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Torts — Recent Tort Litigation Pertaining to Transportation Network Providers Act

March 2021

By: Christapher L. Clanin

In the last 10 years, it is hard to imagine a sector of the economy that has undergone a more transformative reformation than that of the transportation industry. Early on, many states struggled to adapt to the fast paced changes caused by the now well-known industry disruptors, Uber and Lyft. In many ways, the linchpin that kept the system moving was the adoption of laws accommodating these companies, now known as “transportation network providers.” In Illinois, the Transportation Network Provider Act (“TNPA”) provided the basic framework for working as a transportation network provider in Illinois.

In Doe v. Lyft, Inc., the appellate court waded through the TNPA to answer two important questions: (1) whether the TNPA exempts ridesharing companies from the heightened duty of care and standard of vicarious liability that apply to common carriers and (2) if so, whether the TNPA violated the Illinois Constitution's ban on special legislation. 2020 IL App (1st) 191328, ¶ 1.

The facts of Doe v. Lyft, Inc., are tragic. In short, a female customer, Jane Doe, used the Lyft application on her smartphone to hail a ride to her home. The Lyft application matched the customer with a driver who ultimately sexually assaulted her. Doe sued McCoy, Lyft and Sterling Infosystems, Inc., the company that Lyft uses to conduct background checks. Doe's complaint included claims of assault and battery and false imprisonment against McCoy and a claim of negligence against Sterling.

As to Lyft, Doe alleged, amongst other claims, that, Lyft was vicariously liable for its employee’s intentional torts against her. Lyft moved to dismiss the vicarious liability claim as legally insufficient because acts of sexual assault, as a matter of law, fall outside the scope of an agency or employment relationship. Doe responded that Lyft could be held vicariously liable because (1) it is a common carrier that owes its passengers a heightened and non-delegable duty of care or (2) even if Lyft is not a common carrier, Doe argued, Lyft should nonetheless be held to the same standard of care as a common carrier. In reply, Lyft invoked section 25(e) of the TNPA, which declares that transportation network companies (or TNCs) and their drivers “are not common carriers, contract carriers or motor carriers, as defined by applicable State law, nor do they provide taxicab or for-hire vehicle service.” Lyft, Inc., 2020 IL App (1st) 191328, ¶ 8. Cook County Judge, Patricia O’Brien Sheahan, granted Lyft’s motion to dismiss but certified questions for immediate appeal as provided above.

On September 30, 2020, the 1st District Appellate Court affirmed Judge O’Brien Sheahan’s Order holding:

  1. The TNPA exempted Lyft from common carrier liabilities.
  2. The exemption was rationally related to the legitimate state interest of fostering competition in the transportation services market and increasing transportation options for consumer.
  3. The Act did not arbitrarily distinguish between victims of sexual assault by taxicab drivers versus ridesharing drivers.

The Illinois Supreme Court granted Appellant leave to appeal on January 27, 2021 but an opinion has not yet been issued. Even with an affirmation by the Illinois Supreme Court, however, the law pertaining to the Transportation Network Providers Act is anything but settled since the TNPA was repealed by its own terms on June 1, 2020. The saga to come is foretold within Footnote No. 4 of the Doe v. Lyft, Inc., 1st District Appeal, which notes:

“The General Assembly purported to revive the Act on June 12, 2020, by amending the repeal date to June 1, 2021. See Public Act 101-639, § 40 (eff. June 12, 2020) (amending 625 ILCS 57/34). It is unclear whether this action was effective in reviving the statute. See 5 ILCS 70/3 (West 2018) (No act or part of an act repealed by the General Assembly shall be deemed to be revived by the repeal of the repealing act.).” (Internal quotations omitted).

If, in fact, the TNPA has not been properly revived, the effects on the transportation network providers operating within Illinois could be profound. Stay tuned!

  • Chicago Bar Association
  • Workers' Compensation Lawyers Association
  • DRI
  • The Illinois Association of Defense Trial Counsel
  • Illinois Self-Insurers' Association
  • Chicago Bar Association
  • Workers' Compensation Lawyers Association
  • DRI
  • The Illinois Association of Defense Trial Counsel
  • Illinois Self-Insurers' Association
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