Saying that “the answers to our questions will directly impact a large number of cases currently pending before state and federal courts in California,” a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel in Doe v. Uber Technologies today asked for the California Supreme Court’s help in resolving an appeal involving a sexual assault of an Uber passenger by a former Uber driver posing as a still-authorized driver. The assailant had been fired because of previous sexual assaults.

The questions the federal panel have referred to the state high court are:

  1. What duty of care, if any, does Uber owe a rideshare passenger who suffers an assault or other crime at the hands of an unauthorized person posing as an Uber driver?
  2. If there is a basis for holding that Uber owed such a duty of care, do the Rowland factors counsel in favor of creating an exception to that duty in a category of cases involving rideshare companies and customers harmed by third-party conduct?

The case is on appeal following a district court grant of summary judgment for Uber based on the Second District, Division One, Court of Appeal opinion in the factually similar Jane Doe No. 1 v. Uber Technologies, Inc. (2022) 79 Cal.App.5th 410, in which the Supreme Court denied a petition for review and four depublication requests. Despite the Division One opinion, the Ninth Circuit said the Supreme Court’s subsequent decision in Kuciemba v. Victory Woodworks, Inc. (2023) 14 Cal.5th 993 (see here) — which also came from the Ninth Circuit — “calls into question whether the court would decide the issue presented in Jane Doe No. 1 similarly.”

Video of the Ninth Circuit oral argument is here.

The Supreme Court should let the Ninth Circuit know by early March — give or take — whether it will answer the questions. It usually says “yes.” Leaving aside one other pending request, the Supreme Court has granted 20 of the last 22 Ninth Circuit requests for help with California law issues, dating back to July 2018. The most recent request was denied, however. Before that, the lone denial over the past five years was in October 2019.


Rule 8.548

Asked and answered:  California Supreme Court responses to Ninth Circuit questions

The constitutionality of the Supreme Court answering the Ninth Circuit’s legal questions

Ask not what the Supreme Court can do for the Ninth Circuit

Justice Kruger and Judge Owens talk about the Supreme Court answering Ninth Circuit questions

The shadow docket . . . of California’s Supreme Court, part 2