Increasingly popular ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft continue to be dogged by allegations of bad behavior by the drivers who use these popular platforms to connect with customers. The latest incident involves an Uber driver accused of assaulting a passenger after refusing to take him to his destination.
In a lawsuit [PDF] filed yesterday in a federal court in Pennsylvania, a New Jersey man contends that Uber is responsible for a Dec. 22 dispute that he says left him cold and bloody on a Philadelphia street.
According to the complaint, the plaintiff had been leaving a holiday party in West Philadelphia when he decided to use Uber to get a ride home across the Delaware River to New Jersey.
The plaintiff acknowledges in the lawsuit that when he got into the Uber car, the driver did not know the ultimate destination for the ride. When the driver found out where he was supposed to go, he was apparently unhappy.
From the complaint:
“The Uber Driver asked Plaintiff, ‘where you going?’ Plaintiff said ‘Jersey,’ and the Uber Driver responded, ‘I am not driving to New Jersey.’ Shocked, and aware that Uber drivers are supposed to take individuals to their requested destination, Plaintiff asked again to be taken to his destination.”
This is where, per the plaintiff’s recollection of events, things went south quickly.
He claims the driver got out of the car, walked around to the passenger door, dragged him out of the car by his coat collar, then “severely beat Plaintiff and left him in a pool of blood on the pavement in the freezing cold.”
The plaintiff says he was “stomped and kicked” in the face and head — and he believes the incident was likely captured on nearby surveillance cameras.
After the driver allegedly fled the scene, the plaintiff says he was found unconscious on the sidewalk by two passersby who called 9-1-1 to have him taken to a hospital, where he was treated for “multiple, serious facial injuries” before being discharged on Dec. 23.
He claims that Uber was initially apologetic, promising to look into the incident and do what it could to “pull the driver off of the street,” but that the company has subsequently stopped communicating with him and has allegedly stymied the police investigation, by denying access to vital information like the driver’s full name, license plate number, VIN, and last known location.
In a statement to Ars Technica, Uber contends that it has been in “ongoing contact with law enforcement since they reached out last month and are fully supporting their investigation.”
The lawsuit accuses Uber of negligent hiring and supervision for allowing a driver to operate on the Uber platform who was “unfit” and “not adequately trained or supervised in their driving and conduct with customers.”
Uber is also accused of committing fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and violating state consumer protection laws. The plaintiff says that the company misrepresented that passengers could trust Uber drivers to provide a safe ride.
Finally, the lawsuit seeks to hold Uber accountable for the alleged assault and battery committed by the driver.
“Uber is a transportation carrier who must carry passengers safely,” explains the complaint. “As a transportation carrier, Uber is vicariously liable for its employees’ and agents’ intentional and negligent torts, whether or not such acts were committed within the scope of employment.”
While Uber is not commenting on the details of the lawsuit, the company is likely to argue that Uber drivers are not actual employees of the company, but are independent contractors.
The company has used this distancing technique in previous lawsuits. Last year, Uber tried to use the “independent contractor” argument to evade lawsuits involving alleged sexual assault by drivers. That matter was ultimately settled out of court.