Rideshare services like Lyft are supposed to offer safe, efficient, and cost-effective rides to those who request them. Whether a person needs to get across town because their car is in the shop, taking a taxi would be too expensive, or someone is getting home responsibly after a night out at the bar, rideshare drivers have a responsibility to take passengers to their requested location. Some drivers, however, are committing heinous acts of sexual assault.
According to an article published by USA TODAY, a lawsuit has been filed against Lyft, claiming the company is mishandling a “sexual predator crisis.” The case was filed on September 4, 2019 and involves 14 women who say they were sexually assaulted by Lyft drivers in 2018 and 2019.
Allegations Against Lyft Drivers
The allegations against Lyft drivers include sexual assault, rape, and kidnapping. A number of the women involved decided to take legal actions as a result of how Lyft handled their reports and safety, which have been deemed “appallingly inadequate” by the lawsuit.
Two women who shared a Lyft ride home accused their driver of molesting them during the drive. Another claims she was raped by her Lyft driver who followed her back to her hotel room. After, he stole her phone and added a $25 tip to the ride.
Gladys Arce, who claims to have been held hostage for five hours after she was picked up, says the driver ended her trip one mile from her home on October 28, 2019. Instead of dropping her off, he drove around the Los Angeles areas. Appearing to be on drugs, he alternated between telling her he loved her and warning that he had “done evil stuff” to other people. As morning neared, he raped her and took her home after listening to her pleadings.
Arce went to the police the next day. Detectives told her not to contact Lyft, as they would take care of it. The police matched the driver’s DNA to a sample taken from a rape kit, but they did not plan to prosecute because the driver claimed the contact was consensual. At the time, the driver was still operating for Lyft, but a spokeswoman from Lyft recently said the man was removed. Now, Arce is taking matters into her own hands by being apart of the lawsuit.
The Lawsuit Against Lyft
The lawsuit against Lyft focuses on the company’s failings to use its own technology to protect passengers and inadequately respond to reports of sexual abuse. Five of the 14 women involved in the lawsuit say they were raped, including a woman who is blind. Of those 14 women, only one says she was told by Lyft that her driver was removed from the app. According to Lyft, seven other drivers were permanently deactivated.
While Lyft promotes itself as a socially conscious alternative to Uber and a safe option for female passengers, the company has been noted to be behind the curve of implementing safety measures. For example, while Uber launched an emergency button in May 2018, Lyft representatives claim all users will have access to an in-app emergency button that can call 911 sometime in September or October 2019.
Lyft was also a year behind Uber when it instituted continual background checks of drivers, as opposed to completing them annually. While Uber removed 30,000 U.S. drives since implementing their upgraded background system, Lyft declined to say how many drivers their new system has removed.
According to attorney Steven Estey of Estey Bomberger, Lyft has tried to cover up the extent of the sexual abuse problem by internalizing investigations and stonewalling law enforcement. The lawsuit claims the company has gone as far as not complying with subpoenas.
Lyft is not a mandated reporter, so the company is not legally required to report allegations of sexual assault to law enforcement. According to company policy regarding law enforcement requests, the company requires a valid subpoena, court order, or search warrant to provide information to police. Law enforcement can only request information when a case involves “immediate threat of death or serious bodily harm to a person.”
Those who have reported instances of rape or assault to the company directly have been met with impersonal, automated responses.
Protect Your Rights
If you’ve been assaulted by a rideshare driver it can be difficult to come forward with allegations. The Rideshare Law Group is dedicated to helping victims of rideshare accidents, assaults, or neglect. If you need legal advice, contact our office today.