Lyft is facing a new series of lawsuits from drivers and passengers who say they have been sexually and physically assaulted during rides and accusing the ride-hailing company of failing to protect its users.
According to Peiffer Wolf Carr Kane Conway & Wise, the law firm representing many of the victims, 17 lawsuits were filed in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin. These are separate lawsuits and not a class action. The lawsuits call for a jury trial and do not specify any specific financial reward, other than seeking compensatory damages, including all expenses and wages owed, damages for future loss of earnings, reasonable attorneys’ fees, costs and expenses, and punitive damages.
The lawsuits, 13 of which involved drivers and passengers who were sexually assaulted, allege that Lyft did not have proper security measures in place to prevent such attacks and did not respond appropriately after the attacks were reported.
Tracey Cowan, partner at Peiffer Wolf, said at a news conference that they want “Lyft to take the steps it knows it needs to take to keep everyone safe.” Those steps, Cowan said, include a comprehensive background screening of its drivers so that the information applicants provide and background checks are accurate through biometric fingerprint monitoring and the provision of dashcams to drivers.
“The best possible outcome would be for Lyft to make these changes that people — passengers and drivers alike — have been asking for for years and we hope that’s what Lyft is doing,” Cowan said.
Lyft responded by emphasizing its commitment to safety and contesting some of the claims made during a virtual press conference held Wednesday with several drivers and passengers who have filed lawsuits.
“We are doing everything we can to help drivers and drivers stay safe. While safety incidents on our platform are incredibly rare, we realize 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’ll take action. continue to undertake and invest in technology, policy and partnerships to do this.”
Lyft said every driver goes through a “rigorous screening,” including a background check. Once approved, there is ‘continuous criminal monitoring’. Any driver who fails the initial, annual and continuous screenings will be banned from the platform, the company said. According to Lyft, every driver must complete a community safety course co-developed with anti-sexual violence organization RAINN.
The company also disputed the claim by plaintiffs’ attorneys that it is not cooperating with law enforcement. Some of the victims who spoke at Wednesday’s press conference spoke of their struggles to get Lyft to respond or share information with police.
Lyft told londonbusinessblog.com 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 to proactively report security incidents to law enforcement, because the decision to report and when to do so is left to the individual.
Lyft’s most recent community safety reportreleased in October 2021, it found that more than 4,000 sexual assault incidents occurred among users of the ride-hailing platform between 2017 and the end of 2019. As the number of cases increased, Lyft said the number fell as the number of rides grew.
In October 2018, Lyft ended its forced arbitration policy for individual claims of sexual assault or harassment by drivers, riders or employees. However, the arbitration requirement still applies to complaints about physical violence.