A precedent-setting case against rideshare behemoth Uber has been settled, and the family of Sofia Liu, who was killed in a crosswalk by an UberX driver on New Year's Eve 2013 has won an undisclosed sum of money from the company. As the Business Times and Reuters report, the family requested that the settlement be kept confidential, and Uber issued a statement saying, "The Lius suffered a terrible tragedy and our hearts go out to them. While we cannot ease their pain, we do hope this settlement helps the family move forward."
UberX driver Syed Muzaffar stands accused of vehicular manslaughter in the December 31, 2013 incident in which he struck six-year-old Sofia, as well her 5-year-old brother, Anthony Liu, and their mother, Huan Hua Kuang, as they were crossing Polk Street at the intersection of Ellis. Though Uber initially tried to place the blame on Muzaffar, noting that he was not actively carrying a fare at the time, the family successfully argued that Muzaffar was working for Uber at the time, had the Uber app open, and was actively seeking a fare.
The Chronicle reports that attorneys for the Lius argued that Muzaffar's use of the app itself, and that distraction, may have even contributed to the accident.
Uber immediately deactivated Muzaffar as a driver following the accident.
The Lius made a statement via their attorney, Christopher Dolan, saying "they are grateful to the American Judicial System for providing them a way to resolve the legal issues raised by Sofia's death. They now hope to move forward as a family and rebuild their lives as best they can. "
The case further highlights the uphill battle the company faces in trying not to have to classify drivers as employees, and creates a precedent for Uber and other rideshare companies in accepting liability for drivers while they are "on the clock" and using the app previously they had tried to argue that the driver's insurance alone would have to accept the liability, because he was an independent contractor. A federal class-action lawsuit seeking to define drivers as employees is still awaiting a decision.
Meanwhile, Muzaffar's vehicular manslaughter trial will start on August 5.