Monday, August 20, 2018

THE FUTURE IS NOW: PA Federal Court Addresses Personal Injury Liability Claims Against Uber

In the case of Fusco v. Uber Technologies, Inc.,  No. 17 - 00036 (E.D. Pa. July 27, 2018 Goldberg, J.)(Mem. Op.), the court granted Uber’s Motion for Summary Judgment as to negligent hiring, retention and supervision claims in a case of an Uber driver who allegedly attacked the Plaintiff customer.  

The court granted the Motion given that there was no record of any alleged instances of past misconduct by the offending driver.  

The court noted, however, that, after the Plaintiff filed his Complaint, news outlets in the area reported that the driver involved in the incident had a prior criminal conviction.  As such, the court granted the Plaintiff leave to amend his Complaint as to these claims and deferred consideration of the driver’s past conviction until a later date in the proceedings.  

By way of background, the Plaintiff attended a party in the University City neighborhood of Philadelphia. Given that the Plaintiff had alcohol at the party, he contacted Uber for a ride to his home in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.  

According to the Opinion, the Uber app conceals the customer’s destination until the start of a booked trip.   Accordingly, when a driver arises to pick up the Plaintiff, he does not know the Plaintiff’s destination.  The app is apparently set up in this way so as to the prevent drivers from declining routes they deem to be less profitable.   According to the Opinion, Uber does not allow drivers to refuse a trip after learning of a customer’s destination.  

In this matter, when the Uber driver arrived, he refused to take the Plaintiff to his home in southern New Jersey.  The Plaintiff remained seated in the car and repeated his request to be brought home.  

At that point, the driver dragged the Plaintiff out of the car, kicked him and beat him, leaving the Plaintiff unconscious and bleeding. The Plaintiff later filed this suit against Uber asserting a negligent hire claim, fraud and related misrepresentation claims, and vicarious liability claims.  

The court reviewed the law requiring the Plaintiff to show that the employer was on notice of an employee’s propensity for misconduct.  As there was no such information pled in the Complaint or otherwise found in the record, the court granted Uber’s Motion to Dismiss.  However, as noted, the Plaintiff was allowed to amend the Complaint given the recent news that had come out that the driver in the incident had a prior criminal conviction.

Anyone wishing to review this memorandum decision may click this LINK.  The companion Order can be viewed HERE

Source: “Digest of Recent Opinion” Pennsylvania Law Weekly (Aug. 14, 2018).

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