Uber Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed By Family of Driver Killed During Carjacking
The family of a Pennsylvania woman has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Uber, claiming the rideshare service did not adequately protect it’s driver; a mother of four who was murdered during a carjacking.
The complaint (PDF) was filed by Cindy Spicuzza on September 7 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, pursuing claims against Uber Technologies, Inc., Raiser, LLC and Rasier-PA, LLC, for failing to perform basic background checks on customers and failing to have adequate technologies in place that could have prevented the murder of one of their drivers, Christina Spicuzza.
According to the lawsuit, Christina Spicuzza, a 38-year-old mother of four, was found dead on February 12, 2022, after being shot in the head. She was found two days after she disappeared while assigned to give a ride to a wanted felon named Calvin Crew, who had a standing arrest warrant for trying to buy a gun after a previous robbery conviction.
Part of the incident appears to have been caught by her dashcam, which showed Crew holding a gun to her head and ordering her to keep driving. The last time Spicuzza was seen alive was when Crew ripped the camera off the dashboard.
The family blames Uber’s lack of safety protocols and features for Spicuzza’s death. Crew is being held in police custody and faces criminal charges.
“Despite Uber knowing its drivers—essential players in the wildly profitable Uber enterprise—are at high risk of violent attacks by passengers, Uber abdicated its duty to protect its drivers from that known and foreseeable risk by failing to implement simple, available, and effective safety measures,” the lawsuit states. “For decades, simple, and inexpensive safety measures have been utilized that protect for-hire drivers from assault, including the installation of barriers between the front and back seats. Yet Uber did nothing to ensure Ms. Spicuzza—who was driving a vehicle rented through one of Uber’s suggested car-rental vendors—had the benefit of such protection, nor did it even warn Ms. Spicuzza of the importance of such protections.”
The lawsuit claims Uber developed and commercialized extremely sophisticated data collection methods, which could have been used to ascertain that Crew, or other potential passengers, had an outstanding arrest warrant.
As a result of a lack of such data being used to protect drivers, the lawsuit claims Crew was able to abduct Spicuzza at gunpoint with her having no way to call for help, no one monitoring her situation, and without Spicuzza knowing she was giving a ride to a wanted criminal.
Uber Lawsuits Over Sexual Assault, Rapes by Drivers
The lack of safety features have also been cited in a growing number of Uber sexual assault lawsuits now being pursued by passengers, who indicate they have been raped, molested, and sometimes abducted by Uber drivers.
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Although Uber implemented “Safe Ride Fees” in 2014, those lawsuits indicate that the company never used that money to actually make its passengers safer, providing only cursory background checks for drivers. The company also failed to provide surveillance cameras inside of cars, did not allow passengers to make requests regarding the gender of drivers, and failed to train drivers on issues of sexual assault and harassment.
Given nearly identical allegations raised in about two dozen Uber sexual assault lawsuits filed throughout the federal court system, a motion is currently pending before the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML), seeking to consolidate all Uber rape lawsuits before one U.S. District Judge for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.
In a motion filed in July 2023, lawyers indicate there may eventually be thousands of lawsuits against Uber, each involving individuals who were also raped, sexually assaulted or harassed by Uber drivers, and claiming that the company failed to take appropriate safety precautions that could have prevented sexual predators working as rideshare drivers from targeting Uber passengers on a regular basis.
Plaintiffs argue consolidation is necessary to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings from different courts and promote judicial efficiencies. However, Uber opposes consolidation of the rideshare sexual assault lawsuits, claiming plaintiffs entered into a contractual agreement prohibiting such consolidation when they signed up for the rideshare service. .
On August 11, the JPML issued a Notice of Hearing Session indicating it will hear oral arguments over Uber sexual assault lawsuit consolidation on September 28.
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