Lyft has been hit with a mass tort complaint filed by 19 plaintiffs who claim the ride-hailing company has failed to address a “sexual predator crisis” perpetrated by its drivers. According to the case filed in California superior court, Lyft has been aware since at least 2015 that “many thousands” of women have been sexually assaulted or raped by drivers yet has attempted to “hide and conceal” the extent of the problem from both the public and female passengers.
The lawsuit claims the company’s “appallingly inadequate” response to the alleged crisis stems from a corporate-driven prioritization of “profits over passenger safety.” According to the case, the company’s business model is rooted in recruiting new drivers and retaining as many current Lyft drivers as possible, even when they’re the subject of accusations of sexual abuse. The plaintiffs charge that Lyft has failed to implement stricter driver screening processes and supervision because such would negatively impact its bottom line.
“The key to Lyft’s business model is getting as many new Lyft drivers on the road as possible,” the complaint reads. “The more Lyft drivers and Lyft rides equals more money Lyft makes. Unfortunately, more careful screening and supervision would result in fewer drivers and lower profits.”
Lyft drivers, the suit alleges, are hired “without any real screening” after filling out an online form and passing a name-based background check that the case describes as “designed for speed, not safety.” The result, according to the case, is that drivers with criminal backgrounds or a history of sexual misconduct are hired by Lyft, and some are allowed to continue driving even after becoming the subject of allegations of sexual assault.
The lawsuit goes on to claim that Lyft has failed to implement even “the most basic and rudimentary procedures” to protect female passengers from sexual assault and respond to reported incidents. When a passenger calls to report sexual assault or rape, she is met with either an automated message or “untrained operators” who are unable to properly respond to trauma, the case alleges. According to the complaint, women who report sexual assault to Lyft are not instructed to call the police but are instead told that the company will conduct an “investigation,” which the suit says merely involves following up with the rider and driver and checking to see if the driver has any previous complaints against him. Lyft allegedly does not have a mandatory reporting policy in place that requires the company to inform the police of reported sexual assault allegations. Some of the plaintiffs even claim their accounts were deactivated and their complaints erased after reporting sexual assault to Lyft.
Furthermore, the lawsuit argues that when victims contact the police, Lyft has a practice of “stonewalling” law enforcement instead of aiding in the investigation. The case claims Lyft refuses to cooperate with police until a court order or search warrant is authorized, which delays or hinders detectives’ progress.
Despite Lyft’s claim that “safety is our top priority,” the company has failed to take adequate steps to protect passenger safety and has instead attempted to cover up the “staggering” number of rape and assault allegations levied against its drivers, the suit argues. The plaintiffs’ counsel claims Lyft has refused to take action even after asimilar suitwas filed against the company in September, allowing some of the plaintiffs in this case to be sexually assaulted during the three months since the last lawsuit was filed.
Both lawsuits detail “simple steps” Lyft could have taken to ensure the safety of its passengers, including adopting a “zero-tolerance policy for improper conduct,” implementing a surveillance camera within the Lyft app that can record audio and video during each ride, sending a warning alert to drivers when they drive off course and demanding a reason for the deviation, and modifying the app so that Lyft can determine when a driver fails to meet these protocols.
All told, the lawsuit claims Lyft and its officers and directors were fully aware of the dangers faced by female passengers yet wholly failed to provide warning or ensure their protection.
“Notwithstanding Lyft’s history of hiring sexual predators who have assaulted Lyft passengers, and notwithstanding the obvious and open subculture of Lyft drivers who harbor a sexual motivation for driving female passengers, Lyft does nothing to warn its female passengers about this very serious and real danger,” the complaint scathes.
The case was filed by 13 pseudonymous plaintiffs, one of whom is the husband of an accuser, and six named women who say they were victims of sexual assault or rape at the hands of a Lyft driver. The suit notes that some of the accused drivers have since been arrested, with at least one being sentenced to prison.