Knife Attack Claims Survive Uber Motions

     (CN) – Uber must face negligence claims from a customer who says he was attacked with a knife by one of its drivers, a federal judge ruled.
     Erik Search used the Uber app to summon a driver in September 2013. Yohannes Deresse arrived to pick up Search and his three friends in Washington, D.C., Search claims.
     Deresse immediately began to act “erratically,” according to Search’s lawsuit, causing Search and his friends to leave the car. Deresse followed them, and Search said he did not feel safe riding in a car with him.
     Deresse pulled out a knife and stabbed Search six times in the chest and arm, the lawsuit claims.
     Search underwent “CT scans, X-rays, surgical exploration of the chest wound, diagnostic laparoscopy, cauterization and muscle reconstruction with sutures and staples,” according to court records. He sued Deresse and Uber for claims including negligence, consumer relief and negligent hiring, training and supervision.
     Uber moved to dismiss those claims, and the D.C. district court granted its motion for the latter three.
     “Search does not allege that any reasonable background investigation would have uncovered Deresse’s emotional instability and poor driving qualifications,” U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg wrote.
     However, the court denied Uber’s motion to dismiss Search’s claim of vicarious liability against Uber for Deresse’s alleged actions, despite Uber’s argument that the attack was outside the scope of Deresse’s employment.
     According to the judge, Search claimed that “Deresse assaulted him immediately after he left Deresse’s car – not hours or days later – hence not so far in time or space from the business transaction as to cut off Uber’s liability.”
     “‘Scope of employment is ordinarily a question for the jury,’ and here the court cannot conclude that, as a matter of law, Deresse’s alleged stabbing was an act outside such employment,” Boasberg wrote.
     He also allowed Search to move forward with his apparent-agency theory of liability regarding the issue of whether Uber represented that its drivers were its agents.
     “An inquiry into the existence of such authority operates something like the hoary legal principle known as the ‘duck test,'” the judge wrote. “If it walks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.”
     In addition, Boasberg denied Uber’s motion to dismiss Search’s D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act claim, finding that the company may have misrepresented the safety of its drivers. However, the judge granted Uber’s motion to dismiss Search’s gross negligence claim, ruling that it is not a stand-alone cause of action.

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