Lawsuit alleges Lyft failed to protect passengers from being sexually assaulted by drivers

Twenty women have sued ride hailing service company Lyft in San Francisco Superior Court, alleging the company platform has ignored complaints of sexual abuse, the women’s attorneys announced Wednesday.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the plaintiffs by law firm Estey and Bomberger, alleges instances of women being sexually assaulted in several cities across the country by their Lyft drivers. The suit goes on to claim that San Francisco-based Lyft failed to respond to subsequent complaints about the alleged assaults, and because it hasn’t adopted new policies to keep women safer, the mobile app has become a “haven for predators.”

One allegation claims a woman was raped by her Lyft driver in Los Angeles on Sept. 26. When her boyfriend, who was waiting for her to arrive home, witnessed part of the assault, he contacted police, who then arrested the driver, according to the suit.

In another allegation, on June 23, a woman in New York City said her driver raped her. She then reported the rape via the in-app feature and received an email stating that Lyft would contact her. The woman, however, never heard from Lyft, and just two days later, Lyft deactivated her account, the suit claims.

According to the women’s attorneys, they’re also handling a separate lawsuit, filed on behalf of 14 other victims in San Francisco Superior Court in September.

“During the last three months, Lyft has had ample opportunity to make changes to ensure the safety of female passengers,” attorney Mike Bomberger said in a statement. “But instead of protecting women, the company chose to invest in a costly public relations campaign with no regard to safety.”

“There is a corporate culture at Lyft that refuses to fix a known sexual assault problem. This sends a message to drivers that there is no accountability for sexual assaults,” he said.

In an email, a Lyft spokesperson said, “What these describe is something no one should ever have to endure. Everyone deserves the ability to move about the world safely, yet women still face disproportionate risks. We recognize these risks, which is why we are relentless in our work to build safety into every aspect of our work. That means continually investing in new features and policies to protect our riders and drivers.”

“In just the last few months, we’ve launched more than 15 new safety features—including daily continuous criminal background monitoring of all of our drivers, in-app emergency assistance to make reporting easier for riders, and mandatory feedback for rides rated less than four stars to ensure we are constantly tracking any level of problematic behavior by our drivers,” the company said.

“We’ve also partnered with RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, to roll out required sexual violence prevention education. Our work on safety is never done, and we will continue to invest in new features, protocols, and policies to ensure Lyft is the safest form of transportation for our riders and drivers,” the statement said. The suit is seeking unspecified damages for emotional distress and medical expenses.

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