Despite Supposed Safeguards, Report Indicates Uber and Lyft Are Being Used in Sex Trafficking of Minors

The FBI issued a warning in 2022 about the increasing use of Uber and Lyft rideshare services to deliver children to adults for sexual exploitation, yet little has been done to prevent the sex trafficking of minors

A new investigative report by NBC News reveals that Uber and Lyft rideshare services are still being widely used to sexually traffic minors, with even federal law enforcement warning that the apps are being used to “facilitate child abduction.”

According to the report, NBC News investigators searched criminal court records and lawsuits, finding that at least 10 incidents of cases where adults hired Uber or Lyft drivers to deliver teens or children to them for sexual purposes.

The revelations come as both rideshare services, particularly Uber, face an increasing number of rideshare sexual assault lawsuits by passengers, mostly women, who say they were harassed, groped, or even abducted and raped by drivers. That litigation involves allegations that both Uber and Lyft placed a desire for profits before the safety of passengers, by conducting only cursory background checks and failed to take steps that could have prevented sexual predators from working as drivers. However, it also appears the companies have failed to take steps to prevent Uber and Lyft rides being used in sex trafficking of minors.

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Uber Sexual Assault Lawsuits

A lack of passenger safety features and cursory background checks for drivers have resulted in an alarming number of rapes and sexual assaults by Uber drivers. Lawyers provide free consultations and claim evaluations.

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The NBC report notes that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) first issued an Uber and Lyft child sex trafficking warning in 2022.

“While these incidents are rare, the FBI is providing notification due to the high impact of such events,” the FBI warned. “Further, during the COVID-19 pandemic, it appeared these actors believed rideshare services afforded more privacy from potential witnesses than traditional modes of transportation, with mask and social distancing requirements enhancing secrecy.”

The news report indicates that several of the instances where adults ordered Uber or Lyft rides for children, with the purpose of sexually abusing or exploiting them, were in fact dealing with undercover agents.

Six of the reported instances involved Uber drivers, while four involved drivers working for Lyft. Three of those instances have led to lawsuits against Lyft. One lawsuit was settled and the other two are still pending.

The companies claim they have tried to put in place practices to prevent exploitation, including a battery of new Uber safety features announced by the rideshare service last month. However, critics maintain that the companies are still not doing everything that could be done.

May 2024 Uber Sexual Assault Lawsuit Update

In the case of assaults against women, given common questions of fact and law raised in complaints filed in various different federal courts, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) consolidated all Uber driver sexual assault lawsuits in October 2023, centralizing the litigation before U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer in the Northern District of California, as part of an MDL or multidistrict litigation.

As part of the coordinated pretrial proceedings, Judge Breyer is presiding over the exchange of discovery into common issues that impact all claims, and is expected to select a small group of claims that will be prepared for a series of early trial dates, which may drive future Uber driver assault settlement negotiations to resolve the litigation.

While the outcome of any bellwether trials in the MDL will not be binding on other claims, average Uber sexual assault lawsuit payouts awarded by juries may influence later settlement agreements. If no Uber sexual assault lawsuit settlement is reached, each individual claim may be remanded back to the U.S. District Court where it was originally filed for a future trial date.

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