Suit claims ride-share driver in fatal wreck dis­tracted by app

Lawyer: Work­ing for Uber, he tried to ar­range a Lyft fare.

Austin American-Statesman - - COMMUNITY NEWS - By Ryan Au­tullo rautullo@states­

A fam­ily that al­ready has set­tled with Uber in a wrong­ful death law­suit is now tar­get­ing its rideshare ri­val Lyft, claim­ing the com­pany’s phone app caused one of its driv­ers to take his eyes off the road be­fore a wreck that killed a woman and her daugh­ter two years ago in Wil­liamson County.

An at­tor­ney rep­re­sent­ing the fam­ily of dece­dents Irene and Kate Ed­wards said the driver, Kevin El­dredge, was work­ing for Uber on Oct. 10, 2015, when he picked up the fam­ily to take them to an en­gage­ment party. El­dredge, who also was ap­proved to drive for Lyft, tried to set up an ap­point­ment with a Lyft cus­tomer, ac­cord­ing to the law­suit, when his Nissan Altima made a left turn and col­lided with a Chrysler mini­van on Palm Val­ley Boule­vard in Round Rock.

Nei­ther driver was cited, ac­cord­ing to the ac­ci­dent re­port.

Lyft has since mod­i­fied its app to pre­vent driv­ers from pulling up an­other ride share ap­pli­ca­tion while driv­ing for Lyft. Had those safe­guards been in place at the time, said the fam­ily’s at­tor­ney, Ja­son McMinn, “there would have never been a col­li­sion and these peo­ple would be alive to­day.”

Fam­ily mem­bers set­tled with Uber for a “sub­stan­tial” amount, said McMinn, adding they also set­tled with the mini­van driver, Ja­son Lem­mond. They are seek­ing $1 mil­lion or more from Lyft.

The law­suit, filed Tues­day in Travis County dis­trict court, reads: “Plain­tiffs would show that Lyft was aware of this fore­see­able risk of harm and per­sisted in de­sign­ing these de­fec­tive cel­lu­lar ap­pli­ca­tions in light of this know (sic) risk.”

Lyft re­leased a state­ment say­ing, “we are deeply sad­dened to hear about this tragic in­ci­dent and our thoughts are with those in­volved.”

The com­pany con­firmed El­dredge was au­tho­rized to drive for them, but had never ac­tu­ally given a ride on that plat­form.

Two sur­viv­ing vic­tims were hos­pi­tal­ized, McMinn said: Rick Ed­wards, the hus­band of Irene Ed­wards and the fa­ther of Kate Ed­wards, and David Foy, the fi­ancé of Kate Ed­wards. They were to be mar­ried the next month.

In May, Lyft and Uber ceased op­er­a­tions in Austin af­ter vot­ers up­held a rule that would re­quire the com­pa­nies to vet prospec­tive driv­ers with fin­ger­print back­ground checks.

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