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Uber settles wrongful death lawsuit of Sofia Liu

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A tribute marked the spot near where Sofia Liu was fatally hit. Mike Koozmin/SF Examiner
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Uber reached a tentative settlement in the lawsuit over the wrongful death of Sofia Liu, a 6-year-old girl killed in a collision with a driver for the ride-hail app on New Year’s Eve 2013.

Documents filed in San Francisco Superior Court on Monday on behalf of the Liu and Kuan family argue for the amount of the settlement to stay under seal, pointing to a resolution in the long effort to secure money for Sofia’s family.

“I am worried that if the settlement amounts were made public, that people would try to take advantage of Anthony when he comes into the money when he is older,” wrote Ang Jiang Liu, the father of Anthony Liu, in a declaration to the court. Anthony is Sofia’s brother.

Sofia, Anthony and their mother, Huan Hua Kuan, were hit by Uber driver Syed Muzzafar in a Tenderloin crosswalk on New Year’s Eve. Sofia died, but her brother and mother survived their injuries.

Muzzafar initially told police he was driving around waiting for a fare to appear on his Uber app.

The family filed the wrongful death suit in January 2014.

The family’s attorney, Chris Dolan, confirmed the court filings.

“The Liu family has reached a settlement with Uber in the lawsuit stemming from the death of Sofia Liu. The settlement is confidential and the family will only say that while nothing will ever bring Sofia back, they are grateful to the American Judicial System for providing them a way to resolve the legal issues raised by Sofia’s death,” Dolan wrote in a statement. “They thank all who have provided them with prayer and support throughout this difficult time.”

Uber also released a statement: “The Lius suffered a terrible tragedy–and our hearts go out to them. While we cannot ease their pain, we do hope this settlement helps the family move forward”

Since 2013, Uber has expanded worldwide and its estimated value is over $40 billion.

Many reforms of local and state laws followed in the wake of Sofia Liu’s death.

Uber initially wrote in a blog post that it was not responsible for Muzzafar’s collision because he was using the Uber app to search for a fare, as opposed to carrying an Uber passenger.

Following that claim, a new state law was proposed requiring so-called rideshare drivers and companies have liability insurance coverage during all periods in which drivers use ride-hail applications, including searching for fares.

That law was approved, and went into effect July 1.

Sofia Liu’s death also spurred Supervisor Jane Kim’s Vision Zero ordinance, which committed San Francisco to reduce annual pedestrian deaths to zero by the year 2024.

Liu’s death occurred in Kim’s district, and the supervisor became personally involved in the case.

“Sofia’s funeral is one of the most difficult that I attended,” Kim told the Examiner. Sofia’s death, she said, “tipped the scale and demanded action from our office.”

Filings from the Dolan Law Firm confirm that “the parties have tentatively reached a solution of the entire matter.” The law firm requested the court seal records of the case from public view.

It also cites Anthony’s ongoing “private medical” and psychological treatment as factors in wanting to keep the result of the case sealed.

“The tragic death of Sofia has changed me and my family,” her father wrote. “We would like to try to move forward privately now.”

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