A class-action suit has been filed against the popular ride-hailing platform, Lyft, over its alleged failure to protect women passengers from the predatory behavior of some of its drivers. The group of women who are represented by a team of female lawyers accuses that Lyft has known the “epidemic” sexual assault and rape that has involved its drivers, but the company behind the app has failed to stop them.
In a statement released by the law firm, Levin Simes Abrams, the plaintiffs accused that Lyft drivers have been involved in countless car accidents because they are distracted by “apps to sexual assaults on passengers.”
“This is out of control. And this needs to stop,” says attorney Laurel Simes, a partner in the San Francisco firm. The lawyer blamed the problematic hiring process of the company and have conducted insufficient background checks on their drivers. As a result, the ridesharing platform gave predatory drivers opportunities to harass and sexually assault their passengers.
“Our team of lawyers will protect the identity of any individual who has experienced such an event and vigorously advocate to get them just compensation for what they endured,” the firm said in a press release.
Simes, who also represented a group of women in a similar lawsuit against Lyft’s competitor, Uber, said that there are more than 50 women who already came forward and reported that they have been abused and sexually assaulted by Lyft drivers. She added that the number of women coming forward is growing by the day.
“There is a subset of them [Lyft drivers] out there looking for this opportunity, and they go for it,” Simes says. “And the results are devastating to the women and girls this happens to.”
If the public knew, no woman would ride Lyft
The lawsuit, according to the firm, basically aims to effect change in how Lyft treats their users and passengers safety and to force them to implement policies that would protect women from predatory drivers. The lawsuit alleges that the Lyft has knowledge that sexual assault and rape has been committed by their drivers for a long time, but the company failed to address the problem. A similar lawsuit against Lyft was also filed in the past consisting of 14 plaintiffs who accused drivers of the ride-hailing platform with rape and sexual assault.
“If the public knew the true number of sexual assaults by rideshare drivers, women might not ever ride with these companies again,” says San Diego attorney Michael Bomberger, the lawyer who filed the other lawsuit against Lyft.
A report previously revealed that there were at least 103 Uber drivers in the U.S. who have been accused of rape or sexual assaults by their passengers in the past four years. The number may be more, considering that there is a stigma that stops women from reporting sexual assault.
“Neither rideshare company publicly reveals the number of drivers accused of assault, battery, or harassment on passengers, but the pressure is mounting for the services to disclose more to the public.”
Lyft’s mandatory arbitration clause
Back in April, with the enthusiasm of women rights advocates as well as Simes’ law firm, Lyft was forced to withdraw a certain provision in their terms and conditions that force women who have been a victim of sexual assault by a driver to settle the case outside court in an arbitration that turns out to be much more beneficial to the company than the victims.
The mandatory arbitration clause in the app’s terms of service forces victims of the driver to passenger sexual assault cases to settle the dispute outside the court and prohibits them from suing.
“Lyft announced they would drop terms of service restricting victims of sexual assault from filing lawsuits. Previously the firms used terms of service in their app to force injured women to settle cases in mandatory arbitration,” the press release reads.
As for now, the firm is still persuading and encouraging women to come forward and report their experience with Lyft drivers, especially if it involves sexual assault.
“Our team of lawyers will protect the identity of any individual who has experienced such an event and vigorously advocate to get them just compensation for what they endured,” the firm said in a blog post.