Last week, Uber filed its defense in the wrongful death lawsuit of six-year-old Sofia Liu, who was struck and killed on New Year's Eve by driver Syed Muzzafar while he was allegedly searching for fares with the company's ride-hailing app. Uber maintains that Muzzafar was not an Uber employee and that an app, by definition, can not be held liable for the incident.
As the Bay Guardian's Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez reports, Muzzafar's driver agreement with Uber also acknowledges that, legally, the driver is an independent contractor. Uber's defense then goes on to repeatedly distance the company from the tragic moment at the intersection of Polk and Ellis:
"Under that Transportation Services Agreement," the lawsuit states, "[Muzzafar] acknowledged that he was not an employee, agent, joint venturer or partner of Rasier (Uber's subsidiary) for any purpose; rather, he was an independent contractor." [...]
"At the time of the accident, Mr. Muzaffar was not providing transportation services through the Uber App," the lawsuit states. "He was not transporting a rider who requested transportation services through the Uber App. He was not en route to pick up a rider who requested transportation services though the Uber App. He was not receiving a request for transportation services through the Uber App."
Complicating things for Uber, Muzzafar identified himself at the scene as a driver with the service. The lawsuit also states that Muzzafar had the app running and was looking at a map with his location during the accident.
Uber has long maintained, however, that their company provides a service (connecting riders to drivers) rather than an actual product (a car with a driver, in this case) and has restated again here that the app cannot be held liable. According to Uber, a driver should be on their own private insurance if they are not specifically transporting or on their way to pick up an Uber user, which leaves a gap in insurance coverage. To cover those loopholes, two bills are currently working their state assembly that would require transportation network companies/ride-sharing services to carry commercial insurance.
The full defense from Uber can be found over on the Guardian.