The issue that is of the most concern to me as a Uber customer and as a lawyer is who is my Uber driver? Part of the reason why this is an issue that particular jumps out to me is that in my career, I’ve handled lots of cases involving negligent hiring practices by employers. For instance, I’ve handled cases where hotels have hired registered sex offenders to be their night clerk and given them a master key to every room on the premises. Of course, you can imagine the disaster that unfolds in that situation.
It occurs to me that there is a similar risk that exists in the context of an Uber driver. In fact, the risk is magnified in the case of an Uber driver because at least in the case of a hotel, when a hotel hires someone to work as a night clerk, for instance, the management or ownership of the hotel is having frequent interactions with the employee. They can size up the employee. They can learn more and more about the employee, but because of the nature of the relationship between Uber drivers and Uber, there is very little opportunity for Uber to learn more about who is out there driving its vehicles, more accurately who is out there driving their own vehicles under the name of Uber.
What is going on in terms of background checks for Uber drivers? Let’s talk about some specific scenarios here, nightmare scenarios really. What if your Uber driver is a rapist? What if your Uber driver is a murderer? What if your Uber driver is a stalker? What if your Uber driver is a thief who is using his position as an Uber driver to case out burglary opportunities? These are some real concerns. What is Uber doing to find out who these people are? You don’t know what they’re doing.
The next question might be what does the law require them to do? There has been a development in some jurisdictions and including in Arizona by the state legislature to codify Uber’s duty to conduct reasonable background checks on their drivers before they hire them. In the State of Arizona, we recently had signed into always by Governor Ducey a statute that requires ride sharing services such as Uber to conduct criminal background checks on Uber drivers before they are hired as Uber drivers. I applaud that. That is an excellent step towards making Uber, and other similar ride sharing services like Lift, safer.
Whether the ride sharing services are actually complying with the statute is another matter. As a customer, you’re not going to know. You know that Uber was required to do a background check before they hired this person, but you don’t know whether they actually did conduct that background check. Also you don’t know how thorough that background check was. What did they do? What came back on their report? Did they act properly with the information that they got on this person’s background check report? The background check might have come back and said, “This person is an ax murderer currently wanted by authorities. He is escaped from prison.” You’ve done your background check and that’s what it says. If you hire that person, you’ve missed the point of the background check.
I’m not going through all of these issues and discussing these issues for the purpose of throwing Uber under the limo. I happen to be a big fan of Uber. I use the services frequently and I recommend it to other people, but there are a host of legal issues, some of which we’ve discussed here, that are brand new. They haven’t been sorted through yet. You may encounter these legal issues if you are injured while you are a passenger in an Uber vehicle. If you have any questions about this, please feel free to give me a call.
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