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Sunday, September 22, 2019

Uber ordered to release due diligence materials in Google's case against former employees who started self-driving car business


By Mary Ann Magnell | Oct 10, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO (Legal Newsline) – A California appeals court reversed a superior court’s decision that granted plaintiff Uber Technologies Inc.’s petition to vacate an arbitration panel’s decision that certain materials were not protected by attorney-client privilege.

The 1st Appellate District, Division Three remanded the lawsuit in the Sept. 28 filing “with directions to enter a new order denying Uber’s petition to vacate the arbitration award” back to the San Francisco Superior Court. 

The decision, which was written by Justice Peter J. Siggins, additionally included an award to Google for appeals costs. 

The crux of the suit stemmed from Ottomotto LLC, a self-driving technology company created by former Google employees Anthony Levandowski and Lior Ron. 

Levandowski and Ron had formed the company after their resignations from the popular tech company. At the time, according to the filing, Google had considered Ottomotto “a competitor of its own self-driving car project.”

In August of 2016, Ottomotto was acquired by Uber. In October 2016, Google initiated arbitration proceedings against Levandowski and Ron for allegedly breaching non-solicitation and non-competition agreements.

Google sought due diligence materials from Uber, which fought the request. However, the arbitration panel ordered the materials be disclosed.

The trial court, in a special proceeding, ruled for Uber, though, leading to Google's appeal.

Uber had disagreed that the discovery order was not a final award that could be appealed because it did not dispose of any of the claims to be tried in the arbitration, according to the ruling. 

Further, the appeals court determined that pre-acquisition due diligence documents, which were the result of an investigation by Stroz Friedberg LLC (Stroz), were not protected attorney-client communications and were not entitled to “absolute protection for disclosure under the attorney work product doctrine.”  

“We deny Uber’s motion to dismiss the appeal because the Superior Court’s order determined all the pending issues in the special proceedings between Google and Uber,” wrote Siggins, “and was thus a final appealable order.” 

Siggins stated, “Here, the discovery order was the final resolution for the special proceeding initiated by Uber…the Superior Court’s order resolved the dispute between Uber and Google with finality...”

California Court of Appeals, First Appellate District, Division Three A153653

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First District Court of Appeal California Google, Inc. Uber

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