Uber Opposes MDL for Ride Share Driver Sexual Abuse Lawsuits

Lawsuits against Uber each raise similar allegations that ride share drivers sexually assault passengers over the past few years, which plaintiffs indicate should be consolidated as part of a federal multidistrict litigation (MDL)

Although plaintiffs indicate that Uber may face thousands of lawsuits over ride share drivers sexually assaulting passengers, the company is opposing efforts to consoidate all pretrial proceedings in the federal court system, indicating that riders entered into a contractual agreement when they used the app, which prohibits centralization and coordination of claims.

There are currently at least 22 Uber sexual assault lawsuits pending against the company in 11 different judicial districts, each making similar allegations 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 Uber 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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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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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 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 Opposes Sexual Assault MDL

On August 18, Uber attorneys filed a brief in opposition (PDF) of consolidating the Uber lawsuits. The company claims that plaintiffs entered into a contractual agreement prohibiting such consolidation when they signed up for the rideshare service. In addition, the company claims individual issues would dominate each case, making centralization inefficient.

“Before any rider can use the Uber App, they must assent to Uber’s Terms of Use, which establish a ‘contractual relationship’ between Uber and each plaintiff,” the opposition brief states. “The Terms of Use provide that claims may be brought and litigated ‘on an individual basis only,’ not as a ‘collective, coordinated, consolidated, mass and/or representative action against Uber,’ and that ‘no action brought by you may be consolidated or joined in any fashion with any other proceeding.’”

Plaintiffs disagree, saying consolidation is legal and appropriate given the nature of the litigation.

“The number of assaults recognized by Defendants alone in just four out of the fourteen years Uber has been in operation supports consolidation,” according to a brief in support of consolidation (PDF) filed by plaintiff William Adorno on August 18. “Indeed, in 2019, Uber publicly admitted that it had a sexual-assault crisis occurring in its company and in a safety report revealed that 5,981 sexual assaults occurred during Uber trips in 2017 and 2018. Uber released another safety report in 2022 that revealed 3,824 sexual assaults during Uber trips in 2019 and 2020.”

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 tesitmony 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.

Image Credit: Image via 360b / Shutterstock.com

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