Uber didn’t have the decency to offer personal condolences to Sofia Liu’s family

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Sofia Liu image courtesy of fundraiser website for her funeral

In the wake of a young girl’s death in a traffic collision New Year’s Eve, allegations of improper insurance coverage and safety practices swirled Uber into the center of controversy -- but the company has yet to take a step back to offer personal condolences to the family of the girl who died that night. 

Christopher Dolan, the attorney for the family of Sofia Liu, told the Guardian at a City Hall hearing on rideshare companies that Uber has yet to offer condolences directly to the Liu family. 

The hearing on rideshares (known legally in California as Transportation Network Companies) at the Board of Supervisors Neighborhood Services and Safety Committee yesterday [Thu/6] centered on the insurance and business effects of Uber on taxi services. 

Sups. David Campos, Eric Mar, and Norman Yee grilled San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Taxi Director Christiane Hayashi and California Public Utilities Commission Director of Policy and Planning Marzia Zafar on questions sparked by Sofia Liu’s death.

Should Uber have provided insurance coverage for the driver, Syed Muzzafar, when he allegedly killed Sofia Liu and injured her family? Is it just an app, or is Uber a transportation provider like any other cab company? 

These are questions courts and regulatory bodies will decide over the course of the next year or so. But there’s one question that only Uber can answer: Why hasn’t it offered personal condolences to the family yet?

We sent Uber an email with a number of questions, and they answered every single one except for our question about offering condolences to the family. Dolan said that’s the same response they’ve given the Liu family -- silence.

A video interview with Christopher Dolan, attorney for the Liu family.

“They said, ‘jeez our hearts go out to them but we’re not responsible,’” he told us. We asked him if Uber made a phone call to the Liu family, met with them in person, or offered condolences personally in any way. “Absolutely not. Basically their message is ‘it’s too bad,’ but its not their problem. They’ve done no outreach to the family.”

The family’s suffering was deep. In an interview with ABC7 news reporter Carolyn Tyler, Liu’s mother, Huan Kuang, said "I feel very sorry for her. I cannot save her life. The driver kill her.” 

Kuang and her son Anthony were injured in the collision as well..

Perhaps there are legal reasons preventing Uber from offering its condolences directly to the family, though this sounds unlikely as Uber did post a blog directly after the incident saying, “Our hearts go out to the family and victims of the tragic accident that occurred in downtown San Francisco on New Year’s Eve. We extend our deepest condolences.”

But were these condolences extended to the family, or just the Internet? After the death of your daughter, would a blog post really cut it? We’re not buying it. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick sat down for a video interview with the Wall Street Journal only six days after Sofia Liu’s death to talk about surge pricing. If he can take the time to sit down with the Wall Street Journal , he can take the time to personally offer his condolences to a family who lost its daughter in an accident that it alleges his company caused. It's been two months since Liu died.

Legality of the whole business aside, it’s the human thing to do. 

ABC 7 videointerview with Sofia Liu's mother.

Update: Four hours after Uber's initial email reply to our inquiry for this story, and an hour after the story was posted, Uber spokesperson Andrew Noyes sent us this statement: "We have privately extended our personal condolences to the Liu family." When asked how and when they were made, in order to verify his claim, he sent an email in reply declining to provide us that information. We again asked Noyes about how and when condolences were given, hoping to use the information to verify with the Liu family through their attorney. Uber again declined to provide information as to the time, date or method of offering their condolences. 

Comments

It is well known that any kind of gesture of apology or regret can be interpreted by the courts as an admission of liability.

Since the matter is sub judice, there can be no public comment.

"Perhaps there are some legal reasons", you ask. Gee, ya think?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 07, 2014 @ 4:28 pm

Think about it for a minute...they made a public expression of condolence.

Why would they personally reach out to the family if they weren't directly involved (which they claim not to be)? Lawyers would jump all over that.

I'm sure that the SFBG personally reaches out to every family who suffers a personal loss.

It's the human thing to do.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 07, 2014 @ 5:03 pm

Family's lawyer: Mr. Uber, is it true that you personally contacted the Liu family to express your regrets.

Uber: Yes, we did.

Family's lawyer: X other people have been killed this year under similar circumstances. Have you personally reached out to any of their families?

Uber: No.

Family's lawyer: Well then, what was it about this particular tragedy? You claim that you are not responsible, yet you reached out to this one family and not the others. Why is that?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 07, 2014 @ 5:30 pm

A diploma is cluelessness doesn't hurt anyone's prospects either.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 07, 2014 @ 5:44 pm

Yes, a diploma is clueless.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 11, 2014 @ 2:27 pm

diploma in cluelessness is helpful for a career at SFBG. I agree.

Butter? Freudian slip?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 11, 2014 @ 2:39 pm

Family's Lawyer: Mr. Uber, your company personally reached out to the Liu family shortly following this accident, correct?

Mr. Uber: Yes, that's true.

Family's Lawyer: In fact, you reached out to them specifically to express your condolences, isn't that right?

Mr. Uber: Yes.

Family's Lawyer: And you expressed your condolences because you knew your company was responsible for young Ms. Liu's death, isn't that right?

Etc., etc.

-- HOWEVER, I think the focus is on "condolences" rather than "apologies" in order to avoid this sort of thing. In any event, as it stands, the questioning might go something like:

Family's Lawyer: Mr. Uber, you are aware that your company was implicated in this matter from virtually the moment it happened, are you not?

Mr. Uber: Well, I wouldn't say "implicated."

Family's Lawyer: Well, your company's name was all over the news in relation to this incident for days and weeks following its occurrence, isn't that right?

Mr. Uber: Our name was mentioned, yes.

Family's Lawyer: And despite being directly tied to this incident, quite publicly, you didn't so much as contact that poor little girl's family, did you?

Mr. Uber: That's not correct. We did reach out to them.

Family's Lawyer: Oh, that's right, after two months and a fair amount of public shaming, you finally decided to pick up the phone. I forgot.

Uber's Lawyer: Objection. Argumentative!

Posted by Guest on Mar. 11, 2014 @ 8:41 pm

Christopher Dolan AGAIN? After the whole Jahi McMath debacle, every time I see him or hear his name I'm reminded of why people hate lawyers.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 07, 2014 @ 10:35 pm

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Posted by como ganhar dinheiro na internet on Jun. 14, 2014 @ 4:56 pm

The ignorance herein has already been highlighted by other posters.

Good thing SF taxicab drivers have never had hit and runs, drunk driving manslaughter incidents, kidnapping and murder etc...

The demonizing of Uber is laughable here.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 07, 2014 @ 11:25 pm

Jason Grant Garza here ... well, if you think that UBER is wrong and untoward to the Liu family; what would you say if I told you that they are ONLY doing as San Francisco would. Let me give you an example .... in 2001 SF broke federal law against me .... in 2003 I took the city to federal court (C02-3485JH) where the city testilies and had my case dismissed. In 2007 the city signed a settlement/confession with the Office of Inspector General admitting fault and guilt http://myownprivateguantanamo.com/settle1.html then left its innocent vindicated victim for DEAD. It is 2014 and NO ONE from the city attorney ( isn't it the same one?). DPH, courts or anyone explained HOW I can have an arrest record (never having been arrested before) sitting next to a confession for a CRIME they committed.

So before you SFBG, Supervisors, City Attorney throw STONES .... clean up your HOUSE first and answer, respond, remedy, compensate, have contrition, show humanity .... basically anything that would make their victim WHOLE. The city can NOT and WILL NOT .... then do not expect UBER.

And just like UBER .... it continues .... look at what DPH did illegally ... go to youtube and type in Jason Garza to see over 300 videos ... start with the illegal restraining order from DPH on 8/15/12 and watch the INHUMANITY I have gotten from the city, its agencies, professionals and law enforcement.

So before you rightfully speak of UBER .... KNOW you officials are NOT any better and mind you ... THEY have a duty.

Keep DRINKING the KOOL-AID.

Mind you ... this UBER thing is recent ... look at HOW LONG the city has NOT explained or made me WHOLE and notice what continues (illegalities.)

Posted by Jason Grant Garza on Mar. 08, 2014 @ 7:07 am

suicide as an option Jason?

Consider it - just don't leave a mess for someone else to clean up.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 08, 2014 @ 9:25 pm

Give him a call. It sounds like he needs some work.

Posted by Richmondman on Mar. 11, 2014 @ 5:47 am

Not enough publicity. All he has to do is look at some of the comments this weirdo has placed on every news site he could and realize no media is going to give him any air time.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 11, 2014 @ 9:03 pm

Jason Grant Garza to Guest's comment .... not enough publicity ... try this on for size .... http://www.sfbg.com/2007/06/27/crazy where the byline is This is nuts: A bizarre tale of the insanity that is SF's mental health system right here at the SF Bay Guardian. Did anyone take notice and fix it then ... the article was dated 6/26/07. Ask why they SFBG has not contacted me even though I approached them? Now go to http://myownprivateguantanamo.com/settle1.html to see a signed confession for law breaking activity by the city that left me DEAD. So because others would NOT want to hear the TRUTH will stop me as it did not in 2001, 2003 and 2007 when the confession was signed. Maybe you should ask DPH, the Sheriff, SFPD or the city attorney to explain the signed confession sitting next to an arrest record never having been arrested before for a CRIME they committed. Remember the confession was signed in 2007 and it is 2014 .... I believe my comment on Uber based on SF performance is valid. I do however thank you for being a distractor from the TRUTH as I have the evidence .... have nice day and GOD BLESS.

Posted by Jason Grant Garza on Mar. 12, 2014 @ 6:32 am

Has anyone down at the Bay Guardian called the Bologna family and said, "we are sorry for Edwin Ramos killing your family because of progressive politician's total lack of decency"

The author is a complete moral nothing.

Posted by guest on Mar. 08, 2014 @ 8:04 am

Baloney?

Ok, so let me try and follow the logic here... some Hispanic dude supposedly killed some Sicilian dude sometime in the past, and we're supposed to be um, outraged, at.... progressives!

Ah, I understand. Somebody hasn't taken their meds this morning.

Posted by Thorazine Shuffle on Mar. 08, 2014 @ 8:38 am

They show up and have no idea about the cities history.

"I'm here to help, I'm a progressive"

Posted by guest on Mar. 09, 2014 @ 1:26 am

C'mon. That's gotta be you Matlock. You're just trying to make the progressives look bad. No way someone would be stupid enough to post this comment. Right? Right??? Never mind. Lol.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 09, 2014 @ 2:48 pm
Posted by guest on Mar. 09, 2014 @ 5:41 pm

I'm sure the SFBG was just as incensed when the Board of Supervisors failed to apologize to the Bologna family. Or perhaps, in that instance, they decided it would be in poor taste to use the tragic death of a child to score a cheap political shot. Who can say for certain?

Posted by Snoozers on Mar. 08, 2014 @ 7:53 pm

Uber's business model requires that drivers be uninsured in order for them to remain profitable. Commercial car insurance can run anywhere from $400 to $700/mo which would be enough to discourage most Uber drivers from taking up the practice, were they to do it legally.

Likewise, extending Uber's insurance coverage for all times where a driver is logged in to Uber's system would make Uber's insurance costs so high that they would have to start training and regulating their drivers, which would make fewer drivers available and raise prices to the point where they're no longer a cheaper deal than taxis.

The fact is that the costs that Uber riders are saving have to be paid elsewhere. In this case, it's Sofia Liu and her family that have to bear the cost so that people can get their cheap rides.

I'm not a taxi driver and I don't like taxis (as a black man living in SF I've successfully hailed a cab MAYBE 3 times in 15 years and normally will ask my white friends to wave them down while I try not to look like I'm associated with them), but the additional cost of taxis are not a racket - that's what regulation, insurance, training and liability cost.

Making Lyft, Uber, Dashcar, etc actually legal would kill their business models because their profitability relies on having their drivers skirt the law.

Posted by bassguitarhero on Mar. 10, 2014 @ 10:26 am

applies whether it's Uber, a black cab, a car service or an informal arrangement between driver and passenger.

As such, it should not affect the viability of any particular mode of offering rides for money.

There may be more cases of not having insurance in some cases than others, but the problem is the same regardless.

Maybe riders should carry insurance instead? It would be far cheaper and many umbrella policies may already cover this.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 10, 2014 @ 11:14 am

Absolutely. And if you drive a regulated taxi, you will have insurance. If you drive a limo, you will have an insurance. If you drive a UPS vehicle or a flower delivery service vehicle, you will have insurance. All of those companies regulate and insure their own vehicles to make sure their drivers are operating within the confines of the law.

However, Uber does not require their drivers have correct insurance. This is because their profit margin is based on avoiding a legal insurance model. As I said before, commercial car insurance can run anywhere from $400 to $700 a month. Because Uber (and other services like Lyft) are based around a "drive as much as you want, when you want" business model for their drivers, the overhead costs of insuring drivers for the entire time they are in the vehicle and "on call" would mean prices would rise to the point where they are competing directly with taxis, undercutting one of the major advantages they have over regulated taxi services.

"it should not affect the viability of any particular mode of offering rides for money" - Actually, it does, and that's the entire point. If you are an Uber driver, you are paid per hour that you are driving. However, if you are ponying up $400/mo for insurance and making $35/hr, then you need to be carrying passengers for 12 hours every month just to cover the costs of insurance before you begin turning a profit.

Uber's claim is that they simply provide the marketplace for drivers to offer their services to riders. However, you do not hire "A private driver through the Uber marketplace," you hire "An Uber driver." You don't hire "A personal car through the Uber marketplace," you hire "An Uber car." The distinction is meaningful - drivers represent Uber and Uber is generating profit off of the rides taken through the marketplace - rides that wouldn't have been given outside of the Uber marketplace.

As far as your other examples - "an informal arrangement between driver and passenger" -> this would have done nothing to help Sofia Liu or her family as the agreement is between the driver and passenger. Similarly, "Maybe riders should carry insurance instead?" also does not address when an Uber driver hits a pedestrian.

The reason we regulate, license and require taxi cabs to be insured are for EXACTLY the reasons that Uber is currently dealing with via hitting Sofia Liu & her family. In the world of taxi cabs, this was settled ages ago - if you are driving a cab, you are in the vehicle for the purpose of generating profit for a cab company. That means the cab company is on the hook the *entire* time you are driving the vehicle, regardless of whether or not you have a fare in the car. Even the act of *looking* for a fare, which Uber does not cover, is a part of generating revenue and profit through the act of commercially driving a vehicle.

Uber's business model involves convincing drivers to go around commercial car insurance and take the legal responsibility on themselves. That is not going to be an adequate business model because individual drivers do not have the liability & commercial insurance coverage necessary to handle incidents like these - which is why, long ago, we decided the taxi companies would have to cover it.

Posted by bassguitarhero on Mar. 10, 2014 @ 11:38 am

ride for $20 with insurance or $10 without insurance. Choice is good.

Maybe I want to buy my own "rider insurance" and then take the cheaper option?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 10, 2014 @ 12:42 pm

Do you think she would have gone for the $20 ride or the $10 ride? Or maybe it doesn't matter, because the reason you don't get to choose whether to take insured or uninsured Yellow Cab rides is because it's the responsibility of the companies who profit off of these services to provide adequate insurance for all potential liabilities that come as a result of driving a car for profit.

Posted by bassguitarhero on Mar. 10, 2014 @ 12:56 pm

I was talking about insurance for the rider.

Sofia's estate can sue.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 10, 2014 @ 1:55 pm

All drivers have to carry liability insurance, however there is a huge difference between personal insurance for people who operate their vehicle for non-commercial purposes and commercial insurance for people who operate their vehicle commercially.

If Syed Muzzafar, the Uber driver who hit Sofia Liu, was carrying personal insurance and not commercial insurance, then his insurance company is not liable for damages because he was using his car illegally.

It should not be up to Sofia's family to sue to get compensation for the actions of an Uber driver - that is precisely why we regulated taxi companies, because it is not reasonable to expect the family to have the resources to launch lawsuits against multiple billion-dollar corporations after getting hit by a car and put in the hospital.

Posted by bassguitarhero on Mar. 10, 2014 @ 2:33 pm
Posted by Guest on Mar. 10, 2014 @ 2:56 pm

if you have to sue to be compensated for an injury, uber troll.. The courts may work in a serious injury case but what about an UberX/Lyft accident that just involves a wrecked car? Is the owner of the wreck supposed to sue a judgement proof driver? Good luck on collecting on that.

What is happening in most of these cases is that the claim is being treated as an uninsured motorist accident. But you probably think that this is another example of the system working.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 11, 2014 @ 6:58 am

insurance fraud and regulatory arbitrage are now extolled as "innovation". The part time owner/driver cannot make it if he actually has to meet his obligations.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 11, 2014 @ 7:03 am

If the family of a person hit and killed by an unregulated, uninsured, illegally operated vehicle has to start suing everyone involved in hopes of getting compensation, then the system is not working.

Like I said in my previous post, the reason that taxi cabs are insured, regulated and licensed is PRECISELY because of these situations - it is not reasonable to expect the family of a girl hit and killed by a commercial car operator to sue in order to get compensation. Commercial car transportation companies are insured precisely so that, when accidents like these happen, a system is in place to take care of the family rather than force them to file multiple lawsuits against multiple organizations at a time when their finances (and emotional ability to handle these cases) are screwed up because of said accident.

Posted by bassguitarhero on Mar. 10, 2014 @ 3:16 pm

It is how most laws get enforced because the government is too cheap to pay for enforcement itself.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 10, 2014 @ 3:31 pm

To get compensation after you're the victim of an accident due to an unregulated, uninsured, illegally operated vehicle that's generating profit for Uber.

Just because other people enjoy suing does not mean the Liu's should have to sue to cover the costs of burying their daughter.

Posted by bassguitarhero on Mar. 10, 2014 @ 3:47 pm
Posted by Guest on Mar. 10, 2014 @ 4:10 pm

Last time I checked, Uber and Lyft are regulated, insured and legally operated. Not to the extent that they should be, and I hope that the "system" works to make that change. However, the tragedy is the same, Uber or Taxi.

Posted by Richmondman on Mar. 11, 2014 @ 5:50 am

This is about the fact that if a Yellow Cab driver hits a pedestrian, regardless of whether or not there is a fare in the car, Yellow Cab's insurance will cover compensation for damages. There is a process in place for handling damage done to people by the taxi drivers. It should be the same for Uber, Lyft and other services. There currently is not, because Uber, Lyft et al profit because their drivers operate outside the law.

Posted by bassguitarhero on Mar. 10, 2014 @ 4:13 pm

Uber never said they were sorry? For once, at last, they are being honest.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 10, 2014 @ 5:14 pm

for the Liu family's S.F. General Hospital bills because these immigrants are below the poverty line. S.F. taxpayers are also on the hook for the big tax subsidy Mayor Ed Smiley gave to Twitter. I'm sure the Twitterati rewarded Lee with generous campaign contributions. It's how our system works. Money flows uphill, sh*t flows downhill. It's why the middle class is disappearing, the rich getting richer and the poor poorer. Welcome to Amerika.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 10, 2014 @ 7:08 pm

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