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Lyft is Hiding a ‘Sexual Predator Crisis’ – More Lawsuits

Posted on in Personal Injury

Cook County personal injury attorney for Lyft sexual assaultLyft is facing waves of lawsuits alleging that the ride hailing giant has failed to adequately protect its passengers and has ineffectively responded to reports of sexual assault. On Wednesday, September 4th, 2019, a lawsuit was filed in California state court on behalf of 14 women who say they were raped or sexually assaulted by their Lyft drivers in 2018 and 2019. The ride-hailing giant was more recently hit with five additional lawsuits filed by women who allege that they have been raped or sexually assaulted. These women are not alone – Lyft received nearly 100 complaints of sexual assault against its drivers in California alone between 2014 and 2016. 

The suit alleges that Lyft often fails to report these crimes to police, and it has adopted policies to silence victims who report their experiences. “Lyft has made a concerted effort in the media, in litigation and in criminal cases to hide and conceal the true extent of sexual assaults that occur in their vehicles,” the complaint says. 

One victim, a 33-year-old mother of five who suffers from blindness, relied on Lyft to get her safely to and from the grocery store. She was raped in her home after her driver carried her grocery bags inside, despite her protests. She reported her assault to Lyft and was asked to share details of the assault with a male representative. She stated, “It felt like I was being assaulted again.” Lyft sent a follow-up email in which the employee merely wrote that he was “so sorry to hear about this awful experience” and could “definitely understand why this made you feel unsafe and uncomfortable.” 

Another victim alleges that she was held at gunpoint and gang-raped after her driver took her off the designated route to a separate location. Shockingly, the accused driver was able to change his name and photo within the app and continue to drive for Lyft. "Lyft was put on notice that [the driver] was a dangerous, armed, sexual predator, yet it nonetheless allowed [the driver] to continue driving for Lyft…endangering countless other passengers who take Lyft with the expectation of a safe ride home," the suit alleges.

Other victims also shared their feelings on the inadequacy of Lyft’s responses to their reports. One victim stated, “I just felt so insignificant. That they're not concerned about not only my well-being…but any of their customers’ well-being.” In addition to these impersonal responses, only one of the 14 women in the California lawsuit was told by Lyft that her driver had been removed by the company. 

Image vs. Reality

Since its inception in 2012, Lyft has seen immense growth in part because it markets itself as a socially conscious alternative to Uber that is safe for female passengers. However, these ad campaigns are not supported by reality. “Lyft knew from the outset that sexual assault was going to be a problem, especially because they have vulnerable passengers who have been drinking,” said the California plaintiffs’ lead attorney Stephen Estey, an advocate for victims.

Both of the lawsuits allege that Lyft has been reluctant to implement new safety features for its app and conduct adequate background checks for its drivers. In 2018, Uber launched an in-app emergency button that customers can use to quickly call 911. Lyft has only recently introduced a similar feature, but it is presently not available to the entire customer network. 

The suits offer simple solutions that Lyft can use to keep passengers safe, “including by recording audio and video inside the cars, banning drivers who turn off the app midtrip, and sending messages to both the driver and the passenger when a ride veers off course.” One California woman says she was raped after a driver held her hostage and drove her around for 5 hours. She asserts that if Lyft had cameras in their cars, it might have prevented the incident altogether. 

Lyft has also encountered immense criticism for its failure to cooperate with law enforcement. The company is not a mandatory reporter and is not required to report allegations of misconduct. When law enforcement does get involved, “the cooperation Lyft gives to police is sketchy at best,” according to one of the attorneys that filed the California suit. Lyft requires a valid subpoena, court order, or search warrant before providing any information to police. In the case of the blind 33-year-old mother who was raped in her home, Lyft’s email to her also included a line stating, “Lyft is happy to cooperate with any information police may need…as long as they can provide a subpoena or formal legal order” (emphasis added). Prosecutors declined to prosecute her claim, citing a lack of evidence.  

Tomasik Kotin Kasserman is attacking the constitutionality of the Illinois Rideshare Act in the Illinois Appellate Court on behalf of a woman who was sexually assaulted by a Lyft driver. If you have been assaulted or otherwise injured by a Lyft or Uber driver, TKK can help you understand your options for pursuing compensation from a negligent ride-sharing company. Contact us at 312-605-8800 to schedule a free consultation.

Sources:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/investigations/2019/09/04/lyft-rape-sexual-assault-lawsuit-crisis/2165119001/

https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/amberjamieson/lyft-sued-sexual-assault-drivers

https://www.cnn.com/2019/09/17/tech/lyft-hit-by-five-more-sexual-assault-cases/index.html

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