Lawsuit Against Uber Alleges Rideshare Service Fails to Protect Customers From Sexual Assaults
Uber faces a lawsuit brought by eight women from across the United States, each claiming they were attacked by the rideshare service’s drivers because the company failed to put proper safety measures in place to protect its customers from sexual assaults.
The complaint (PDF) was filed in California Superior Court in San Francisco on September 15, by eight women identified only as Jane Doe LS numbers 382 through 389. The lawsuit names Uber Technologies, Inc. and Rasier, LLC as defendants.
These plaintiffs join a growing number of users of the rideshare service who have filed similar Uber sexual assault lawsuits in recent months, each alleging that the company failed to take appropriate safety precautions that could have prevented sexual predators working as ride share drivers from targeting Uber passengers on a regular basis.
Although Uber implemented “Safe Ride Fees” in 2014, the sexual assault lawsuits against Uber indicate that the company never used that money to actually make its passengers safer, providing only cursory background checks for drivers. The company also failed to provide surveillance cameras inside of cars, did not allow passengers to make requests regarding the gender of drivers, and failed to train drivers on issues of sexual assault and harassment.
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In this latest lawsuit, filed in the same city as Uber’s corporate headquarters, plaintiffs indicate Uber has known about the sexual assaults for years, but has failed to respond adequately to the problem, even after the “Safe Ride Fees” were put into place.
“While Uber has in recent years publicly acknowledged this sexual assault crisis in recent years, including the publication of Uber’s U.S. Safety Report in December 2019, Uber’s response to this sexual predator crisis amongst Uber drivers has been appallingly inadequate. Uber continues to hire drivers without performing adequate background checks. Uber continues to allow culpable drivers to keep driving for Uber. And, perhaps most importantly, Uber has failed to adopt and implement reasonable driving monitoring procedures designed to protect the safety of its passengers,” the lawsuit states. “As a consequence, Uber passengers continue to be the victims of sexual assaults and rapes by Uber drivers.”
The lawsuit contains accounts of the attacks endured by the plaintiffs, ranging from one incident where a driver locked the doors and made unwanted sexually explicit comments and exposed himself before sexually assaulting his passenger; to cases where drivers outright kidnapped women, driving them to a secluded destination and raping them.
The lawsuit claims Uber fraudulently markets itself as a safe, alternative form of transportation, and even promotes itself as a safe way for those drinking to get home. However, this and similar lawsuits filed in recent months note that this leaves passengers even more vulnerable to sexually predatory drivers; a problem Uber has done little to fix, they claim.
The lawsuit presents claims of general negligence, common carrier negligence, negligence by misfeasance, and negligence by nonfeasance.
September 2023 Uber Sexual Assault Lawsuit Update
In July, a group of plaintiffs filed a motion with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML), asking it to consolidate all Uber assault lawsuits before one federal judge for pretrial proceedings in the Northern District of California.
The motion indicates there may eventually be thousands of lawsuits filed by individuals who were also sexually assaulted or harassed by Uber drivers, each raising common questions of fact and law against the rideshare company. Plaintiffs argue consolidation is necessary to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings from different courts and promote judicial efficiencies.
On August 11, the JPML issued a Notice of Hearing Session indicating it will hear oral arguments over Uber sexual assault lawsuit consolidation on September 28. Uber has opposed consolidation of the claims, indicating that it wants to defend each of the lawsuits separately, even though they each raise nearly identical allegations.
If an MDL is established, each individual claim would be transferred to one U.S. District Judge for pretrial proceedings and a series of bellwether trial designed to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the litigation. However, if Uber sexual assault settlements are not reached to resolve large numbers of claims, each individual lawsuit may later be returned back to the U.S. District Court where it was originally filed for trial.
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