A woman who was raped by an Uber driver in India has abruptly dropped her defamation and invasion of privacy claims against one of the company’s former executives named in her lawsuit.
The move comes two days after lawyers at Latham & Watkins representing former Uber Senior Vice President Emil Michael filed a motion asking that he be dismissed from the case.
Plaintiffs lawyer Douglas Wigdor of Wigdor LLP pointed out by email Thursday that the dismissal was without prejudice and the plaintiff could refile claims against Michael.
Wigdor filed suit with co-counsel at Anderson & Poole against Michael, former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, former executive Eric Alexander and the company in June bringing claims related to invasion of privacy and defamation. The suit came days after tech website Recode first reported that Alexander traveled to India to obtain confidential medical records and police files from the victim’s case, and that executives speculated internally she was colluding with a local rival to damage Uber.
In Michael’s motion to dismiss filed Monday, the Latham lawyers—Steven Bauer, Margaret Tough and Tyler Young—pointed out that the Jane Doe plaintiff’s complaint didn’t accuse Michael of doing anything unlawful.
“The only allegations against Mr. Michael are that he was shown records relevant to legal action against his employer, and that he joined internal discussions with other employees about this evidence,” the Latham lawyers wrote. The filing from the Latham lawyers suggests that obtaining records from the assault in India might have had signoff from Uber’s legal department.
“If access to medical evidence was arranged and authorized by Uber’s legal department, for example, there would be no basis to charge Mr. Michael with intentional, malicious, or highly offensive conduct,” they wrote.
A source familiar with Uber’s legal team said that any suggestion that the legal department authorized obtaining evidence from India is “completely untrue.”
Wednesday’s filing dismissing claims against Michael noted that plaintiffs can dismiss claims voluntarily without a court order before a defendant has filed either an answer or a motion for summary judgment, as was the case here.
The remaining defendants in the case have brought on heavy hitters in the local white-collar bar to handle the case. Uber has brought on Daniel Bookin of O’Melveny & Myers, Alexander has hired Michael Shepard, managing partner of Hogan Lovells’ San Francisco office, and Kalanick has turned to the same Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe team representing him in Uber’s trade-secret showdown with Google’s autonomous vehicle unit: Melinda Haag, the former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California, and Walter Brown, leader of the firm’s white-collar practice.