Will Uber be liable for driver's assault on passenger?

A limousine driver supplements his own fares with those he contracts out from Uber.
Asron Ontiveroz | The Dever Post | Getty Images

Despite repeated stories about Uber drivers kidnapping passengers, refusing services to the blind, accidentally killing bystanders, the rich and fast-growing company has generally managed to avoid liability, saying its drivers are independent contractors and therefore the company isn't responsible for their behavior.

A lawyer for a client allegedly attacked by an Uber driver says he intends to test that defense thesis.

Roberto Chicas, a San Francisco bartender, was allegedly attacked with a hammer by an Uber driver after he disputed which route to take, according to a report in Forbes.

Chicas suffered a fractured skull and is in danger of losing his eye, according to his lawyer. His medical bills will run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and he intends to sue both the driverwho was arrested and is being held by San Francisco policeand Uber.

"There's no doubt that the trail of liability leads back to Uber's doorstep," Chicas' lawyer told Forbes. "We believe they should pay."

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In response to the article, Uber said it has no liability when its drivers act negligently or criminally, noting they are technically independent contractors rather than employees, and that the company is a technology company not a transportation company. Its terms of service also say that passengers cannot hold the company liable for any harm done when taking an Uber ride.

Some experts told Forbes the independent contractor defense may not fly forever, and that the company might ultimately be found legally liable. Forbes has the full story.