SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A San Francisco jury Thursday found a former Uber driver guilty of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter for fatally striking a 6-year-old girl on New Year’s Eve in 2013.
Prosecutors said that Syed Abid Muzaffar, of Union City, struck Sofia Liu with his car around 8 p.m. on Dec. 31, 2013, at Polk and Ellis streets.
Muzaffar struck Sofia as she walked with her mother and brother in the crosswalk. Sophia’s mother suffered a major injury to her head, and Sophia’s three-year-old brother was also injured.
At the time, Muzaffar was driving for the ride-hailing service Uber, which deactivated his account afterward.
“This family had their lives turned upside down,” said Assistant District Attorney Thomas Ostly. “San Francisco’s first responders came together that night to try and save this little girl, and many of them remain profoundly affected by Sofia’s death.”
Following Sophia’s death, Uber officials said that Muzaffar was not responding to a fare at the time of the collision and did not have a passenger in the car.
His defense attorney had argued that the fatal collision did not occur as a result of distracted driving and that it occurred on a dark night as Muzaffar was making a legal right turn on a green light.
On behalf of Sofia’s family, attorney Christopher Dolan filed a wrongful death lawsuit seeking damages from both Uber and Muzaffar. The suit alleged he was viewing or interacting with his smartphone app for the company when the collision occurred.
According to Dolan’s office, the suit was the first-ever wrongful death suit against Uber. The suit was eventually settled for an undisclosed amount in 2015.
As a result, Uber changed its policies to expand insurance coverage for crashes caused by Uber drivers even if there is no passenger in the car when the crash occurs, as long as the driver is logged into the company’s app and available to accept rides, according to Dolan’s office.