Lyft is facing a new round of lawsuits from drivers and passengers who claim they were sexually and physically assaulted while riding and accuse the ride-sharing 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 separate lawsuits and not a class action. The lawsuits seek a jury trial and do not specify a specific financial award, except that they seek compensatory damages, including all expenses and wages owed, damages for lost future earnings, reasonable counsel, fees and expenses, and punitive damages.
The lawsuits, 13 of which were from sexually assaulted drivers and passengers, allege that Lyft failed to take appropriate security measures to prevent such attacks and failed to respond adequately once the assaults were reported.
Tracey Cowan, a partner at Peiffer Wolf, told a press conference that she wants “Lyft to take the steps it knows it needs to take to keep everyone safe.” These steps, Cowan said, include comprehensive background checks on its drivers, ensuring the information provided by applicants as well as background checks are accurate through biometric fingerprint monitoring and the provision of dashcams to drivers.
“The best possible outcome would be for Lyft to actually make those changes that people — passengers and drivers — have been asking for for years and we hope that’s what Lyft does,” Cowan said.
Lyft responded by emphasizing its commitment to safety and disputed some of the claims that were made during a virtual press conference held Wednesday with several drivers and passengers who filed lawsuits.
“We are committed to helping keep drivers and passengers safe. Although security 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 will continue to take action and invest in technology, policies, and partnerships to make that happen.”
Lyft said every driver goes through “rigorous vetting,” including a background check. Once approved, there is “ongoing criminal oversight”. Any driver who fails initial, annual and ongoing checks is barred from the platform, the company said. Every driver is required to complete a community safety education course created in partnership with sexual violence organization RAINN, according to Lyft.
The company also disputed plaintiffs’ attorneys’ assertion that it does not cooperate 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 a subpoena or other valid legal process is required before disclosing personal information to law enforcement. The company said it’s not a standard process for proactively reporting security incidents to law enforcement because the decision to report and when is left to the individual.
Lyft’s latest Community Safety Report, released in October 2021, found that more than 4,000 incidents of sexual assault occurred to users of the ridesharing platform between 2017 and the end of 2019. While the number of cases was increasing, Lyft cited that the rate has decreased because the number of rides has increased.
In October 2018, Lyft ended its forced arbitration policy for individual claims of sexual assault or harassment by drivers, passengers, or employees. However, the arbitration requirement is still in place for complaints of physical assault.