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Part 1: food delivery lawsuits

On Behalf of | Feb 14, 2023 | Business Disputes

Business disputes can occur for a variety of reasons. Indeed, they are just a natural part of doing business in San Francisco, California, and throughout California. However, one frequent dispute that has hit the headlines across the state has been lawsuits involving food delivery companies, like Uber Eats, DoorDash, GrubHub, etc.

Company liability

The first issue that comes up in these business disputes is how to trace liability back to the company. If the bad act is done by the company itself, this is not an issue. However, more commonly, the bad act is done by some one else, usually a food delivery driver or some other employee.

Employer vs. independent contractor

This means the next issue is whether the person who did the bad act is an employee or an independent contractor. If the person is considered an independent contractor, liability falls onto that independent contractor exclusively. This means that the aggrieved party’s exclusive remedy would be against that party and their insurance, regardless of their ability to pay and regardless of the harm the aggrieved party experienced. On the other hand, if the bad actor is an employer, the actions of that employee can be imputed to the delivery company.

Respondeat superior

The first way that an employer can be held liable is through respondeat superior. Under this legal doctrine, the bad acts of an employee are imputed on the employer. However, first the driver must qualify as an employee, which can be done under California law, and the bad act must have occurred during the course of their employment duties. As long as both are true, the food delivery company can be held vicariously liable for the bad acts of the delivery driver in our state.

Employee agency

The food delivery company could also be held vicariously liable through employee agency theory as well. If the San Francisco, California, court finds that the driver was acting as an agent of the food delivery company, his bad acts may be imputed liability onto the company as well.

Ongoing series

Of course, this is just the first post in this San Francisco, California, series that will examine possible justifications for suing food-delivery companies. However, it serves as a broader examination of business disputes generally.