Lyft driver lounge in San Francisco. Lyft driver lounge in San Francisco. Photo: Jason Doiy/ALM

A South Florida lawsuit has accused ride-sharing company Lyft Inc. of operating an “unreasonably dangerous” app that puts the public at risk.

The complaint filed Thursday in Palm Beach Circuit Court names the San Francisco-based company as a defendant, alongside its subsidiary Lyft Florida Inc., Lyft driver Wilky Ilet and rental car company The Hertz Corp., which partners with Lyft.

The plaintiff is Palm Beach County resident Teresa Brookes, who suffered extensive injuries, including brain trauma, after the Lyft driver struck her as she crossed State Road A1A on Jan. 4.

According to plaintiffs counsel, Domnick Cunningham & Whalen shareholder Jeanmarie Whalen, Brookes was leaving work at The Breakers Palm Beach Resort at the time of the crash. Whalen said the incident was caused because the driver who hit Brookes was distracted by the Lyft app.

“These drivers are required to constantly monitor that app in order to obtain rides and generate revenue for Lyft, and in this instance, for Hertz as well,” the Palm Beach Gardens attorney said.

The vehicle involved in the crash, a 2017 Kia Optima, was part of the Lyft Express Drive initiative. The program is a partnership between Hertz and Lyft, and allows Lyft drivers to rent vehicles to pick up passengers.

The seven-count complaint alleges negligence against all defendants; and direct negligence, negligent hiring of an independent contractor, strict liability defective design, and direct negligence for negligent design of their app against the two companies.


Read the complaint: 

“The general public is put at substantial risk by the use of Lyft,” Whalen said, calling Lyft’s business model “inherently dangerous.”

“The app requires constant monitoring; the driver has to respond in a short period of time to any request,” she said. “That requires drivers to take their eyes off the road. That is the essence of distracted driving.”

Neither Lyft nor Hertz responded to requests for comment.

Whalen said her client “has completely lost all independence of life” due to injuries.

Jeanmarie Whalen, with Domnick Cunningham & Whalen. Photo: Melanie Bell

“She was hospitalized for over a month post-crash, and since that time she’s been under 24-hour aid and attendant care,” the attorney said. Whalen said Brookes is no longer in intensive care but still requires treatment.

“She’s suffered a severe brain injury, so she is going to occupational therapy, physical therapy and is still under the care of a host of specialists,” Whalen said. “Her days are [spent] trying to rehabilitate to whatever level she can ultimately achieve.”

“Sometimes there’s a lag between the law and technology … and it takes time for these cases to make their way through the court system,” Whalen added. “Lyft should have known their app would have caused distracted and inattentive driving. Through this lawsuit we are hoping to affect positive change that will force Lyft and other ride-sharing companies to make their application safer, their procedures safer, put safer drivers on the road, and to make sure the drivers they put on the road are using apps … that do not endanger the public.”

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