Levandowski Can Be Called to Testify in Uber–Waymo Trial, Judge Says

The engineer at the center of the Waymo vs. Uber legal battle may be required to testify.

Anthony Levandowski
Eric Risberg—AP

Anthony Levandowski, the engineer at the center of the legal fight between Waymo and Uber, can be called to testify despite pleading the Fifth Amendment earlier, U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup ruled in a hearing.

In a lawsuit filed in February, Waymo accused Uber of using self-driving car trade secrets stolen by Levandowski. The engineer worked for Waymo, the former Google self-driving car project, before leaving to form autonomous-driving startup Otto, which was bought by Uber last year. Levandowski joined Uber, but was later fired for not cooperating with the company's efforts to fight the Waymo lawsuit.

Knowing that Levandowski will likely continue to plead the Fifth, Judge Alsup set ground rules to prevent lawyers (primarily Waymo lawyers) from engaging in argumentative lines of questioning, according to TechCrunch. All questions for Levandowski will have to be vetted in advance, and will have to be based on evidence already presented in the trial, the judge said.

The hearing was called to help determine the scope of the trial, which is still likely months away. Judge Alsup issued multiple rulings, including ones admitting a forensics expert to testify that there was no evidence of stolen Waymo files in Uber's computer systems; and an order to make Sergey Brin, co-founder of Waymo parent Alphabet, available for questioning.

When Uber lawyers complained that Brin was attempting to avoid deposition, Alsup reportedly told Waymo lawyers to "tell that guy he better show up." Alsup previously ruled that Uber can depose Brin's colleague, Larry Page.

For its part, Waymo now claims Uber's own lawyers helped cover up Levandowski's alleged theft of confidential files. Waymo wants to call lawyers from San Franciso firm Morrison & Foerster LLP to testify, according to Bloomberg. Judge Alsup reportedly said he wouldn't disqualify the lawyers from continuing to represent Uber despite this new development.