Uber Must Turn Over Documents on Government Sexual Assault Investigation Into Drivers’ Misconduct

Magistrate judge says Uber unnecessarily delayed turning over a list of government sexual assault investigations to plaintiffs as required by the Court.

The U.S. District Judge presiding over all federal Uber sexual assault lawsuits brought by former passengers has given the rideshare service until Friday to turn over documents it gave to various government entities when they investigated allegations of sexual misconduct by Uber drivers.

The documents will be used as evidence in a growing number of claims now being pursued by former passengers, who allege they were sexually assaulted by Uber drivers due to the company’s disregard for safety and failure to take precautions to prevent predators from working as drivers through the ride share app.

Although Uber implemented “Safe Ride Fees” in 2014, plaintiffs maintain 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, according to the lawsuits.

More than 200 lawsuits have already been filed against the rideshare service by passengers, mostly women, nationwide, who say they were harassed, groped, or even abducted and raped by Uber drivers. However, it is ultimately expected that several thousand Uber lawsuits will be pursued in the coming years.

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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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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 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 sexual assault settlement negotiations to resolve the litigation.

Uber Sexual Assault Investigation Document Dispute

Early in the litigation process, plaintiffs have argued that Uber is failing to properly turn over government documents into sexual assault investigations. In particular, the plaintiffs requested that the court order that all Uber sexual assault investigation documents be provided from inquiries by the California Public Utilities Commission.

In addition, while Uber did turn over a list of investigations and documents from other government investigations into its drivers, plaintiffs say the company has withheld information on the existence of others, such as investigations by the San Francisco and Los Angeles District Attorneys.

In an order (PDF) issued on March 1, U.S. Magistrate Judge Lisa Cisneros required Uber to turn over all documents on the California investigation by March 8. However, the Court has asked plaintiffs to explain why the Los Angeles and San Francisco investigations are discoverable in a two-page response due by March 11, 2024.

The Court indicates that it cannot yet decide whether Uber must turn over documents on investigations of which the Court may yet be unaware, or may not fall under the umbrella of the litigation. However, Cisneros did note that Uber delayed turning over the list of investigations to plaintiffs, even when those documents were necessary to determining whether the company had fully complied with court orders.

“Uber should have provided this list earlier when Plaintiffs requested it or soon after. For the reasons detailed at the hearing, the Court rejects Uber’s assertion in its Opposition to the Motion to Enforce that it was not required to provide a list and that the information contained in its productions and a February 8, 2024 meet and confer letter to Plaintiffs sufficed to serve as a list.” Magistrate Cisneros wrote. “Now that Plaintiffs have Uber’s list, to the extent they contend that the list is incomplete, the parties must meet and confer to address that new issue.”

Magistrate Cisneros indicated that if there is still a dispute, Plaintiffs may file another motion to enforce.

March 2024 Uber Sexual Assault Lawsuit Update

Uber has faced claims that ignored sexual assaults by drivers for years, with a culture that prioritized profits over the safety of passengers, many of whom the company targeted with advertisements encouraged to rely on the service after nights out drinking.

Although Uber has argued that it is not responsible for the criminal acts committed by individual drivers connected with passengers through the platform, plaintiffs point to the overwhelming volume of complaints involving rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment that went unaddressed for years, while the company continued to expose vulnerable passengers to sexual predators.

In response to independent investigations, the the company released a report in December 2019, which outlined Uber driver sexual assault allegations raised by more than 6,000 riders between 2017 and 2018, including hundreds of rape cases. A second Uber report was released in July 2022, identifying another 3,824 incidents of sexual misconduct, assault and rape between 2019 and 2020.

Following coordinated general discovery in the Uber sexual assault lawsuits, it is expected that the court will select a small group of representative claims to go through case-specific discovery and be prepared for early trial dats, which will be used to gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout 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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