An Uber rider is suing the ride-hail giant for negligence, fraud, battery, and assault after one of its drivers in Philadelphia allegedly beat him up after declining to take him home to New Jersey.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday, claims that Joseph Fusco, director of public safety at the security firm Allied Universal, requested an Uber ride from a holiday party near the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia on Dec. 22, 2016, at about 11pm. When his Uber driver arrived, Fusco sat in the front seat and asked to be taken home to Cherry Hill, New Jersey, about 30 minutes away. The driver then told Fusco to “get out,” the lawsuit alleges, and said, “I am not driving to New Jersey.”
“The Uber Driver then dragged Plaintiff out of the front seat by his coat collar and severely beat Plaintiff, breaking multiples bones on his face, knocking out teeth, and leaving him in a pool of blood on the pavement (with his body partially in the street) in the freezing cold,” the lawsuit alleges. The driver also stomped on and kicked Fusco while he was already unconscious – something the lawsuit alleges is caught on surveillance video. Two bystanders eventually found Fusco, according to the complaint, and called 911.
The lawsuit alleges Uber allowed the driver to continue working without repercussion. Uber said it does not comment on pending litigation, but a spokesperson confirmed that Fusco reported the incident to Uber on Dec. 23, and said the company immediately and permanently banned the driver from the app. Uber also said it is talking with law enforcement to support their criminal investigation.
It’s not the first time Uber has been sued for negligence in its hiring of drivers. For example, a Los Angeles woman sued the ride-hail giant in July after her Uber driver was sentenced for sexually battering her. The website WhosDrivingYou.org, run by the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association — which of course has skin in the game against Uber — lists dozens of incidents reported in Uber and Lyft vehicles.
Uber claims it is a technology platform that connects riders and drivers, who are hired as independent contractors, not employees. But that defense is facing increasing opposition. in May, a federal judge in San Francisco ruled that the company can still be sued for negligence in its hiring of drivers.
Matthew Luber, Fusco’s lawyer, told BuzzFeed News that despite classifying drivers as independent contractors, Uber retains a significant amount of control over drivers. He said the company is essentially an app version of a taxi dispatcher.
“At its core, Uber is a transportation company that must ensure passengers are transported safely,” Luber said.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the name of the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association.