Uber facing lawsuit from dozens of women over sexual assaults by drivers

Up to 550 female customers from different parts of the United States have filed complaints against Uber, claiming that drivers on the site abused them.

According to a court document, the initial complaint asserts that Uber drivers have kidnapped, sexually assaulted, sexually battered, raped, falsely imprisoned, stalked, harassed, or otherwise attacked passengers while they were in their vehicles. The complaint was filed in San Francisco County Superior Court on Wednesday. For a long range of allegations, including carelessness in relation to recruiting and overseeing drivers, accountability for everything from the assaults to flawed product design, they are requesting damages and demanding a jury trial. According to the legal company, it represents around 550 people with accusations of sexual assault against Uber, and at least 150 more are now the subject of ongoing investigations.

According to the legal firm, “the lawsuits have been and will continue to be brought as multi-party complaints, which means they are not filed all at once as they would in a class action.”

So far, there have been twenty cases filed.

The complaint was filed only a few days after Mark McCann, a former Uber lobbyist, disclosed the Uber Files, a collection of 124,000 documents that included internal emails and text conversations between executives and lawmakers. The documents, which shed light on Uber’s inner workings from 2013 to 2017, indicate a history of illegal activity, lobbying, and abuse of driver safety.

Uber published its second U.S. Safety Report this month, revealing that there were 998 reported cases of sexual assault in 2020 alone, including 141 rape complaints. Uber received 3,824 complaints of the five most serious types of sexual assault between 2019 and 2020. In its first safety report, Uber identified almost 6,000 claims of sexual assault among its occurrences from 2017 to 2018.

According to the complaint filed against the firm, Uber “instead portrayed that Uber was a safe method of transportation” by purposefully hiding the fact that Uber drivers had been frequently sexually assaulting women since at least 2014.” Additionally, it charges Uber with purposefully creating a platform for sexual predators to locate and harass women without carrying out necessary background checks on the drivers or offering customers enough safety precautions. Additionally, Uber is charged with profiting financially from trips when women were subjected to sexual assault.

According to Adam Slater, founding partner of Slater Slater Schulman, “Uber’s whole business model is built on offering people a safe ride home, yet rider safety was never their focus — development was, at the cost of their passengers’ safety.” Although the firm has just addressed the sexual assault epidemic, its real reaction has been delayed and insufficient, leading to terrible outcomes.

The Uber Files include some unsettling information, one of which describes the company’s approach to dealing with assault in at least one instance overseas. In 2014, in Delhi, an Uber driver sexually assaulted a 25-year-old client. The business chose to “transfer culpability to weak Indian background checks.”

In the complaint filed on Wednesday, at least five women who were victims of sexual predators who worked for Uber between 2021 and 2022 make their accusations. According to the lawsuit, Uber’s focus on swiftly onboarding new drivers to support expansion resulted in subpar background checks.

According to a statement from the plaintiff’s attorneys, “For instance, former CEO Travis Kalanick intentionally chose to hire drivers without having their information checked against FBI databases or having their fingerprints taken, and Uber’s current CEO Dara Khosrowshahi continued this policy after he took over in August 2017.”

According to the attorneys handling the case, Uber has a long-standing policy of not informing law officials of any illegal activities. The business has maintained that its drivers are independent contractors, not employees, and that it is not liable for their actions despite several prior cases filed by women accusing the company’s drivers of sexual assault, including one that Uber paid in 2018. According to the legal firm filing the case against Uber, the company has not put video cameras in vehicles to dissuade wrongdoing and has maintained a “three strikes” policy for drivers, which has helped to keep predators behind the wheel even after major allegations.

Uber can do a lot more to safeguard its users, according to Slater, including installing cameras to prevent assaults, doing more thorough background checks on drivers, and developing a warning system for when a driver deviates from the route to a certain location. However, the business won’t, which is why my firm has 550 customers who have claims against Uber, and we’re looking into at least 150 more. It is insufficient to acknowledge the issue via safety reports. It is past time for Uber to act decisively to safeguard its clients.

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Uber, on the other hand, has released a number of safety features over the past few years, such as an emergency assistance button, a feature that records audio in the car, the ability to share location with a loved one, and a feature that recognises when a trip ends unexpectedly before reaching the final destination or when a driver diverges from the path.

Sexual assault is a terrible crime, and Uber takes every case seriously, a representative for the company told TechCrunch. “Security is paramount, which is why Uber has developed new safety measures, implemented survivor-centric policies, and increased its level of transparency on significant occurrences. Although we are unable to comment on ongoing litigation, safety will always be at the forefront of all we do.

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