The way Amazon employs its delivery drivers is among the challenges raised in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by an Irvine family whose toddler endured skull and brain injuries and ultimately death in an accident.
Lui Jun Wu and Yanling He sued after 2-year-old Jiahan Wu died in front of their Orange County apartment complex from being struck by an Amazon van driver.
“Amazon appears to be using an independent company that’s operating their equipment as opposed to being the responsibility of Amazon itself and if it’s true, that indicates Amazon is engaging in their business to try to avoid taking financial responsibility for acts that may well be committed by people directly connected to the company,” said Paul Kiesel, a personal injury attorney.
Amazon and its subsidiary Amazon Logistics employ a wide range of independently contracted drivers and delivery carriers, known as Delivery Service Partners (DSP), who deliver goods, according to the complaint. Download complaint here.
“Amazon sought to disguise and deny its employment of tens of thousands of delivery drivers while shifting all operational liability onto hundreds of DSPs while ensuring that Amazon, and not DSPs, would capture all the value created by the DSPs and its other contractors’ hard work and labor,” wrote the Wu family’s attorneys Michael Alder and Eli Cohen in the Dec. 21 complaint.
The wedge between Amazon and its drivers created by the business structure could mean that the plaintiffs won’t receive as much money in damages if they win the case.
“It depends upon how much insurance is available and on what the total award of damages would be but if the driver has $1 million worth of insurance and Amazon has a hundred million dollars’ worth of insurance, they’d be ‘stuck’ at $1 million because that’s all that is available to pay,” Kiesel told OrangeCountyLawyers.com.
Amazon delivered some 4.75 billion packages nationwide in 2021 while maintaining more than 100 fulfillment centers and delivery stations in the U.S., according to Statista.
“It’s possible that if the court were to accept the proposition made by the plaintiffs, that this transportation company, Amazon Logistics, is really just a part of Amazon, it could expose Amazon in the future to greater financial liability than they might otherwise be on the hook for,” Kiesel added.
Causes of action in the lawsuit include wrongful death, negligence hiring, training, retention, and supervision, negligent infliction of emotional distress, negligent entrustment and premises liability.
Alder declined to comment but told ABC News that the child’s mother and 10-year-old brother witnessed the accident and that the Amazon van driver, 18-year-old Julio Cesar Cruz, was on the phone when he fatally ran over the little girl.
“Plaintiffs are informed, believe, and thereon allege that defendant Cruz was unfit and incompetent to perform the work for which he was hired,” the complaint states. ‘In particular, his unfitness and incompetence included, without limitation, his inability: to safely and lawfully drive a vehicle, including the subject Ford, to travel at a safe reasonable speed, and to safely and lawfully comply with all applicable California Vehicle codes.”
*Photos provided by Plaintiff’s attorney.
Juliette Fairley covers legal topics for various publications including the Southern California Record, the Epoch Times and Pacer Monitor-News. Prior to discovering she had an ease and facility for law, Juliette lived in Orange County and Los Angeles where she pursued acting in television and film.