Uber’s Motions to Dismiss Driver Sexual Assault Lawsuits To Be Considered By MDL Judge

Six motions seeking to dismiss Uber driver sexual assault lawsuits were filed by the rideshare service, claiming women attacked by drivers had failed to adequately file legitimate claims against the company.

The U.S. District Judge presiding over all Uber driver sexual assault lawsuits will receive briefing over the next thirty days to consider several motions to dismiss filed by the rideshare service, which seeks to have cases thrown out early in the litigation.

There are currently more than 200 lawsuits filed against the rideshare service by passengers, mostly women, who say they were harassed, groped, or even abducted and raped by Uber drivers. However, it is ultimately expected that several thousand Uber driver assault lawsuits will be pursued in the coming years.

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.

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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 lawsuits over Uber driver assaults 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.

Uber Files Motions to Dismiss Driver Assault Claims

However, before Judge Breyer can oversee Uber bellwether trials, the company is seeking to have a number of different categories of claims thrown out of court. On April 1, the company’s lawyers submitted a letter to Judge Breyer indicating that it has filed six motions to dismiss Uber driver sexual assault lawsuits due to failures to state a claim.

Five of the motions seek to dismiss claims brought under the laws of five specific states, including California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas. However, the company notes that some of reasons dismissal of those lawsuits are based on an Uber class action settlement reached in a previous lawsuit, as well as state unfair competition laws.

In addition, Uber filed a sixth motion to dismiss an individual action filed in Maryland federal court, but which involved allegations of an assault that occurred in the United Araba Emirates.

In response, Judge Breyer filed a court order (PDF) on April 4, requiring plaintiffs to file response briefs to the dismissal motions by April 30. Uber will then file any replies to plaintiffs’ responses by May 14, and Judge Breyer indicates that a hearing on the motions will be set at a later date.

April 2024 Uber Sexual Assault Lawsuit Update

Uber has faced claims that it 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 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, and presuming the cases survive the latest motions to have them dismissed, 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.

Image Credit: Image via 360b / Shutterstock.com

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