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Judge dismisses suit challenging Uber-backed petition capping attorney fees at 20 percent

After the judge ruled the petition consisted of only a single subject and sufficiently conveyed its effects, an appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court is expected.
Eric Neugeboren
Eric Neugeboren

A Carson City judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by Nevada trial lawyers seeking to block an Uber-backed ballot petition that would cap attorney fees at 20 percent of all settlements and rewards in Nevada civil cases.

Judge James Russell ruled Friday that the petition passed legal muster by only consisting of a single subject and sufficiently conveying its effects, if enacted, in the description included on signature-gathering forms. The lawsuit argued that the petition failed to inform voters of its full implications and contended that it functionally represented an effort by Uber to stymie sexual misconduct lawsuits by making it harder for victims to find representation. 

In a statement, Deepak Gupta, a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer involved in the lawsuit, said they plan to appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court and are confident it will be successful.

The petition, which was filed in March by a new PAC called Nevadans for Fair Recovery, said the fee cap would lead to greater rewards for plaintiffs and lower payouts for “billboard attorneys.” The petition also has the backing of the Nevada Trucking Association, but Uber is so far the group’s sole financial backer.

If the petition becomes law, Nevada would have the strictest attorney fee caps in the country. Two states have caps on attorney fees in civil cases: Oklahoma, whose limit is 50 percent of all rewards; and Michigan, which has a 33 percent cap. In 2021, a 20 percent cap on attorney fees was proposed in California, but it did not garner enough support.

The lawsuit was filed in April by the Nevada Justice Association (a group of state trial lawyers) and argued that the petition’s “description of effect” — a 200-word summary of the petition’s implications attached to signature-gathering forms — did not include the fact that the 20 percent cap would make it harder for people to find lawyers to take on their cases.

In Russell’s ruling on Friday, he said the lawsuit made “strong arguments” about the potential effects of the petition, but that these implications were “too speculative and hypothetical to be required to be included in the Petition’s description.” He also said that these “perceived effects” could be included in public efforts to oppose the petition, but that it did not need to be included in the description of effect.

An official for Nevadans for Fair Recovery did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Uber — which contributed $4 million to Nevadans for Fair Recovery earlier this year — is embroiled in hundreds of lawsuits as part of a “multidistrict litigation” effort in California alleging that it failed to protect passengers from sexual abuse. The company has also faced lawsuits in Nevada, including allegations that a driver facilitated the abduction and sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl and that a driver allegedly stalked a passenger for months.

The lawsuit from the Nevada Justice Association, which a group of sexual assault survivors and their advocates also signed onto, alleged that those suing Uber would have difficulty finding quality representation if the petition went into effect, especially because the petition does not apply limits on attorney fees for those who are being sued.

Lawyers opposing the proposal included Nathan Ring, the husband of Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas), and Alex Velto, a Democratic candidate for state Assembly.

The proposal is a statutory initiative, so supporters must gather at least 102,362 valid signatures by Nov. 20, with at least 25,591 signatures coming from voters who live in each of the state’s four congressional districts. If a sufficient number of signatures is gathered and confirmed by state and county election officials, the proposal would go to the 2025 Legislature for approval. If the Legislature does not act on the initiative, the question would be placed on the 2026 general election ballot.


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