the company can pursue its motion to disqualify SCI’s lawyers at Quinn Emanuel before filing a motion to dismiss.
“If the parties simultaneously brief a motion to disqualify and Uber’s motion to dismiss the complaint, and the motion to disqualify is granted, the complaint and any substantive briefing by Quinn Emanuel would likely be struck,” the Gibson Dunn lawyers wrote. “Any new counsel that SCI retains would have to file a new complaint and the parties would need to submit a new round of briefing and pleadings.”
The Gibson Dunn lawyers claim that Quinn lawyers indicated that they would likely stipulate to an extension of the briefing schedule, but ultimately declined to agree to one. The Gibson Dunn lawyers wrote that it would be “ironic” for SCI to allege that Uber was attempting to delay the case through procedural posturing. “SCI waited until three years after Sidecar ‘went out of business’ to file this action,” they wrote.
Gibson Dunn’s Boutrous didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Uber previously raised the possibility of moving to disqualify Quinn Emanuel when it was up against the firm in its prior blockbuster trade secret showdown with autonomous vehicle rival Waymo. Uber questioned the timing of a September 2016 email dropping the company as a client sent from Quinn’s Stephen Swedlow to top Uber in-house lawyers. The email noted that the fees paid to firms in Uber’s preferred counsel program were “not financially viable” for the firm. Uber ultimately opted not to pursue Quinn’s disqualification in the Waymo case.