Uber Driver Needed a Nap, So Passenger Took the Wheel, Hit the Gas and Outraced the Cops
Now, the driver is suing the passenger and the service for allegedly acting like very bad Samaritans.
When a dozing Uber driver journeying from Philadelphia to New York decided to switch seats with his passenger so he could steal some shut-eye, his passenger became a speed demon who allegedly outsped state cops through numerous upstate towns before crashing to a stop.
Last week, Corey Robinson filed a lawsuit blaming Uber and his 20-year-old Bronx passenger Juan Carlos for negligence after Carlos took the wheel of his 2016 Hyundai Sonata and clocked nearly 90 miles an hour while fleeing the police on a New York interstate.
It was before sunrise on April 2 when Robinson, a 43-year-old part-time plumber, agreed to give Carlos a ride to “a college in Herkimer, NY,” according to a New York State Police report.
But Robinson’s civil complaint says that Carlos intended all along to go to his Bronx home.
Robinson’s attorney, David DeToffol, refused to explain the discrepancy.
“It says what it says for the purpose of the complaint, but I don’t know,” he told The Daily Beast. “It doesn’t matter to me right now.”
Undisputed is that Robinson was behind the wheel that Saturday and Carlos was his passenger.
Robinson then started feeling fatigued at dawn.
“I was getting really sleepy and started swerving on the road, so I asked him to drive,” Robinson told the New York Post back in April.
Multiple attempts to reach Robinson or Juan Carlos were unsuccessful.
Since the cop chase smashup, both Carlos and Robinson have had their Uber accounts deactivated.
When reached by The Daily Beast an Uber spokeswoman said the car platform’s policy doesn’t comment on “pending litigation.”
The lawsuit filed on Dec. 14, is demanding an undisclosed sum from Carlos and Uber for what it calls their shared negligence when the passenger took the wheel and disregarded “signs and signals” while also ignoring cops’ sirens and failed to consider “other vehicles traveling on the roadway.” It goes on to suggest that Carlos also failed to “apply the brakes.”
Carlos allegedly blew past state troopers idling at a U-turn in the town of Kirkwood, New York, at 86 mph in a 65 mph zone, according to the police release.
The troopers pursued the Sonata but Carlos was “refusing to pull over,” so they kept “following until he took the North Road exit.”
“I thought the car was leaving the ground,” Robinson told the Post, when the car’s speed woke him up after napping for less than an hour.
“I told him to stop the car, and he said, ‘The police are chasing us.’
“I just kept telling him to ‘stop the car, stop the car, stop the car.”
Carlos, claimed Robinson, refused to take his foot off the gas.
“He said he was going to stop, but then he just started speeding up.”
That’s where the troopers “lost sight” of the Uber car for “a few minutes.”
The light-speed Sonata was stopped and totaled when it careened “into a [guardrail] on Sanitaria Springs Road in the Town of Colesville.”
Echoing in Robinson’s head afterward was Carlos’s cackle after crashing his car.
“I don’t know what he was laughing at,” he told the Post.
Robinson and Carlos were rushed to a local hospital to be treated for minor injuries and then released to police custody. Robinson walked free while Carlos was booked for unlawfully fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle in the third-degree, driving without a license, and other traffic infractions, the state police report confirmed.
In a curious legal maneuver, Robinson and his lawyer are hinging their suit on the so-called Good Samaritan law that gives protections to any person offering assistance to an injured or ill stranger in crisis or peril.
“Carlos acted as a servant [of Robinson/Uber] by way of his taking on the good Samaritan doctrine role in carrying out and fulfilling defendants Uber transportation service,” the lawsuit claims. “When [Robinson] fell into peril in becoming too tired to continue driving their long journey, and Carlos while doing worsened [Robinson’s] position by driving recklessly.”
The law on the books in New York state and others is intended to immunize anybody who calls 911 in the instance of a drug overdose.
He forfeited the driving duties over to his passenger Carlos, whom he initially suggested brandished a valid Pennsylvania driver’s license.
However, proof of Carlos’s driver’s license was omitted from the civil complaint.
Asked about the license discrepancy, DeToffol said that “we’re done with this conversation—call me back in six months’ time” and hung up his phone.
“Interesting that Robinson is employing a Good Samaritan option to sue,” John Kleinig, a philosophy professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “Being a Good Samaritan has not saved people in the past from being sued.”
From Kleinig’s cursory look at the incident, he believes Carlos was in the wrong “if he falsely claimed that he had a valid license” and “obviously (in) speeding and fleeing from the cops.”
But the onus also falls on the Uber driver, Kleinig said.
“Robinson should have known he didn’t have the energy for a long trip and should have sought other solutions than asking Carlos to drive. Maybe Carlos was a Good Samaritan of sorts, though even Good Samaritans have responsibilities about how they intervene.”
He added: “I would imagine that if he is successful, any damages might be reduced.”