As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle,the family of a 6-year-old girl killed by an Uber driver on December 31, 2013 in San Francisco has filed a lawsuit against the driver as well as the company, claiming that use of the fast-growing online app violates California’s distracted-driving laws. The wrongful-death suit could weigh heavily in the debate over how companies like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar in the growing ride-services industry should be regulated – and to what degree they should be held liable for their drivers’ actions.
The suit, filed in San Francisco Superior Court, alleges that the driver of the vehicle – who was at that time an Uber contractor – was logged on to the company’s UberX app when he fatally struck Sofia Liu and was waiting to receive a ride request. The company, which takes a cut of every ride booked through its system, declined to comment. In the past, Uber officials have said the driver, 57-year-old Syed Muzzafar of Union City, was not providing services on the company’s basic UberX system because he did not have a passenger with him.
The suit calls this a narrow view of how companies like Uber do business. Christopher Dolan, the Liu family’s attorney, said the phone-based interface that drivers use to find fares contributed to the death of Sofia, along with injuries to her mother, Huan Kuang, and 5-year-old brother, Anthony Liu. Dolan said Uber had denied insurance protection that would have covered the family and the driver.