Lyft is the defendant in a proposed mass tort brought by 14 pseudonymous plaintiffs who allege the ride-hailing company’s response to the “sexual predator crisis” in which it’s reportedly embroiled has been “appallingly inadequate.”
Filed in San Francisco County Superior Court, the lawsuit alleges that Lyft has wholly failed to implement “the most basic and rudimentary procedures” for investigating sexual assaults that occur within its drivers’ vehicles despite becoming aware as far back as 2015 that some of its drivers were sexually assaulting and raping female passengers. Moreover, Lyft, according to the case, has made a concerted effort to conceal from the public the “staggering number of reported rapes and sexual assaults that occur” within its vehicles, not to mention subsequent litigation and criminal cases.
“Since 2015, sexual predators driving for Lyft have continued to assault and rape Lyft’s female passengers,” the complaint states. “For four years, Lyft has known of the ongoing sexual assaults and rapes by Lyft drivers on Lyft customers. Complaints to Lyft by female customers who have been attacked by Lyft drivers, combined with subsequent criminal investigations by law enforcement, clearly establish that Lyft has been fully aware of these continuing attacks by sexual predators driving for Lyft.”
With regard to working with law enforcement to investigate reported driver assaults, the suit charges that Lyft’s corporate decision-makers have chosen to “stonewall” authorities behind a policy of keeping reports of assaults and rape behind company doors.
Rather than put in place stronger security measures to combat the reported sexual assault and rape problem, Lyft continues to hire drivers without first performing adequate background checks or even in-person or video interviews, the lawsuit goes on. What’s more, Lyft allegedly allows drivers who are the subject of rape and sexual assault complaints to continue to drive for the company. More troubling, however, is Lyft’s apparent failure to roll out reasonable driver monitoring procedures to protect passenger safety.
“Lyft could make a few simple changes to the Lyft Ridesharing App to vastly increase passenger safety, but unfortunately, Lyft has chosen to not do so,” the suit reads. “As a result, the plaintiffs in this complaint, and other female passengers, continue to be attacked by sexual predators and have their lives irrevocably altered by the assailants driving for Lyft.”
The case attributes Lyft’s apparent sexual assault crisis in part to the high-turnover inherent to the company’s business model. Lyft’s driver-hiring model relies on keeping a maximum number of drivers on the road at all times, and operates as to accept as many new drivers as possible, the suit explains. All told, Lyft’s shortcomings in the areas of passenger—and driver—safety come down to decision-making with regard to where finances are delegated. From the complaint:
“Unfortunately, Lyft prioritizes profits over passenger safety. That is why Lyft corporate management has made deliberate decisions to adopt inadequate initial screening procedures, inadequate safety monitoring, and has failed to warn customers of the dangers of riding with Lyft.”
Lyft’s apparent failures with regard to ensuring female passenger safety extended to drivers as well, the lawsuit says. According to the complaint, the ride-hailing company has seen a multitude of drivers report that they were assaulted while working for Lyft, and many of them have resorted to installing cameras in their vehicles at their own expense to try to combat the problem.
In a September 4 statement, Lyft spokeswoman Mary Winfield said the allegations from female Lyft passengers are “terrifying and [have] no place in the Lyft community,” noting that the company is “committed to providing safe transportation” and creates products and policies “to keep out bad actors, make riders and drivers feel safe and react quickly if and when an incident does occur.”
According to the case, each plaintiff was the victim of sexual assault or rape after getting into a Lyft between 2018 and 2019.