A year after an Uber driver was shot in the head, the mother of the victim has filed a wrongful death and negligence lawsuit against the ride-share company.
Christina “Christi” Spicuzza, 38, is alleged to have been murdered by Calvin Anthony Crew, 24, after he pulled a gun on her as she was driving him as part of an Uber taxi service.
Cindy Spicuzza, the mother of the victim, has now filed a federal civil lawsuit against Uber for the wrongful death of her daughter.
The ride began on 10 February; Mr Crew called his girlfriend Tanaya Mullen to order him an Uber using her Apple Pay account, Allegheny County Police say.
Spicuzza accepted the ride and picked up Mr Crew around 9.11pm.
Mr Crew was known to authorities as already “adjudicated for a robbery” he committed at the age of 14.
The lawsuit relays that Uber failed to protect Spicuzza in three different ways: Uber should have verified Mr Crew’s identity before he entered Spicuzza’s vehicle, that Mr Crew’s previous criminal convictions should have been notified to Spicuzza and finally that Uber should have provided her with basic safety features.
Distressing dashcam footage released by the court shows the moment that Mr Crew, who was wearing a balaclava to try and hide his identity, pushed a gun to the back of Spicuzza’s neck while holding her ponytail. In the background, the Uber app is heard saying to “drop off Tanaya”, meaning the journey was supposed to end there.
The probable cause affidavit confirmed that the suspect told Spicuzza to keep on driving while holding the gun to her head.
“Come on, I have a family,” Spicuzza said.
“I got a family too, now drive,” Mr Crew replied.
“I’m begging you, I have four kids,” Spicuzza said. “Please take that off of me,” asking him to put down the gun.
The suspect allegedly said, “Do what I say and everything will be alright.”
According to the affidavit, Mr Crew had been texting and calling his girlfriend Ms Mullen throughout the ride, possibly talking about picking up cannabis.
“Whatever you doing tonight be careful,” Ms Mullen allegedly said to Mr Crew during the Uber ride.
The night after the murder of Spicuzza, Ms Mullen allegedly texted Mr Crew, “I’m not going to jail if we get caught.”
Mr Crew made the victim drive for an hour while going through her banking apps, and then eventually killed her, detectives say.
“Had Uber applied its driver background check procedures to passengers, used its massive data analysis capabilities to screen out dangerous passengers, permitted drivers to cancel suspicious fares without penalty, or simply provided basic safety features in Ms Spicuzza’s Uber-approved rental car, these simple and effective measures—all readily available to Uber—could have saved Ms Spicuzza’s life,” the lawsuit said. “Unfortunately, however, Uber knew the dangers its drivers faced from dangerous, unverified passengers like Mr. Crew, and chose to do nothing, evincing a conscious corporate attitude for ‘profits over people,’ leaving behind Ms. Spicuzza’s family to grieve her tragic and preventable death.”
The lawsuit states that Uber “could easily fulfil” its duty to protect their drivers “by applying the same screening standards it currently applies to its drivers to its passengers, as well as verifying who is ordering the ride.”
In a statement to Law&Crime, an Uber spokesperson said that “No family should have to suffer such an unimaginable loss.”
“While we cannot comment on pending litigation, we are committed to the safety of drivers who utilize the Uber app. Over the years, we’ve introduced features and policies, designed with safety in mind, like the in-app Safety Toolkit, the ability to freeze rider accounts with fake names and requiring ID from riders in some circumstances,” the Uber spokesperson said. “The safety of drivers is a high priority, and we’ll continue investing in safety features to raise the bar.”
The lawsuit seeks a jury trial in the civil case.
Mr Crew was arrested several days after the murder of Spicuzza. CBS News reported in March this year that a jury selection is set to begin his trial, with prosecutors seeking the death penalty.