Uber Accused by Maimed Rider of Impeding Search for Driver

(Bloomberg) -- A woman who claims she was run over on a California freeway last year after an enraged ride-hailing driver ordered her out of his car is still trying to find him.

Uber Technologies Inc. says the “mystery driver” isn’t one of its own and that the woman is mistakenly blaming the company for her injuries after she and her brother left a bar in Santa Barbara late at night.

The Schimmel siblings have jousted in court with the ride-hailing giant since April for access to GPS data they say will help identify the driver. Uber was slapped Friday with a $2,100 fine after a judge concluded that the company had failed to comply with a court order from months ago to turn over relevant records.

Margaret Schimmel’s brother, Joseph, says he contacted Uber the day after she was hospitalized in a hit-and-run on Highway 101 and was brushed off when he asked for the name of the driver. The siblings sued, alleging in their complaint that Margaret “suffered massive physical and emotional injuries” and has undergone several surgeries, but still needs a wheelchair and walker to get around.

A lawyer for the Schimmels, Curtis Johnson, acknowledges they didn’t realize they got into the wrong vehicle in downtown Santa Barbara -- not the car that the Uber app dispatched to pick them up. But in their complaint, the siblings recalled that the well-dressed man who pulled up to the sidewalk had an Uber sticker on his car and confirmed he was their driver.

Then, as they were driving at about 1 a.m., the driver became irate and ordered them out of his car on the freeway median after they complained that he was headed in the wrong direction, according to the suit. Margaret Schimmel claims she was struck by a motorist while trying to cross the freeway to safety.

Uber’s lawyer told San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard Ulmer at a hearing Friday that it was time-consuming to draw on GPS data to recreate the routes of its Santa Barbara drivers on the night of Margaret Schimmel’s accident.

“We’ve been working with counsel for the plaintiff to try to show them that Uber has nothing to do with this case,” attorney Robert Taitz said. The company didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The Schimmels’ lawyer said Uber has dragged its feet and obstructed his efforts to find the driver.

“Honestly, in nearly 35 years of practicing law, I’ve never seen anyone play so many stunts,” Johnson said in a recent interview.

The attorney said after a tentative ruling Thursday sanctioning Uber, the company finally verified the accuracy of 89 pages of material that it turned over several weeks ago. Johnson said this has allowed him to narrow the list of suspected drivers, but that he needs to do some cross-checking to make a positive identification.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.