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‘Profits over people’: Uber sued after driver, a mom of four, was shot in the head while begging for her life

Booking photo of Calvin Crew, image of Christi Spicuzza.

Calvin Crew (Allegheny County Jail), and Christina Spicuzza (Pitcairn Police Department)

More than a year after an Uber driver was shot in the head on the job as she begged a robbery suspect for her life and told the gunman she had four kids, the victim’s mother has filed a wrongful death and negligence lawsuit against the ride-hailing company.

Christina “Christi” Spicuzza, 38, was allegedly murdered by Calvin Anthony Crew, 24, late on Feb. 10 or early on Feb. 11, 2022, and left face-down wearing a “COVID face mask” in a wooded area in Monroeville, Pennsylvania. The suspect called up his girlfriend Tanaya Mullen and asked her to call an Uber ride for him using her Apple Pay account, said authorities with the Allegheny County Police Department.

That ride began at 9:11 p.m. on Feb. 10, 2022. Spicuzza was found dead just after noon on Feb. 12, 2022, a Saturday.

According to a probable cause affidavit attached as an exhibit to the lawsuit, Calvin Crew and Tanaya Mullen texted back and forth on Feb. 10, 2022 and Feb. 11, 2022.

“Whatever you doing tonight be careful,” Mullen allegedly said to Crew on the night of the Uber ride.

Around 45 minutes later, Crew replied, “Trynna send bev a dub so I can grab some gas” (it’s unclear if he meant gasoline; a “dub” is a slang term for $20 worth of marijuana and the term “gas” is also associated with cannabis, a.k.a., “good ass s—”).

Two minutes later, Crew and Mullen briefly spoke on the phone, the affidavit said.

A short time after that, Mullen allegedly sent Crew a text saying, “Cash app on weird s— stg ima try again in alil and restart my phone I’m sending it but its not completing.”

The next night, Mullen allegedly texted Crew, “Im not going to jail if we get caught.”

Crew, who authorities said was previously “adjudicated for a Robbery” he committed at the age of 14, was identified as the mask-wearing individual who, unbeknownst to Spicuzza, was not Tanaya Mullen — the person she thought she was giving a ride that night.

Harrowing dash cam video from inside Spicuzza’s Uber showed her telling the gunman she was a mom of four.

Video from confirmed that the Uber app could be heard saying “Drop off Tanaya” just before the suspect pulled a gun on Spicuzza, held it to the back of her head, and demanded that she “keep driving,” the affidavit said.

“Come on, I have a family,” Spicuzza said.

“I got a family too, now drive,” the suspect replied.

After repeating “complete the trip” multiple times, Crew allegedly grabbed the Uber driver by her ponytail to control her head.

“I’m begging you, I have four kids,” Spicuzza answered, even asking “Please take that off of me” — referring to the gun against her head.

The defendant allegedly said “Do what I say and everything will be alright.”

Crew was arrested several days later.

Lawyers representing Cindy Spicuzza, the administratrix of her daughter’s estate, now allege in a federal civil lawsuit that Uber’s alleged negligence makes the company liable for Christina Spicuzza’s wrongful death.

“Had Uber applied its driver background check procedures to passengers, used its massive data analysis capabilities to screen out dangerous passengers, permitted drivers to cancel suspicious fares without penalty, or simply provided basic safety features in Ms. Spicuzza’s Uber-approved rental car, these simple and effective measures—all readily available to Uber—could have saved Ms. Spicuzza’s life,” the lawsuit said. “Unfortunately, however, Uber knew the dangers its drivers faced from dangerous, unverified passengers like Mr. Crew, and chose to do nothing, evincing a conscious corporate attitude for ‘profits over people,’ leaving behind Ms. Spicuzza’s family to grieve her tragic and preventable death.”

The plaintiff alleged that Uber’s “failure” in at least three ways was a “direct and proximate” cause of Spicuzza’s death:

As a direct and proximate result of Uber’s failure (1) to screen out Mr. Crew or verify his identity before he entered Ms. Spicuzza’s vehicle; (2) to provide any relevant information to Christina Spicuzza about his criminal history, which would have allowed Ms. Spicuzza to make a decision that could have saved her life; and (3) to provide Ms. Spicuzza with basic safety features, Uber matched Ms. Spicuzza with a criminal who then held Ms. Spicuzza at gunpoint, forced her to beg for her life, robbed her, and shot her in the head, killing her.

The plaintiff seeks a jury trial in the civil case.

From all indications, Calvin Crew has yet to face a criminal trial, though in March it was reported that jury selection had begun in the death penalty case.

The following month, an article in the Tribune-Review discussed the trial judge’s qualms about seating death penalty juries.

Law&Crime reached out to the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office for clarification on the status of the case.

As for Uber, a company spokesperson said in a statement to Law&Crime that “No family should have to suffer such an unimaginable loss.”

“While we cannot comment on pending litigation, we are committed to the safety of drivers who utilize the Uber app. Over the years, we’ve introduced features and policies, designed with safety in mind, like the in-app Safety Toolkit, the ability to freeze rider accounts with fake names and requiring ID from riders in some circumstances,” the spokesperson said. “The safety of drivers is a high priority, and we’ll continue investing in safety features to raise the bar.”

The lawsuit asserted Uber “could easily fulfill” its duty to protect its drivers “by applying the same screening standards it currently applies to its drivers to its passengers, as well as verifying who is ordering the ride.”

“Currently, Uber collects driver history and criminal records (where allowed), license status, known aliases, prior addresses, and right to work information on their drivers, and verifies their identities for the protection of riders, but chooses to collect none of this information from its passengers despite the necessity for the safety and protection of its drivers,” the suit said. “It could also fulfill this duty by using its massive data collection and analysis capabilities to predict and screen out potentially dangerous users. Instead, Uber simply chooses not to do so.”

Read the lawsuit here.

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.