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Uber settles lawsuit over fatal SF crash that killed girl

Crash that claimed the life of a 6-year-old raised questions about passenger safety on ride-hailing services.

Uber's app in action. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

Ride-hailing service Uber has reached a tentative settlement in a lawsuit brought by the family of a 6-year-old girl killed in San Francisco in 2013.

Sofia Liu was walking in a crosswalk with her family on New Year's Eve when she was allegedly struck and killed by Syed Muzzafar, an Uber driver at the time of the crash. In the wake of the crash, Muzzafar was charged with vehicular manslaughter and barred from working for the ride-hailing service.

Terms of the settlement are confidential, said Christopher Dolan, attorney for the Liu family.

"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 said in a statement. "They now hope to move forward as a family and rebuild their lives as best they can."

An Uber spokeswoman confirmed the settlement in an emailed statement.

"The Liu's suffered a terrible tragedy -- and our hearts go out to them," the statement said. "While we cannot ease their pain, we do hope this settlement helps the family move forward."

The fatal crash is among the most serious episodes to raise passenger safety concerns about Uber, now the world's largest ride-hailing service, operating in more than 250 cities in 57 countries. Uber, which provides a mobile app that lets passengers hail a ride from their smartphone, is the second-highest-valued venture-backed company in the world with a valuation of $41.2 billion.

Uber initially claimed Muzzafar was off-duty at the time of the crash, but the Liu family's January 2014 lawsuit alleged Muzzafar was logged in to the company's UberX app and was waiting for a new ride request when the fatal crash occurred. Though Muzzafar was charged with manslaughter, Liu's family said Uber needed to be "held responsible."

Following Liu's death, Uber issued a short statement that read, in part, "the driver in question was not providing services on the Uber system during the time of the accident." But Dolan has said that whether Muzzafar had a rider at that particular moment makes no difference.

Uber's background checks came under scrutiny in April after a woman in Houston, Texas, alleged that an ex-con driving for the service took her home and raped her. And last year, the service was banned from Dehli, India, after a female passenger was allegedly raped by an Uber driver. There have also been more than a dozen allegations of sexual assault and groping, kidnapping, and physical assault, according to several media stories.

The San Francisco-based company's business model has also attracted legal scrutiny. During a speech Monday, Hillary Clinton, a presidential candidate for the Democratic party's nomination, vowed to " crack down on bosses who exploit employees by misclassifying them as contractors," referring to Uber's practice of classifying drivers as independent contractors rather than employees.

In March, the California Labor Commission ruled that a former Uber driver was an employee and not a contractor and ordered Uber to pay more than $4,000 in expenses and other costs for the time period she drove for the ride-hailing company.

The ride-hailing company is being sued by three former drivers who claim they should've been classified as employees rather than independent contractors. The drivers are seeking class action status for the suit on behalf of 160,000 drivers who have worked for Uber.

Updated at 11 p.m. PT with comment from Liu family attorney.