A lawsuit has been filed against the ride-share service Uber, by a woman who claims the driver sexually assaulted her and held her against her will. The lawsuit charges the company for not adequately screening its drivers and was filed on February 23, 2017 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
Uber Lawsuit Background
On August 5, 2016, the plaintiff and some friends used the Uber app to arrange for a ride. The driver gave the group his direct number for the passengers to be able to reach him later that same evening, for a second ride.
During the course of the second ride, the driver is alleged to have propositioned the plaintiff. When the plaintiff refused, he allegedly grabbed her aggressively and “committed a sexual assault.”
The plaintiff’s lawsuit maintains that Uber Technologies is negligent in its hiring and screening practices of its drivers. If there had been a sufficient background check in this case, it would have revealed that the Uber driver had a prior arrest for a sexual crime against another person. The common standard in the taxi industry is a thorough background check based on fingerprints. The charge alleges that if Uber had done such a check, the incident may have been averted.
The lawsuit states that Uber, as a transportation company and common carrier, is “directly liable for its negligent hiring, supervision, and retention of [the driver], directly liable for its advertising misrepresentations holding out its transportation service as a safer alternative to taxis for women.”
In addition, the suit states that the company “placed profits over safety by deliberately lowering the bar for drivers in order to rapidly expand its network of drivers and thus its profits.”
National law firm Parker Waichman LLP has extensive and successful experience representing clients in personal injury litigation. Attorneys at the firm are available to answer any legal questions for individuals seeking to file a potential lawsuit.
Uber Website Statement
“Uber makes all of drivers submit to a thorough background check before being allowed to pick up customers. For each transaction, the customer is matched up with a driver. Uber knows who is driving whom, making it unlikely for a driver to victimize a customer. In addition, drivers and passengers rate each other after each ride. Drivers who behave poorly are removed from the system, ensuring that only quality drivers can pick up customers.”
Increasing Evidence of Ride-Share Company Liability
It is unfortunate that there is a growing list of cases in which ride-share services such as Uber and Lyft have been found guilty of negligence in what should be the careful screening of their drivers. Drivers have been charged with a variety of crimes including murder, manslaughter, and rape. Lyft is a rideshare company that was launched in 2012.
At one point, an attempt was made by the ride-share companies to argue that the liability was borne by the drivers alone, as drivers are not considered employees, but contractors. However, courts have increasingly named the companies liable for not conducting sufficient background checks. The companies also, charge a safe ride fee designed to cover motor vehicle screenings and driver safety education.
The California Public Utilities Commission recently ruled that Uber and Lyft do owe a duty to passenger. More rigorous regulations make the responsibilities and potential liabilities of ride-share services more comparable with traditional taxi drivers. The responsibilities include “regular vehicle inspections, more stringent and detailed background checks, mandated proof of liability insurance, and heightened transparency about past driver suspensions and deactivations.”
According to CNN, since its launch in 2009, Uber has been juggling a barrage of lawsuits from governments, drivers, passengers, and competitors. Some have been settled out of court while other have dragged on indeterminably. With an estimated value of more than $60 billion, those billable hours have to be taking a toll as Uber expands to more than 400 cities around the world, according to an August 2016 CNN report.
The New York Taxi Workers Alliance, a union representing 5,000 Uber drivers, filed a suit in federal court against Uber on behalf of 10 drivers for misclassification. That proposed class action suit claims drivers are employees and therefore, eligible for minimum wage, overtime, and expense reimbursement.
Insisting drivers are contractors and not employees can limit Uber’s liability when individual drivers do something illegal. However, according to CNN, that hasn’t stopped riders from naming Uber in numerous state and federal lawsuits.
Legal Help and Information Involving Uber
If you or someone you know, has been involved in an incident involving a ride-share service, such as Uber, you may have valuable legal rights. Parker Waichman law firm offers free, no-obligation case evaluations. We urge you to contact us at 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).