Lawsuit Claims Uber App Distracts Drivers after 6-Year-Old Girl Is Killed

Jan 28, 2014 12:02 PM EST | Jordan Ecarma

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A lawsuit following the death of a 6-year-old girl killed by an Uber driver could break new ground for car service companies' liability.

The civil suit from Dolan Law Firm in San Francisco is claiming wrongful death after a driver for car service Uber killed Sophia Liu, 6, while she was crossing the street with her mother and younger brother, ValleyWag reported via ABC7.

The case is the first such civil action in Uber's five-year history. The San Francisco-based startup, which relies on an app to connect users to Uber drivers, has distanced itself from the driver in question through an online statement.

"The driver in question was not providing services on the Uber system during the time of the accident," Uber said in the statement. "The driver was a partner of Uber and his account was immediately deactivated."

The driver has been identified as Syed Muzzafar, 57, VentureBeat reported. Muzzafar has been charged with vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and failure to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk, officials said.

The company has not yet clarified if he was not working for Uber at the time of the accident or if he was merely between fares.

The 6-year-old was in the crosswalk with her mother and 4-year-old brother when she was killed, according to ABC7. The mother and younger sibling were also injured.

If it's successful, the suit could cripple the company, since it states that Uber's app system is dangerously distracting. ValleyWag noted that an Uber driver always keeps a smartphone next to the wheel. Drivers have to accept fare from users through an app, then rate the user after the trip is completed.

According to the Dolan lawsuit, Uber hasn't been training drivers to use the app properly, resulting in a distraction that violates state law.

"We are really going to be pushing theories of agency, employment, etc. in the suit in getting in to Uber's relationships with their drivers," a Dolan representative told ValleyWag.

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