Can I Sue a Food Delivery Company?
Yes, you can sue a food delivery company—but whether suing them is worthwhile depends on your particular circumstances. Third-party food delivery services are more popular than ever, especially after many local restaurants closed their dining rooms during the coronavirus pandemic. Now, there are more and more delivery drivers on the roads. Drivers often hurry from one delivery to the next to maximize delivery fees. But these combined factors sometimes result in legal issues.
Major food delivery platforms are no strangers to lawsuits. For example, Grubhub Inc., DoorDash, and Uber Eats have all sued the City of New York as plaintiffs in federal court in the Southern District of New York. They sued over a fee cap the city council imposed in Manhattan. The city of San Francisco has considered similar caps, which could give rise to more lawsuits in U.S. district court. Each food delivery app has also been the focus of many different lawsuits, both individual and class action lawsuits. Many lawsuits focus on food delivery companies' liability, particularly regarding accidents their workers caused.
Most food ordering companies hire workers as independent contractors. While this status provides workers with greater flexibility, it also means that the companies' liability for accidents and other issues isn't always obvious. If you've had issues with a food delivery company or their employee, you may want to consider some of the following information before you take legal action.
How Do Food Delivery Companies Work?
Meal delivery is not a new idea. Traditionally, restaurants would hire, train, and employ their own delivery drivers. Because those delivery drivers were employees of that restaurant, they were covered by the restaurant's insurance.
Modern food delivery apps introduced a new model into the restaurant economy. Instead of employing drivers, third-party food delivery companies like Uber Eats, Grubhub, and DoorDash hire workers as independent contractors. This means these companies can sometimes avoid liability for accidents their couriers cause.
Suing a Food Delivery Company After an Accident
If you decide to sue a food delivery company after a car accident, be sure to collect as much accident-related documentation as possible, e.g., medical records, insurance claims, police reports, etc.
Regardless of the circumstances of the accident, the case will probably be complicated. Proving a company's liability can be difficult. Many companies dedicate significant resources to structuring their workers' contracts to mitigate their potential liability for accidents. Because of this, you will want to seek out the service of an experienced legal professional if you're committed to a lawsuit.
Insurance for Food Delivery Drivers
These days, most major food delivery companies provide their workers with some level of insurance coverage. But the level of coverage varies drastically from company to company. For example, Uber Eats 406 and DoorDash both provide their active drivers with many thousands of dollars worth of liability coverage, while Grubhub simply requires their drivers to have “auto insurance."
Major food delivery platforms require their drivers to have auto insurance. But most private auto insurance policies don't cover accidents that happen during the paid delivery of goods, like food delivery. These coverage gaps often leave drivers in a difficult position after a delivery-related accident. If a food delivery driver is at fault for an accident, you could sue the driver or the company they're working for. But you could also submit a claim with the insurance companies of all involved parties and hopefully avoid a lawsuit.
Suing a Food Delivery Company vs. Suing a Delivery Driver
If a driver for a third-party food delivery app causes an accident, you may be able to sue the driver, the company they work for, or both. Whether you choose to sue the driver or the company they work for will most likely depend on whether the driver was working when they caused the accident.
Most food delivery app companies provide coverage for their drivers that only covers the workers while they are making a delivery. For example, Uber Eats covers drivers while they're working but provides different levels of coverage depending on whether a driver is waiting for a request or in the process of making a delivery. If a driver is not actively using the app, they're only covered by their personal insurance. Grubhub doesn't cover their workers at all.
If a delivery worker's personal insurance doesn't cover accidents that occur during commercial activities (like working for an app company), collecting damages from them could be challenging. In either case, you'd want to consult with an experienced auto accident attorney before filing a lawsuit.
Food Delivery Companies and Discrimination
If you work for a food delivery app, you may want to sue a food delivery platform for reasons that have nothing to do with car accidents. Employment discrimination is illegal in the U.S. These discrimination protections cover all types of workers, including the independent contractors who work for food delivery companies.
Third-party food delivery platforms all have their own requirements for employment. For example, most require that drivers have:
- A valid driver's license
- Some driving experience
- A smartphone with a data plan
- A vehicle
- Insurance coverage (if delivering with a vehicle)
If someone doesn't meet these requirements or breaks a contract, third-party food delivery app companies aren't required to employ them. These companies are well within their rights to have these requirements, but they are not allowed to discriminate against groups of people who want to work for them. Companies cannot refuse to hire you based on certain factors. Some of those factors include:
- Country of origin
- Marital status
If a company does discriminate against you, you have grounds for legal action. In such a case, you may want to seek out the services of an experienced employment attorney. But just because you can sue a food delivery company doesn't mean a lawsuit is the most effective way for you to accomplish your goals. In some situations, filing a complaint may be more effective.
Filing a Complaint About Poor Service
If a food delivery service mishandles your order or provides you with terrible service, you may want to consider filing a complaint against the company. Each third-party platform has a way for users to submit complaints. Some apps even let you rate a specific delivery driver. If that's not enough for you, you may also want to write a negative review for other people to read. Fortunately, online review systems make it easy to tell people about your experience with a company.
Negative reviews do impact a company's business. So, leaving an honest review can give you a chance to tell the company and other potential customers about the quality of the company's services. You also can use whatever social media platforms you have to tell people about your experiences.
If a third-party food delivery company's behavior is particularly egregious, you may want to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or Better Business Bureau. The FTC doesn't address individual complaints. But complaints allow them to recognize a company's pattern of behavior. If a food delivery service is advertising something they don't do (such as getting food from certain restaurants) or simply doesn't deliver the food they promised, the FTC may go after them.
Suing for a Data Breach
When you use a food delivery app, you give them access to sensitive personal information, such as your:
- Phone number
- Email address
- Physical address
- Credit card and payment information
In doing so, you're trusting the company to protect your information from people who may want to steal it. The company has a duty to take reasonable steps to protect customer data and consumers' privacy.
If someone was able to breach a food delivery app's security and steal your information, the food delivery company may have been negligent by not maintaining sufficient cyber security and protective measures. You may have grounds to sue the company for damages if the company was negligent.
When To Find Legal Assistance
You may have legitimate reasons to sue a third-party food delivery service. But that doesn't mean the process is straightforward. Determining liability for issues involving food delivery companies and their apps can be difficult. Having the assistance of an experienced legal professional could make all the difference. If you think you have grounds for a lawsuit, you may want to consider talking with an attorney. They can evaluate your situation and work with you on the best course of action.