Matt Mellen, one of the last passengers of Jason Dalton―the Uber driver who killed six people and wounded another two while active on the app―has filed a lawsuit claiming the company could’ve stopped the driver’s massacre but did nothing.
Mellen states in the lawsuit he tried to contact the company’s 24/7 incident response team after experiencing a “traumatic” ride in Dalton’s car the afternoon of his deadly rampage to get the driver deactivated on the app, but Uber never responded. The lawsuit describes Dalton’s actions during the ride as “driving in a deadly, dangerous manner certain to cause injury, death, damage.”
“We were driving through medians, driving through the law, speeding along and when we came to a stop, I just jumped out of the car and ran away,” Mellen told News Channel 3 a few days later. “He wouldn’t stop. He just kind of kept looking at me like ‘don’t you want to get to your friend’s house’ and I’m like ‘I want to get there alive.'”
In the lawsuit, Mellen claims that after escaping Dalton’s car, he and his girlfriend spent over an hour trying “desperately to connect with Uber and its 24/7 on-call response team” to alert them to Dalton’s erratic driving and get him deactivated. They were unable to reach the team, the lawsuit alleges, and Dalton was never deactivated. Shortly after, he shot his first victim―Tiana Carruthers―in an apartment complex where Uber had assigned a passenger to him.
In a bizzare exchange with detectives, Dalton claimed that the Uber app turned him into a “puppet” and that a horned devil with a cow head appeared on the phone to give him orders. “When I logged onto site [the Uber app], it started making me feel like a puppet,” Dalton told detectives.
Uber has spent years overhauling its safety response protocols after repeated failures during emergency disasters affecting entire regions, or sexual assault during trips. A few months before the shooting, BuzzFeed News reporting found emergency response incidents were increasingly being handled by call centers in the Philippines. In recent years, it has created an investigative unit that seeks to limit liability over all else.
In 2015, Uber publicized that it was rolling out global “incident response teams” to assuage safety concerns. Uber also boasted about its response teams in 2016, saying that “our technology makes it possible to focus on safety for riders and drivers before, during and after every trip” thanks to the widespread use of smartphones. After the trip, for example, Uber pointed to its “24/7 Support” that it claimed would be “ready to respond to any issues 24 hours a day, seven days a week.” It also boasted of “Rapid Response” and highlighted its “dedicated Incident Response Team” that was standing by to answer “more urgent issues.”
The lawsuit goes on to say that Mellen has developed post-traumatic stress disorder and survivor’s guilt as a result of this experience and is seeking damages for the traumatic experience and subsequent treatment. Mellen accuses the company of committing fraud for violating its own community guidelines and code of conduct by failing to deactivate Dalton for his dangerous driving. He also accuses Uber of violating Michigan’s Consumer Protection Act.
Uber did not immediately respond to Motherboard’s request for comment.
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