Ride-sharing company Uber, which has usurped local taxi providers in larger cities, has an estimated 160,000 drivers in the U.S. The service promises its users that it conducts thorough background checks of these drivers so that patrons can be as safe as possible.
Now, in an amended complaint that is part of a civil lawsuit filed by two district attorneys offices in California, there is new evidence to refute such assertions by the company.
The lawsuits, filed by district attorneys in San Francisco and Los Angeles, say the background checks conducted by Uber in those two cities failed to uncover serious criminal records of 25 drivers, just in those two cities. Offenses of these drivers range from felony traffic convictions to sex offenses to murder. With this information, the lawsuit focuses primarily on reportedly misleading claims made to consumers, as opposed to any legal violation in Uber’s background check process.
While most taxi companies prefer background checks provided by a company called Live Scan, Uber runs its checks through another company. The background check company the ride share service uses does have some limitations. For example, the district attorneys state some 30,000 registered sex offenders in California are not red-flagged on the system Uber uses. Additionally, the checks only go back seven years.
One attorney gave the example that if someone was convicted of kidnapping eight years ago, released on parole yesterday and applied for an Uber driver job today, his or her felony record would not pop up in the background check.
Of course, there is no law requiring Uber to use Live Scan. The company insists the two background check providers are comparable. As to the seven-year cut-off date, the company says this decision was guided by two laws in California that are designed to make it easier for those convicted of felony crimes to later make their way back into the workforce to become productive members of society. The laws loosen the restrictions on what those individuals must disclose to new employers.
The company further asserts no background check system is foolproof.
Some of the charges that didn’t pop up for Uber drivers on their background checks:
- Felony kidnapping for ransom with a firearm
- Assault with a firearm
- Driving under the influence
- Sexual exploitation of a child
- Identity theft
One driver was convicted of murder in 1982, served more than a quarter century behind bars before he was paroled and then applied to be an Uber driver. His conviction was not revealed during Uber’s background check.
From an injury lawyer standpoint, the question is the degree of liability Uber may have if one of it’s drivers attacks someone criminally. Typically, company liability insurance policies do not cover intentional acts of violence by employees. However, Uber has insisted these workers aren’t drivers, but rather independent contractors. If the company knows the background checks currently conducted don’t capture all potential issues, they may be found liable for negligent hiring, negligent supervision and other forms of negligence related to hiring someone with a violent criminal past to transport members of the public.
The company is valued around $50 billion by investors, so presumably, the company could pay on its own if deemed liable for a criminal attack by a driver.
But courts are often reticent to assign liability for the criminal actions of a third-party. These cases can be won, but it will take a legal team with extensive experience.
Call Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, at 1-800-646-1210.
Uber Missed Criminal Records of Drivers, Prosecutors Assert, Aug. 19, 2015, By Conor Dougherty, The New York Times
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CDC: 4.2 Million Americans Concede to Driving Drunk in Last Month, Aug. 22, 2015, Fort Myers Injury Attorney Blog