The emergence of ride-sharing apps and other similar services and apps gives the family law practitioner the ability to obtain additional information about habits and routines of parties or witnesses. In our firm’s practice, we have used records from the ride-sharing giant Uber to prove adultery, dissipation of marital assets, and the spending ability of the breadwinning spouse to support a claim for alimony and child support. Getting that information and understanding how to interpret the data can be useful in settling a case or presenting your case to the court. Although parties to litigation may also work for Uber as drivers, this article focuses on obtaining rider information.
Uber rider records can first be obtained through a formal request for production. Once logged into Uber’s website, a party can go to the “My Trips” section and obtain detailed information about the trips booked through the Uber app. The request for production does need to request that the party produce the detailed records from the website (or email receipts). The basic information only shows the date of the trip and the total cost of the trip, while the detailed records provide the time and address of pickup and drop-off, the duration of the trip, a map of the route taken, the fare breakdown, and the method of payment. Additionally, you can also request that the party produce their “rating,” which are the rider’s reviews of the driver, between one star and five stars.
If the opposing party is not cooperating with discovery, or if you need to obtain the Uber records of a non-party, then a record subpoena will need to be issued for the detailed records. The record subpoena should include the phone number and email of the rider, as that is how Uber generally identifies accounts. The record subpoena should also identify the time period for which records are being requested. When serving the subpoena, I would recommend following the guidelines on Uber’s website regarding the service of record subpoenas through their registered agent in accordance with the rules of procedure in your jurisdiction. (Uber states that it is registered with Secretaries of State under the name “Uber Technologies, Inc.” or “Rasier, LLC.”)
Once the detailed information is obtained, you will need to analyze the records and, possibly, take follow-up action through the issuance of additional subpoenas and/or anti-spoliation letters. The records only show an address of the pick-up and drop-off locations, so some additional research may be necessary, especially in metropolitan areas, to determine where the rider actually went. I have used Google Maps for this purpose because it shows nearby businesses; the Street View feature also allows you access to a 360-degree view of what is in the area.
Once you determine where the rider was going, you can then use that information to obtain additional evidence and/or use it to support your theory of the case. If the records show numerous pick-ups and drop-offs at a particular hotel, a subpoena for surveillance videos may prove invaluable in an adultery case (be sure to send a timely anti-spoliation letter so the records are preserved and not recorded over). Also, being dropped off at a Broadway play or a high-end shopping district may help show the court the lifestyle the parties enjoyed while married or additional income or perks that the party has not claimed as income. A party being picked up at 2 a.m. in a local bar district never looks good in court.
Despite Uber’s policy that all riders must be 18, many teens still use the app. The Uber records of a teenage child showing routine Uber rides after midnight while in the care of a parent can be used in custody cases. If the party chose to split the fare with another person, that could lead to the discovery of witness who was not previously disclosed.
The increase in popularity of apps like Uber gives family law attorneys another tool to develop evidence and present their case to the court. A proper analysis of these records can go a long way in obtaining additional evidence to more effectively present your client’s story to the court.