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Lyft Sued Over 2014 Crash That Killed Passenger

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- Lyft Inc. is facing a wrongful death and personal injury lawsuit filed in San Francisco Superior Court by the mother and boyfriend of a West Sacramento man killed in the crash of a car with a Lyft driver in 2014.

The two plaintiffs and their lawyer said Tuesday they are frustrated and disheartened that the lawsuit is dragging on slowly and that the San Francisco-based ride-booking company has thus far not accepted legal responsibility for the crash.

"There has been no response in terms of taking responsibility," said Donna Dinapoli, of Folsom, the mother of Shane Holland, 24, who died on Nov. 1, 2014.

"They never contacted me and expressed remorse or condolences," she said.

"They've been fighting us every step of the way. It's very frustrating," said attorney Kevin Morrison, who represents Napoli and Brady Lawrence, Holland's boyfriend.

Morrison said that during a hearing in Superior Court on May 4, he hopes to get a date for a trial later this year.

The fatal crash occurred after Holland and Lawrence, now 29, summoned a ride on Lyft's mobile app to take them home from a Halloween party in Roseville during a rainy night early on Nov. 1, 2014.

The driver was Shanti Adhikari, 31, of Sacramento. On westbound Interstate Highway 80, Adhikari swerved to avoid a stopped car on the freeway, lost control of his Toyota Camry, spun off the roadway and crashed into two trees.

Morrison said the car's computer showed it was being driven at 75 miles per hour.

Holland was declared dead at 1:25 a.m. Lawrence suffered injuries including a concussion and was hospitalized in an intensive care unit for three days.

A CHP report on the crash said that Adhikari "caused this collision by making an unsafe turning movement." The report also said Adhikari had no proof of insurance with him at the time of the crash.

Adhikari is also a defendant in the lawsuit.

Lawrence said Lyft originally offered to pay his medical expenses but later reneged on the offer.

Dinapoli and Lawrence filed their lawsuits on July 31, 2015, originally as two separate cases. Dinapoli's wrongful death suit and Lawrence's personal injury suit were later consolidated into one case.

In preliminary responses filed in Superior Court in September, Lyft listed a series of legal defenses, including 20 defenses against Dinapoli's lawsuit and 19 against Lawrence's.

One of the defenses is a claim that Lyft is not liable because Adhikari was an independent contractor, not an employee.

Two other defenses claim the two men voluntarily assumed a risk and that Lyft is a technology company, not a transportation company, and should not be considered a common carrier.

Lyft spokeswoman Alexandra LaManna said in a statement that the case is ongoing and that liability has not yet been determined.

"Our hearts go out to the families and loved ones involved in this tragedy," the statement said. "Lyft's $1 million liability policy, which includes uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, is designed to provide coverage for Lyft drivers to protect passengers and third parties in accidents just like this one."

LaManna said, "The investigation and litigation arising out of this accident are ongoing and liability has not been determined; however, in the meantime, Lyft's insurance policy is responding."

Dinapoli said she hopes the lawsuit will result in Lyft screening drivers better and describing more accurately in its advertisements how it applies the $1 million insurance policy.

Of the loss of her son, Dinapoli said, "Losing a child -- there's no way to capture the loss.

"It's with me every day. Every day I think of him and of the life he should have had," she said.

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