Uber Driver Background Check Failures Allowed Sexual Predator To Assault Rideshare Customer: Lawsuit
A California woman says she was sexually assaulted by an Uber driver who was still allowed to work for the rideshare service, despite a criminal record and previous sexual harassment complaints from passengers.
The complaint (PDF) was filed by a woman identified only as M.F.A. on September 27 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, naming Uber Technologies Inc. and Raiser, LLC, as defendants.
M.F.A. joins a growing number of users of the rideshare service who have filed similar Uber sexual assault lawsuits in recent months, each alleging that Uber driver background checks fail to discover facts that should lead the company to know they are sexual predators.
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 Uber 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, M.F.A., of San Pedro, California, indicates she used the Uber app in June when she was sexually assaulted by the driver.
The Uber driver began by asking her questions of a sexual nature, then drove her down the wrong road, pulled over, and forced her to perform oral sex on him, the lawsuit states.
But the lawsuit indicates Uber knew, or should have known, that the driver was a danger to passengers. Not only did the driver have a criminal history, but also had a record of “one-star” ratings from passengers, which included complaints of sexual misconduct, such as comments, gestures and touching, and even reports of sexual assaults.
According to M.F.A.’s lawsuit, Uber failed either to do a basic criminal background check or even a review of complaints from its own passengers, or simply ignored the information in order to maximize profits. The lawsuit notes the driver had even received one or more “strikes” in Uber’s own records, related to sexual misconduct, but passengers had no access to this information and were not warned.
“Uber knew or should have known of the Uber driver’s propensity to engage in sexual harassment, battery, sexual assault, and/or to otherwise attack riders such as Plaintiff,” the lawsuit states. “Nonetheless, Uber continued to employ the Uber driver and to dispatch him as an Uber driver to pick up passengers, including Plaintiff.”
Her lawsuit presents claims of general negligence, negligent hiring, retention, and supervision, failure to warn, design defect, intentional misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and liability for the driver’s actions, including sexual assault, and false imprisonment. She seeks both compensatory and punitive damages.
October 2023 Uber Sexual Assault Lawsuit Update
Given nearly identical allegations raised in a growing number of complaints filed throughout the federal court system, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) decided to centralize all Uber sexual assault cases before one judge on October 4, transferring claims to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.
Survivors of sexual assaults by Uber drivers joined together to initiate the request in July 2023, indicating that each of the claims involve similar questions of fact and law about the adequacy of Uber driver background checks and sexual assault precautions taken by the company. Plaintiffs maintained that consolidation was necessary to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings from different courts and promote judicial efficiencies.
Although Uber opposed the motion, indicating that it should be permitted to continue defending the cases in various different federal district courts nationwide, the JPML disagreed and assigned the litigation to U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer last week.
As part of the coordinated management of the Uber driver sexual assault lawsuits, the parties will coordinate discovery into common issues that arise in each of the claims, including the failure to conduct adequate Uber driver background checks or take simple measures that could have prevented rideshare customers from being exposed to sexual predators. It is also expected that the court will schedule a series of early bellwether trials to gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the claims.
If the parties fail to negotiate Uber sexual assault settlements during the coordinated MDL proceedings, Judge Breyer may later remand each claim back to the U.S. District Court where it was originally filed for a separate trial date in the future.
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