Judges launch lawsuit against Maryland family accusing Uber of killing driver by passenger

A federal judge in Baltimore on Thursday dismissed a wrongful death lawsuit against Uber Technologies Inc. filed by the family of a ride-hailing driver who was killed by a passenger in 2019.

U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake ruled that Uber had no obligation to conduct passenger background checks. The judge also found that the harm suffered by Uber driver Beaudouin Tchakounte was not “sufficiently foreseeable” for the company even if it had known that the passenger who killed him had been convicted of 21 years of robbery. earlier.

The passenger who shot and killed Tchakounte and a second passenger in Prince George’s County, Maryland, later told authorities he was on PCP.

Blake said Uber’s bonus system and algorithm puts pressure on drivers to accept rides Uber chooses for them without knowing anything about a passenger beyond their first name or birth name. travel time.

“Drivers are theoretically free to decline any ride they wish, but those trying to earn a living understand the precarious nature of that freedom in the face of a power imbalance and information asymmetry favoring Uber,” wrote the judge.

However, the judge said requiring Uber to screen passengers could impose the same obligation on taxi dispatchers, plumbing companies and other businesses that send service providers to “a private shared space where there is a risk interpersonal conflict or crime”. Blake added that she is “reluctant to initiate such a significant expansion of duty in the absence of a clear indication that it aligns with Maryland public policy.”

A spokesperson for the San Francisco-based company declined to comment on the decision. A lawyer for Tchakounte’s family did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

On the evening of August 27, 2019, Tchakounte was driving his personal vehicle with a passenger, Casey Robinson, 32, when the Uber app matched them with a second passenger, Aaron Lanier Wilson, Jr. Wilson shot and killed Tchakounte . and Robinson a few minutes after getting into the car.

Wilson, now 45, has been charged with first and second degree murder in the deaths of Tchakounte and Robinson, a construction and security worker. Wilson told authorities he couldn’t remember what happened on the ride because he was on PCP.

In April 2021, a Prince George’s County judge sentenced Wilson to 50 years in prison after pleading guilty to murdering the two men, WJLA-TV reported.

The family’s lawsuit claims Uber owed Tchakounte the same “duty of care” that companies owe their customers. Uber argued that it would be impossible to protect its drivers from “all harm”, the judge said.

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