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Fusco v. Uber Technologies, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

July 27, 2018

JOSEPH FUSCO, Plaintiff,
v.
UBER TECHNOLOGIES, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          GOLDBERG, J.

         Plaintiff Joseph Fusco has sued Defendant Uber Technologies, Inc. in connection with an alleged attack by one of Defendant's drivers while Plaintiff was a passenger. Plaintiff asserts a negligent hiring claim, fraud and related misrepresentation claims, and claims for vicarious liability based on respondeat superior.

         Defendant has moved to dismiss all claims pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. For the reasons described below, Defendant's Motion will be granted. However, I will give Plaintiff leave to amend his negligent hiring, fraud, and misrepresentation claims.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff's Complaint sets forth the following facts:[1]

         Defendant markets a service that “allows consumers to request a taxi-like ride with the push of a button on a smartphone.” To use the service, a customer enters a destination and pickup location into Defendant's smartphone application (“the app”). One of Defendant's drivers then “accepts” the ride, meets the customer at the pickup location, and takes the customer by car to the destination. The app charges the customer's credit card for the ride, giving a portion of the fare to the driver and a portion to Defendant. (Compl. ¶ 1.)

         Plaintiff's claims stem from an injury he suffered while attempting to use Defendant's service to travel from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to his home in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. During the evening of December 22, 2016, Plaintiff attended a private party in the University City neighborhood of Philadelphia. Plaintiff consumed alcohol at the party, and planned to take a ride home rather than risk driving. At approximately 11:00 p.m., Plaintiff used Defendant's app to procure a ride from Philadelphia to his home in Cherry Hill. (Id. ¶¶ 4-5, 56-59.)

         When a driver arrived at the pickup location, the driver did not know Plaintiff's destination. This is because Defendant's app conceals the customer's destination from available drivers until the start of the trip, in order to prevent drivers from declining routes they deem less profitable. For the same reason, Defendant does not allow drivers to refuse a trip after learning where the customer wants to travel. (Id. ¶¶ 5 n.2, 20.)

         After sitting down in the passenger seat, Plaintiff asked the driver to take him to Cherry Hill, New Jersey. The driver, for reasons not specified in the Complaint, refused, and demanded that Plaintiff exit the vehicle. Plaintiff, mindful of Defendant's policy and intent on reaching Cherry Hill, remained seated, and reiterated his request to drive to New Jersey. The driver then stood up, walked to the vehicle's passenger side, and dragged Plaintiff from the vehicle. The driver threw Plaintiff to the pavement, kicking and beating him, breaking multiple bones and teeth. The driver then sped away in the car, leaving Plaintiff unconscious on the sidewalk in a pool of blood, his body half in the street. The driver is unidentified in Plaintiff's Complaint. (Id. ¶¶ 5-7, 61-64.)[2]

         In support of Plaintiff's fraud claims, the Complaint sets out excerpts from Defendant's promotional materials concerning the safety of its service. These statements largely fit into one of three categories.

         The first category pertains to background checks that Defendant performs on prospective drivers:

- Defendant has “background checks you can trust;”
- Defendant has a “robust system of pre-screenings of drivers;”
- Defendant “thoroughly screen[s]” each driver “through a rigorous process [Defendant has] developed using constantly improving standards;”
- This process includes “a three-step criminal background screening for the U.S.- with county, federal and multi-state checks that go back as far as the law allows- and ongoing reviews of drivers' motor vehicle records;” and
- All drivers “are required to undergo a screening process, like motor vehicle record and background checks, to ensure safety and compliance with [Defendant's] criteria.”

(Id. ¶¶ 3, 52-53.)

         A second category of statements describes safety or quality more generally:

- At Defendant's company, “safety has always been a top priority;”
- Defendant “take[s] [its] commitment [to safety] very seriously;”
- Defendant's “mission is to connect riders to reliable transportation, everywhere for everyone;”
- Defendant's service offers “a reliable ride to a safe destination;”
- Defendant's service is “[t]he best way to get wherever you're going;”
- Defendant “uses technology to keep drivers and riders safe;”
- Defendant uses customer feedback to “make every ride a 5-star ...

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