Federal Court to Hear Growing Assault Allegations Against Uber
November 14, 2023
Over the past six years, hundreds of women have filed lawsuits against Uber saying that the rideshare company failed to adequately protect them. In a recent landmark legal decision, a panel of judges decided that about 80 of these cases could be consolidated into one to be heard by a federal court judge. It has not been possible to join these cases together in the past so the ruling is an important one for the victims, whose attorneys feel that they will be able to demonstrate that Uber has a deep-seated and prevalent issue with sexual assault and endangering passengers.
While there have been reports of drivers being assaulted by passengers, this matter only involves passengers who allege they were assaulted by their Uber drivers. The incidents that the victims cite in their suits range from being groped to being raped. It is likely that each individual case will end up going to trial in the state that the plaintiff filed the suit in unless the judge (the Honorable Charles Breyer) opts for what is known as a “bellwether trial”. A bellwether trial is a small consolidation of lawsuits taken from a large group of similar cases that is to be tried first to assess future cases. Judge Breyer will be hearing all pretrial matters, which legal experts expect will take about two years.
Uber’s History with Assault
Despite being arguably the most popular rideshare app, with approximately 95 million users worldwide per month, Uber’s history with rider safety is by no means a clean one. In early 2020, the company released its highly anticipated two-year-long report detailing both rider and driver safety in vehicles. Uber reported nearly 7,000 assaults in just a two-year period; the company also projected 100 rapes and 800 cases of unwanted touching of a body part for the first six months of 2020.
The victims in the current case against Uber allege that the company could make rides safer and protect passengers from known dangers (like drivers with sexual assault records, for example), but that their response has not been nearly comprehensive or swift enough. Allegations of Uber’s safety shortcomings include:
- Substandard background checks that fail to confirm a driver’s standing in the legal system
- Failure to remove drivers after a sexual assault allegation has been made by a passenger
- Failing to mandate fingerprint background checks, which would be more comprehensive, and requiring dashcam recordings on every passenger ride
Many victims feel as though the company is putting profits over people by failing to incorporate more significant rider safety features – and it seems like they may be right. In the past, Uber has done everything it could to stop cases that allege sexual assault to be consolidated. The company has made claims that the lawsuits victims have filed have “little in common” with one another and that the company does not have a duty to protect plaintiffs against the criminal conduct of its drivers. It is also important to note that the company only began to offer additional ride safety features, like an in-app 9-1-1 button and an option to have a trusted contact monitor a ride in real-time, after news reports ousted the company for a slew of sexual assault allegations back in 2018.
Legal experts believe that the current case against Uber could continue to grow as more victims file lawsuits against the company. Since these new cases would not be a part of the consolidated proceeding, it is likely that hundreds or thousands more cases will be filed individually by victims who have sustained bodily trauma or other injuries as Uber passengers.
Safety Tips for Riders
If you are going to use a rideshare app like Uber or Lyft (Lyft also has thousands of reports alleging sexual assault), it is important that you take some simple precautions that can help keep you safe. Here are some of the helpful recommendations:
- Just like with any other ride, always wear a seatbelt. Also, ride in the backseat whenever you can
- Request your ride indoors, instead of waiting outside alone. Wait inside until your driver arrives
- Request that your driver confirms your name. Drivers may also request that their riders confirm their name
- Always confirm the vehicle’s license plate number before entering. Make sure that the make and model of the vehicle matches the information on the app. If the identity of the driver or the vehicle does not match the information on the app, do NOT get into the car
- Share your trip information with friends or loved ones. Select “share trip status” within the app
- Follow your intuition. If you sense that your situation may be becoming urgent, use the in-app feature or dial 9-1-1
If you, a friend or loved one was assaulted by an Uber or Lyft driver, someone at our firm can help. To learn more about how to file a claim to obtain justice, please contact a representative at our firm online now.
Philadelphia Personal Injury Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP, Representing Injured Victims Since 1947
If you have questions about filing a claim for injuries you sustained, contact the Philadelphia personal injury attorneys at Galfand Berger LLP today. Call us at 800-222-USWA (8792) or fill out our online form for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, we serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Allentown and Harrisburg.