Lyft is facing a new wave of lawsuits from drivers and passengers who claim they were sexually and physically assaulted during rides and accuse the ride-hailing company of failing to protect its users.
Seventeen lawsuits have been filed in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin, according to Peiffer Wolf Carr Kane Conway & Wise, the law firm representing many of the victims. These are individual cases, not a class action. The lawsuits require a trial and do not specify a specific financial award, other than seeking damages, including all costs and wages owed, damages for future loss of earnings, reasonable attorneys’ fees, costs and expenses, and punitive damages.
The lawsuits, 13 of which are from drivers and passengers who were sexually assaulted, allege that Lyft did not have adequate safety measures in place to prevent such attacks and failed to respond adequately after the assaults were reported.
Tracy Cowan, a partner at Peiffer Wolf, said during a press conference that they want “Lyft to take the steps it knows it needs to take to keep everyone safe.” Those steps, Cowan said, include comprehensive background screening of drivers, ensuring that the information applicants provide as well as background checks are accurate through biometric fingerprint monitoring and providing dash cams to drivers.
“The best possible outcome would be for Lyft to actually make these changes that people — both passengers and drivers — have been asking for years, and we hope that Lyft does that,” Cowan said.
Lyft responded by emphasizing its commitment to safety and disputing some of the claims made during a virtual news conference held Wednesday that included several drivers and passengers who have filed lawsuits.
“We are committed to helping keep drivers and riders safe. While safety incidents on our platform are incredibly rare, we recognize that even one is too many,” a spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “Our goal is to make every Lyft ride as safe as possible, and we will continue to take action and invest in technology, policies and partnerships to do so.”
Lyft said every driver goes through a “rigorous background check,” including a background check. Once approved, there is “continuous criminal surveillance.” Any driver who fails the initial, annual and continuous inspection cannot access the platform, the company said. Each driver is required to take a community safety education course created in partnership with anti-sexual assault organization RAINN, according to Lyft.
The company also disputed claims by the plaintiffs’ lawyers that it was not cooperating with law enforcement. Some of the victims who spoke at Wednesday’s press conference detailed their struggles to get Lyft to respond or share information with police.
Lyft told TechCrunch that it requires a subpoena or other valid legal process before disclosing personal information to law enforcement. The company said it is not a standard process for proactively reporting safety-related incidents to law enforcement, as the decision to report and when to do so is left up to the individual.
The latest on Lyft community safety reportwhich was released in October 2021, identified more than 4,000 cases of sexual assault that occurred against users of the ride-hailing platform between 2017 and the end of 2019. While the number of cases has increased, Lyft cites that the rate has decreased , as ridership increases.
In October 2018, Lyft ended its policy to compel arbitration for individual claims of sexual assault or harassment by drivers, riders or employees. However, the arbitration requirement is still in place for physical assault claims.