Uber Driver Accused of Raping Passenger
A Jane Doe has recently filed a lawsuit against Uber after she claims she was raped by the driver of the vehicle, Khandaker Rahman. Rahman is also named in the lawsuit. The lawsuit seeks over $1 million in damages.
The question is: Can Uber be held responsible for the conduct of one of its drivers? In cases where it’s a payroll employee who is guilty of the crime, the employer would be responsible under a theory of vicarious liability. However, Uber’s drivers are not employees. They are considered independent contractors. This brings up a legal gray area that we will discuss in detail below.
Vicarious Liability in Texas Torts
In 2018, the Texas Supreme Court was asked to render a decision on when employers are responsible for the conduct of their employees. In terms of independent contractors, those who hire them are not automatically liable for any of their actions. The question of what kind of control the company has over its worker must be thoroughly investigated and formally decided in order to show that the company itself was negligent.
For instance, in this case, the plaintiff is filing under a theory of negligent hiring.
First, let’s tackle the semantic question. Are Uber drivers considered employees or independent contractors? Uber, of course, classifies its drivers as contractors for the purpose of limiting their liability in such cases and depriving them of the duties employers owe employees. On the other hand, several states have since decided that Uber drivers are employees and not contractors given that Uber exerts a significant amount of control over them.
In Texas, legislation was passed defining Uber and Lyft drivers as independent contractors if they meet two requirements:
- Uber and its driver agree in writing that they are independent contractors; and,
- Uber does not set hours for the driver.
Most of this legislation, however, has nothing to do with liability in tort cases and everything to do with employment law. However, the precedent can be extended and applied to torts.
Proving Uber Was Negligent
If a victim of an assault by an Uber driver wants to sue Uber for negligence, they will need to show that Uber itself was negligent, not just that an independent contractor did something wrong and that they’re responsible too. This case would be much easier to litigate if Uber was an employer and its drivers were considered employees. Then it would just be a matter of showing that their employee committed the violent act.
The plaintiff must show that Uber failed to act on some kind of information that would have made the contractor a dangerous person to have operating on their behalf. For instance, if this driver had a record of assault, battery, or sex crimes, Uber could be held negligent for allowing them access to vulnerable women. That, however, is difficult to prove. This case is one worth watching. To date, several Uber drivers have been accused of rape.
Talk to a Houston Personal Injury Attorney
If you’ve been assaulted, the Houston personal injury attorneys at Livingston & Flowers, P.L.L.C. can help you recover damages from all responsible parties. Talk to us today to set up a free consultation.