US

Family Considers Suing Uber After Girl, 12, Was Driven to Parking Garage Where She Committed Suicide

By Zachary Stieber

A Florida family says it may sue Uber after a driver picked up their 12-year-old daughter in the middle of the night and took her to a parking garage in downtown Florida, where she committed suicide.

Attorney Laura Douglas, who is representing the family of Benita Diamond, said the girl downloaded the Uber application on her mother’s phone late Jan. 10 while her parents were asleep and had a driver pick her up at a vacant lot near their house in Lake Nona.

The driver picked Benita up in the dark and took her 20 miles away to the garage, Douglas said in a press release obtained by WKMG. The driver never asked Benita her age, why she was getting picked up at a vacant lot, or why she was going to Orlando in the middle of the night.

“I was surprised at how easily I got into the Uber,” Benita wrote, according to the family. “I guess I was expecting more of a hassle.”

A member of the public spotted the girl’s backpack on some stairs in the parking garage before finding her body on the ground.

Ron Diamond and Lisha Chen, Benita’s parents, never let her daughter travel alone. Uber policy does not allow minors to use its application or get a ride without an adult, Douglas said, but “zero effort is made to enforce the age restriction, much less assist drivers in doing so,” and doesn’t punish drivers who break the rules.

Uber’s website states: “As a driver-partner, you should decline the ride request if you believe the person requesting the ride is under 18. When picking up riders, if you feel they are underage, you may request they provide a driver’s license or ID card for confirmation. If a rider is underage, please do not start the trip or allow them to ride.”

According to Fox 35, Chen told reporters at a press conference on Thursday: “I learned that the Uber driver did not speak a word of English. Not one word at all.”

“We had no clue that my daughter had ordered an Uber. We had no clue that she got into an Uber and drove to downtown. And we had a right to know where our daughter went. I think, without a doubt, that if Uber followed their policy, our daughter would still be here,” added Diamond.

“If she’d been asked, where’s your mom and dad? We believe she would’ve been here,” said Douglas, the attorney.

Uber told the broadcaster that it was investigating the incident and that the company does punish drivers who ferry underage riders, up to suspending their access to the Uber application.

Chen said the family is considering a lawsuit not to get money, but to change the way the company operates and in the hope of helping other families avoid a similar tragedy.

“This will happen to another child or teenager if I don’t do anything right now, if I don’t make sure Uber, or Lyft or any share-ride company enforces their policy,” Chen said. “They have a policy in place, but if they don’t enforce it, it’s useless.”

“Uber took my daughter past the point of no return,” Diamond added. “Nobody else did. We didn’t. Lisha didn’t. None of our family. Not you guys. Nobody. Uber took my daughter past the point of no return.”