New lawsuits say Lyft failed to protect its users from physical and sexual abuse

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San Francisco-based Lyft is facing 17 new lawsuits brought by its service users from across the country, alleging that the company failed to protect passengers and drivers from physical and sexual abuse.

Among the lawsuits, 14 were from people who said they had been sexually assaulted while using Lyft, and 3 said they had been physically assaulted. At a press conference to announce the lawsuits, five of the plaintiffs shared their stories.

Stella Grant, a former Lyft driver from Chicago, described how a drunk passenger attacked her after Grant tried to confirm the passenger’s identity in August of 2020.

“Soon she started to abuse me verbally and physically,” Grant said. “She was really violent with me while I was driving. She cursed me and punched me in the head, face and back.”

Grant said she was left bleeding after the assault and had to go to the emergency room. Doctors advised her to get physical therapy, but she said she could not afford it; After losing her job at the start of the pandemic, she relied on Lyft to support her family.

In response to the allegations made in the lawsuits, a Lyft spokesperson said the company was “committed to helping keep drivers and passengers safe.”

“While safety incidents on our platform are incredibly rare, we recognize that even one of them is very numerous. Our goal is to make every ride on a Lyft as safe as possible, and we will continue to take action and invest in technology, policies and partnerships to do so,” the spokesperson said.

Catherine Rasta, a passenger from Phoenix, said she was sexually assaulted in June of 2021. She said her driver made unwanted sexual movements throughout the trip, and once they reached her destination, he locked the car doors and sexually assaulted her.

“Then he said to me, ‘This is our little secret. Don’t tell anyone. Remember, I know where you live, and I know where your friends live now. I doubt you’d want any trouble, right?” He said.

All drivers and passengers said Lyft did practically nothing to help them after they reported their assault, other than telling them they were sorry about their experience and that they would suspend the account of the driver or passenger who assaulted them. Two drivers said Lyft offered them a few hundred dollars after they reported their assaults, but did not follow through with them afterwards.

Lawyers and victims have called on Lyft to make its service more secure by installing cameras inside all Lyft vehicles, performing fingerprint and background checks for drivers, and repealing the policy that allows users to request someone else’s Lyft ride.

Adam Wolfe, one of the lawyers representing Lyft users, said it was clear the company didn’t care about its passengers or drivers.

“What Lyft cares about most about protecting it is its profit margins,” Wolf said.

Lawyers also claimed that Lyft’s policy of not sharing user information after an assault without a court order creates a major obstacle to even basic criminal investigations or civil protection orders.

“Lift stands with the perpetrators, not the victims,” ​​Wolff said.

A Lyft spokesperson accused lawyers at the conference of making false and misleading claims about the company’s safety policies. The representative noted that more than 99% of trips take place without a safety report, that the company requires annual background checks for drivers, and that it cooperates with all law enforcement investigations when a valid request is submitted. The spokesperson also said that all drivers are required to take a community safety education course before driving.

The new lawsuits come three years after 14 women sued Lyft alleging that after being sexually assaulted or raped by drivers, Lyft failed to take any action even when it was aware of the drivers accused of assault and willfully ignored the victims’ reports.

“Instead of protecting victims who were attacked in Lyfts, Lyft mysteriously attacked advocates for sexual survivors,” Wolf told TPR. “More importantly what Lyft didn’t say: It is unfortunate that passengers and drivers were sexually assaulted and beaten using Lyft’s services.”

In 2021, Lyft revealed that it received more than 4,000 reports of sexual assault from its users between 2017 and 2019. This report also showed that cases of sexual assault increased year on year, and included a total of 360 reports of non-consensual sexual intrusion and 2,300 reports. From “non-consensual touching of a part of the sexual body”.

Prosecutors in these latest lawsuits have said that the physical and psychological toll of their assaults is still recent. Some said they had moved away from loved ones, and many reported having PTSD.

Amy Collins, a Lyft driver from Napa, California, said she was sexually assaulted in March 2020 and described the outcome she wanted from the lawsuit.

“I hope that sharing my story, and my trauma, will make Lyft care about the people who use its platform,” Collins said.

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