Exclusive: Elderly couple attacked by third-party delivery driver, Amazon insists it's not at fault

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Tuesday, February 8, 2022
Elderly couple attacked by delivery driver wants Amazon held liable
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CeFaan Kim speaks to an elderly couple that was attacked by a third-party delivery driver. The couple is suing Amazon, claiming the online retail giant should be held liable.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- An elderly couple that was attacked by a third-party delivery driver is suing Amazon, claiming the online retail giant should be held liable.

It was a vicious attack against a 79-year-old woman caught by a home security camera.

In an exclusive interview with Eyewitness News, Betty Coughlin and her husband, Michael, said it started when they arrived at their Staten Island home, and a van was blocking their driveway.

"Rolled down my window. Asked her to move, nothing but filth came out of her mouth," Michael said.

So then Betty gave it a try, but it didn't go well so she called the 800 number on the van's bumper to report the driver and that's when things turned physical.

"Cursing at me again, calling me every name in the book," Betty said. "I said 'your supervisor is on the phone, he can hear you.' And that's when she threw me to the ground."

Michael then came to his wife's defense and got punched in his face.

Betty suffered a partially torn rotator cuff, biceps, and hamstring, among other injuries in the May 2018 attack.

That driver was charged with felony assault and pleaded guilty.

She was delivering packages for Amazon but worked for a third-party vendor called Same Day Delivery or SDD.

SDD terminated the driver, but the Coughlins say Amazon should be liable too.

"Amazon requires the SDD employees to wear Amazon uniforms, to have branding of the Amazon logo and insignia on the vans, the 800 number that Mrs. Coughlin called in was answered by Amazon. There's just connections to Amazon permeating the entire relationship," the couple's attorney Michael Gervasi said.

Gervasi said Amazon has argued this is on SDD, so the Coughlins are now in appellate court trying to make their case.

"Amazon controls everything that SDD does. It exerts an extraordinary amount of control over how SDD delivers Amazon's products. Yet when an incident like this happens, especially in this case for the Coughlins, Amazon then builds this wall in front of them and says 'well you can't hold us liable because of our contractual relationship to SDD,'" Gervasi said.

Dmitriy Shakhnevich, an independent attorney and Adjunct Professor John Jay College not affiliated with this case, says the Coughlins would have a stronger argument if their injuries were the result of an accident.

"It's very hard to say that the driver had some propensity for violence unless there is something in the person's background," Shakhnevich said.

In the meantime, the Coughlins say they still lie in bed, and see flashbacks of the attack, as if it were yesterday.

"I close my eyes and I can see her right in my face and it was scary. I never had a fight with anybody," Betty said.

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