More Than 200 Uber Driver Assault Lawsuits Already Pending in Recently Established MDL
As a rapidly growing number of Uber driver assault lawsuits continue to be filed in a federal MDL that was just established in October 2023, the rideshare service has asked the U.S. District Judge appointed to preside over the pretrial proceedings to set a cut off date for new complaints to be brought.
Each of the claims raise similar allegations, indicating that Uber disregarded the safety of passengers by failing to take appropriate safety measures or conduct adequate background checks to prevent sexual predators from working as Uber drivers. As a result, former passengers who were sexually assaulted by Uber drivers now seek financial compensation from the rideshare service, claiming that their attacks could have been prevented.
Given common questions of fact and law raised in complaints originally brought in various different U.S. District Courts nationwide, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) decided to consolidate and centralize the Uber driver assault lawsuits late last year, transferring all claims to U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer in the Northern District of California, for coordinated management as part of a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL).
According to court records, there are already more than 200 lawsuits against Uber pending in the MDL. However, it is ultimately expected that hundreds, if not thousands of additional lawsuits will be added in the coming months, as sexual assault lawyers continue to investigate and review claims.
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Limits on Filing New Uber Driver Sexual Assault Lawsuits Proposed
Shortly after the U.S. JPML determined that an MDL was necessary to reduce duplicative discovery in various different cases and avoid conflicting pretrial rulings, Uber asked Judge Breyer to pause all proceedings in the driver sexual assault lawsuits, while it pursued a writ of mandamus with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, seeking to disband the MDL.
Uber maintains that the coordinated pretrial proceedings never should have been established, since the cases rely on individual assaults that occurred due to the actions of third party drivers, with different state laws applying to each claim.
While awaiting the outcome of that appeal, Uber is now asking Judge Breyer to establish an early cutoff date for any new Uber assault lawsuits to be filed in the MDL, to encourage lawyers to file claims that remain under investigation, so that the parties can better understand the scope of the MDL.
In a Joint Case Management Conference Statement (PDF) submitted to the Court on January 15, the sides outlined their respective positions on this request, which will be discussed at a status conference scheduled for Friday, January 19, 2024.
Plaintiffs oppose the request to establish a cut off for new claims, indicating that it is premature and should not come “mere weeks after the Court entered an initial scheduling order.”
While the court does not have the power to mandate that plaintiffs file their lawsuits against Uber by a certain date, as long as additional time remains on the individual statute of limitations for the claim, the rideshare company maintains that Judge Breyer does have broad discretion to limit the cases that will be included in the MDL proceedings.
“Arbitrarily capping the MDL now would defeat the purpose of centralization itself efficient resolution of many, if not most, cases involving common questions of fact,” according to the position statement submitted by plaintiffs.
January 2024 Uber Sexual Assault Lawsuit Update
As part of the coordinated pretrial proceedings in the MDL, it is expected Judge Breyer will establish a bellwether process, where a small group of representative claims are prepared for early trial dates, to help gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be presented throughout a larger number of claims.
While the outcome of any bellwether trials in the MDL will not be binding on other claims, average lawsuit payouts awarded by juries may influence Uber sexual assault settlement negotiations the company may enter to avoid each individual claim being remanded back to the U.S. District Court where it was originally filed for a future trial date.
According to the Joint Statement submitted this week, the parties worked together to submit a list of two potential candidates to serve as a Special Master in the MDL, to work with the parties and help promote potential Uber driver assault settlements that may resolve individual claims or groups of claims early in the litigation.
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