Uber and Lyft Sexual Assault Lawsuits

Mobile app Uber and Lyft - lawsuit concept

Rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft are immensely popular, especially in big cities like San Francisco. In 2017 and 2018, Americans hailed more than 2.3 billion rides from Uber drivers. However, some of those billions of rides have turned for the worst, resulting in unwanted touching, sexual assault, and even rape. Now, both companies face sexual assault lawsuits about how they protected their riders’ safety. Here’s what you need to know if you are a victim, and how you can get help.

Safety Report Reveals Uber Drivers’ Sexual Assaults, Rapes, and More

In late 2019, Uber voluntarily released a “safety report” summarizing statistics for assaults, rapes, and even deaths related to use of the company’s rideshare app in 2017 and 2018. The report revealed 5,981 allegations of serious sexual assault:

Type of Sexual Assault

2017

2018

Nonconsensual touching of a sexual body part

1,440

1,560

Nonconsensual kissing of a nonsexual body part

570

594

Nonconsensual kissing of a sexual body part

390

376

Attempted nonconsensual sexual penetration (attempted rape)

307

280

Nonconsensual sexual penetration (rape)

229

235

Total Sexual Assaults

2,936

3,045

The data included assaults involving at least one person using the app (driver or rider) at the time of the alleged or assault, or those that occurred within 48 hours after being paired for ridesharing through the app. Among those complaints, 56% were made by a rider and 54% accused the driver. More than 20% of all the Uber sexual assault complaints happened in California.

The increasing numbers occurred in spite of Uber’s 2018 rollout of new safety tools. For example, “Ride Check” which flags long rides or unexpected stops and sends notifications to make sure the stops were requested. There is also now an emergency button in the app that will contact 911, providing the dispatcher with the car’s location, license plate, make, and model. However, the company also continues to resist pressure to impose stricter background checks for their drivers and other safety measures that could reduce future complaints.

San Francisco Court Consolidates Lyft Assault Cases into Complex Litigation

At the same time, Lyft has also been in court -- this time against private citizens suing the company for sexual assault committed by its drivers. In February 2020, a California Superior Court Judge consolidated 15 cases into a single “complex” coordinated rideshare sexual assault lawsuit. The lawsuit will go forward in the Superior Court of California San Francisco County -- the county with jurisdiction over Lyft’s headquarters.

As a consolidated case, the Lyft sexual assault lawsuit will allow riders from all over the country to bring their claims of sexual harassment, abuse, and rape before a single judge. In many of these cases, no one contests that the sexual assault happened. Instead the question is whether Lyft did enough to screen out abusive drivers and respond to complaints against them. The opinion said:

"The court agrees with plaintiffs that this is not a case against the drivers; it is fundamentally a case against Lyft."

By coordinating the testimony and discovery in these sex abuse cases, the court hopes to avoid duplicating testimony and inconsistent rulings by civil judges across the country. The judge assigned to the consolidated case will also be able to address Lyft’s attempts to slow and avoid discovery in a way that will make important internal documents and policies available to all Lyft’s sexual assault survivors.

What to Do if You are a Victim of Lyft or Uber Sexual Abuse

If you are among the thousands of women and men who fell victim to a rideshare driver’s sexual assault, it’s not too late to get help. The consolidation order in the Lyft sexual assault lawsuit allows the trial judge to add in additional petitions that are filed later. At the time the order was entered there were already 100 potential add-on cases. Yours could be one of them.

Uber’s safety report and the California investigation into its findings also make it easier to file a sexual assault lawsuit against Uber. While both companies claim to be doing more to screen drivers and protect rider safety, they still must be held accountable for their failure to act sooner. Uber’s own data shows that the company has put profits before riders’ safety. Even though the drivers are the one criminally responsible for the assault, as companies, Uber and Lyft must do more to screen against opportunistic drivers using their system as a tool to find vulnerable -- often intoxicated -- victims, and respond to riders’ complaints when something goes wrong.

You don’t have to navigate the complex legal issues around sexual assault during a rideshare alone. At ADZ Law, LLP, we have been advocating on behalf of sexual assault survivors in San Mateo and San Francisco counties for years. We know the court systems and won’t back down in the face of large corporations or complex litigation. Our attorneys bring thoughtful and empathetic advocacy to all our clients, helping them to get justice when a software company, employer, or rideshare business ignores their complaints. We will help you be compensated for your experience, while maintaining your dignity and respecting your rights. We invite you to contact ADZ Law, LLP to schedule a consultation to learn more about how we can help.

Categories: Sexual Assault

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