University of Southern California

Risk, Reward, and Responsibility: A Call to Hold UberX, Lyft, and Other Transportation Network Companies Vicariously Liable for the Acts of Their Drivers

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Note by Lauren Geisser
From Volume 89, Number 2 (January, 2016)

On December 31, 2013, a car accident killed one and injured two pedestrians. The deceased: a six-year-old girl. Her family brought suit in San Francisco against the driver for wrongful death and personal injuries and against Uber Technologies, Inc., Rasier LLC, and Rasier-CA LLC on a theory of vicarious liability. The driver had a contract with Uber and Rasier-CA LLC when the accident occurred and at that time was allegedly waiting to “match” with a passenger through Uber’s app. The question of Uber’s liability centers around whether it should be liable for the acts of its driver at all, and if so, whether it should be liable for the acts of a driver when no passenger is yet in the vehicle. Uber answered the complaint claiming that because it is not a transportation carrier, has an independent contractor relationship with its drivers, and the driver-defendant was neither transporting a passenger nor en route to pick up a passenger, Uber was not liable for any damages.

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