Uber Assault Lawsuit Consolidation to Be Considered By JPML in Late September
A panel of federal judges has agreed to hear oral arguments next month over whether all Uber sexual assault lawsuits filed in U.S. District Courts nationwide should be consolidated before one judge, for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.
There are currently at least 22 Uber assault lawsuits pending against the rideshare company in 11 different judicial districts, each making similar allegations that plaintiffs were sexually assaulted by Uber drivers. The complaints claim Uber has failed to take appropriate safety precautions that could have prevented sexual predators from targeting Uber passengers on a regular basis.
Although Uber implemented “Safe Ride Fees” in 2014, the lawsuits 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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Last month, 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 rideshare passengers who were also sexually assaulted or harassed, each raising common questions of fact and law against Uber.
The plaintiffs argue consolidation is necessary to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings from different courts and promote judicial efficiencies.
Uber has not yet responded to the motion, or provided it’s stance on whether the claims should be centralized, but is expected to file a brief by August 18, 2023.
On August 11, the JPML issued a Notice of Hearing Session (PDF), announcing that the panel will hear oral arguments over whether the cases should be consolidated, and if so, where. The hearing is scheduled for September 28 at the University of Kentucky J. David Rosenberg College of Law, in Lexington, Kentucky.
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 settlements for the Uber assault lawsuits 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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