A Self-Driving Uber Killed Her. Her Family Targets Where She Died

$10M claim says city of Tempe, Ariz., had brick path that encouraged people to jaywalk
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 4, 2019 7:21 AM CST
This file photo shows an Uber SUV after it hit Elaine Herzberg on March 18, 2018, in Tempe, Ariz.   (Tempe Police Department via AP, File)

(Newser) – Family members of the first American killed by an autonomous Uber vehicle have settled with Uber itself, but now they're going after an Arizona city for the homeless woman's death. Per the Arizona Republic, Elaine Herzberg, 49, was killed March 18, 2018, in Tempe by an Uber Volvo SUV as she walked her bike across the street that night, outside a city-designated crosswalk to the north. Rafaela Vasquez, the driver behind the wheel while the vehicle was self-driving, was watching The Voice right before the accident, per a police report. Herzberg's daughter, Christine Wood, and husband, Rolf Ziemann, are now asking for $10 million from Tempe because they say the city had a brick pathway, since removed, that encouraged pedestrians to jaywalk by using the path that was "clearly designed to accommodate people to cross at the site of the accident," the claim notes.

The notice of claim—which the AP explains is a precursor to a lawsuit— says the city also failed to properly light the area and offer other modifications that would have made the site safe to cross, per CBS 5. The city ripped up the path last fall and replaced it with plants and rocks. Legal experts say the family's claim doesn't seem like a strong one. "Generally, the city is not obligated to warn people of open and obvious dangers," one attorney tells the Republic. "The obligation is in the other direction. People are obligated not to cross the street outside of crosswalks." Another lawyer, however, does note to CBS 5 that the case could set a legal precedent and be "history making" in terms of similar complaints in the future. A spokeswoman for the city says it doesn't comment on pending litigation. (Read more Uber stories.)

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