An injured sanitation worker who was "doored" by an Uber passenger five years ago has the right to sue the driver and Uber, an appellate court has ruled.

On February 27, 2017, Francisco Madamba picked up four people from a bar while driving for Uber, and took them to The Donatello Hotel in San Francisco. As Madamba prepared to drop the Uber riders off on Mason Street, just South of Post Street, he turned on his hazard lights and pulled over in front of the hotel.

At that moment, 22-year-old Charlotte Eliasson, a student from Sweden, opened the left rear door into the street. That’s the moment that led to a years-long battle in court.

William Mason was at work, standing on the right side-step at the back of a garbage truck, collecting bins as the truck drove through the city. When Eliasson opened her door, she swung it directly into Mason’s path. It knocked him clean off, court records show, leaving him with severe injuries to his leg, shoulder, and wrist, all of which required expensive surgeries and a lengthy recovery.  

Since then, Mason has been accusing Madamba and Uber of negligence and loss of consortium, which is a tort claim having to do with “deprivation of the benefits of a family relationship (including affection and sexual relations) due to injuries.”

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Madamba opted to file for summary judgment, which Uber joined in on. The driver argued he didn’t violate any traffic laws, didn’t breach any general duty of care in operating his vehicle, and didn’t have any special duty to stop Eliasson, a competent adult who seemed awake and unimpaired, from opening the door when she did.

At first, a trial court granted that motion for summary judgment, the Mercury News reports. But then, the plaintiff fired back, accusing Madamba of dropping his passengers off in an unsafe location and saying because he chose a spot where there could have been oncoming traffic, and asserting it was up to him to make sure his passengers could exit safely.

An appellate court ruling just reversed the initial decision, saying the passenger’s action was not unusual, so the driver should have kept an eye out for oncoming cars. That, the court decided, was the driver’s responsibility to exercise due care, and it should be up to a jury to review the facts.

We’ve seen that responsibility referred to before.

“It is well established that one’s general duty to exercise due care includes the duty not to place another person in a situation in which the other person is exposed to an unreasonable risk of harm through the reasonably foreseeable conduct,” another court ruling against Uber declared in a different tort claim.

This latest ruling means that Mason's lawsuit can move forward to trial, and was not eligible for summary judgment, as the lower court had ruled.

Photo: Viktor Bystrov