Uber has been dragged to court for an accident that left a Massachusetts man paralyzed.
Will Good of Massachusetts has sued Uber for allowing a driver with a dangerous record to pick up passengers on its platform. Good is seeking $63 million for an April 30th accident that paralyzed him. The plaintiff was going home from work when the driver swerved off the road and smashed into a parked car. Good hit his head on the passenger side seat, leading to his paralysis.
The case is filed at the Suffolk Superior Court.
According to Good’s lawsuit, the Uber driver has a terrible driving history with more than 20 citations since 1996, some of them for failing to stop the car. The driver was even required to go through a driving re-training course. Good argues that Uber should not have allowed the driver on its platform since it was evident from his history that it “would result in jeopardy to the health, safety, and/or welfare to residents of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, including plaintiff William Good.”
Good asks for a jury trial in addition to damages to compensate him for all the suffering he has experienced and his permanent disability. However, he has other motives for the lawsuit.
His lawyer, Victoria Santoro Mair, said Good wants to use this case to prevent other riders from having the same experience. He hopes to make Uber safer for everyone by using his voice.
No charges have been filed against the driver.
Uber has not refused to comment on the case since it is pending in court.
However, ride-hailing companies have always tried to avoid liability for their drivers’ actions by categorizing them as contractors instead of employees. They have been facing pressure to drop this type of classification from city to city in the country.
Good’s lawsuit comes as ride-hailing companies are pushing for a likely state ballot that will see voters deciding whether to allow operators like Uber and Lyft to categorize their drivers as gig workers instead of employees. The attorney general for Massachusetts, Maura Healy, has argued that by sticking to classifying its drivers as contractors and not employees, Uber and Lyft are breaking the law. Healy said in a lawsuit against the companies, “Uber and Lyft have gotten a free ride for far too long. For years, these companies have systematically denied their drivers basic workplace protections and benefits and profited greatly from it.”
According to Massachusetts law, workers are employees if the company directs their tasks, they don’t have an independently established business, and they perform functions that form part of the company’s regular course of business, all of which fit Uber and Lyft. As such, the drivers are entitled to minimum wage, overtime, sick time, and other benefits employees legally have a right to.
Healey said the pandemic brought out the full implication of Uber’s and Lyft’s business model. Drivers that risked their health to transport riders did not get any cover from the two companies. Also, they had no unemployment benefits until the federal government set up a fund for gig workers to support them during the pandemic.
Uber has responded to the lawsuit by bringing forward a survey that indicated that 71 percent of its drivers prefer to be called contractors instead of employees. “At a time when Massachusetts’ economy is in crisis with a record 16 percent unemployment rate, we need to make it easier, not harder, for people to quickly start earning an income. We will contest this action in court, as it flies in the face of what the vast majority of drivers want: to work independently. We stand ready to work with the state to modernize our laws, so that independent workers receive new protections while maintaining the flexibility they prefer.”
Lyft towed a similar line, pointing out that most drivers on its platform prefer flexible working hours. “Drivers don’t want this — 89 percent of Massachusetts Lyft drivers drive fewer than 20 hours per week and choose to drive rideshare precisely because of the independence it gives them to make money in their spare time.”