Alexi Pfeffer-Gillett

When “Disruption” Collides with Accountability: Holding Ridesharing Companies Liable for Acts of Their Drivers

When Uber launched in San Francisco in 2010, it took the city by storm. Here was a high-tech transportation service that seemingly did everything better than taxicabs: it was more convenient, more accessible, more comfortable, and even cheaper in many instances. Uber’s initial success inspired a number of lower-cost, non-professional “ridesharing” options, which have flourished.

Some skeptics, including taxicab operators, have decried the arrival of these peer-to-peer ridesharing services, now classified by regulators as Transportation Network Companies (TNCs). While such complaints could be easily dismissed as the dying groans of a “disrupted” industry, a string of passenger safety incidents has raised doubts about whether these services are ready to safely replace traditional transportation services.

One critical gray area for consumers is whether injured parties can recover from TNCs rather than their drivers alone. This Note argues that TNCs should be liable for acts of their drivers, and it provides a novel approach—the nondelegable duty rule—that has yet to be argued by plaintiffs in existing cases. Such an approach will place responsibility where it should be: on the companies profiting from the drivers and passengers. More importantly, preventing TNCs from exploiting regulatory loopholes has broader implications for the rapidly growing “sharing economy.”