Uber Eats is not covered by New Jersey state insurance coverage

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In a recently published notice,[1] The New Jersey Superior Court Appellate Division answered a first impression question: whether the New Jersey Transportation Company Safety and Regulation Act (the “Act”), which requires “transmission network companies”[2] to provide at least $1.5 million in underinsured motorist insurance coverage, applies to food delivery services such as Uber Eats.

The case arose after an Uber Eats driver was injured while riding his motorcycle during a delivery. A car collided with the Uber Eats driver, who was ejected from his motorcycle, sustaining serious injuries. The Uber Eats driver’s injuries exceeded the limits of the other motorist’s insurance coverage. The Uber Eats driver was employed by Portier, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Uber, which had a professional auto insurance policy with James River, but the James River policy did not provide coverage for motorists under -insured.

The Uber Eats driver sued Portier and James River, alleging that at the time of the accident, the Uber Eats driver was employed by Portier and entitled to underinsured motorist benefits under of the law. The trial court entered summary judgment in favor of James River, ruling that the law only regulates companies and drivers that provide transportation for passengers, as opposed to food.

On appeal, the Superior Court reviewed the Act’s terms and definitions, noting that nothing in the Act or its definitions referred to food delivery services. He further noted that the law’s insurance requirements only applied when a “driver of a transport network company provides a pre-arranged ride”, thus relying on the precise definitions and unambiguously of the terms “transport network company driver”[3] and ‘prearranged trip’. “Prearranged ride” has been defined as transportation performed by a transportation network company driver, beginning when a driver accepts a ride request from a passenger. The Superior Court ruled that the plain text of the law, as it currently stands, does not cover drivers who deliver food.

Notably, the Court noted that a currently proposed amendment to the Act would require insurance coverage for businesses that use a digital network to connect customers to a “driver of a delivery network business for the prearranged delivery of goods”. The bill was introduced earlier this year and is currently still in committee.


FOOTNOTES

[1] Scott C. Malzberg vs. Caren L. Josey et al., case number A-2883-20, in the New Jersey Superior Court Appellate Division.

[2] “Transit Network Company” means a corporation, partnership, sole proprietorship, or other entity that is registered as a business in the State or operates in that State, and uses a digital network to connect a passenger from the transport network company to a driver of the transport network company to provide a pre-arranged ride. . . .

[3] “Driver of a transport network company” or “driver” means a person who receives connections with potential passengers and related services from a transport network company in return for the payment of a fee to the company transportation network company, and uses a personal vehicle to offer or provide a pre-arranged ride for a passenger when connected through a digital network controlled by a transportation network company in exchange for compensation or payment of ‘a fee.

Copyright © 2022, Hunter Andrews Kurth LLP. All rights reserved.National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 276

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