Two fe­male pas­sen­gers sue Uber, al­leg­ing rape

Claimants: Cus­tomers are mis­led about screen­ing of driv­ers, in­sur­ance cov­er­age

The Mercury News - - Business + Technology - By Quee­nie Wong qwong@ba­yare­anews­

Two women, in­clud­ing one from Cal­i­for­nia, are su­ing Uber af­ter they were al­legedly raped by driv­ers for the ride-hail­ing com­pany.

The law­suit, which was filed on Tues­day, claims that Uber doesn’t ad­e­quately screen its driv­ers and mis­leads con­sumers about the ser­vice’s safety and in­sur­ance cov­er­age, plac­ing thou­sands of women at risk.

“Uber has cre­ated a sys­tem for bad ac­tors to gain ac­cess to vul­ner­a­ble vic­tims,” the law­suit states. “Specif­i­cally driv­ers have the means and op­por­tu­nity to veer off route with­out de­tec­tion, trap pas­sen­gers in­side their ve­hi­cles and com­mit phys­i­cal and sex­ual vi­o­lence with­out wit­nesses.”

The law­suit al­leges the com­pany vi­o­lated state laws by mis­lead­ing cus­tomers about the safety of its ser­vice. It claims Uber not only failed to warn pas­sen­gers about its flawed back­ground checks, but that it doesn’t ad­e­quately track its driv­ers’ con­duct af­ter they’re hired.

Filed in the U.S. District Court for the North­ern District of Cal­i­for­nia, the law­suit is seek­ing class-ac­tion sta­tus for all Uber pas­sen­gers in the United States who were “sub­ject to rape, sex­ual as­sault or gen­der-mo­ti­vated vi­o­lence or harassment by their Uber driver in the last four years.”

The two women, who were not named in the law­suit, are not only seek­ing dam­ages for their al­leged rapes; they want the com­pany to take steps to pre­vent this from hap­pen­ing again.

Uber should be re­quired to im­ple­ment stricter and more thor­ough screen­ings of po­ten­tial driv­ers, pro­vide in­sur­ance cov­er­age for rid­ers, and mon­i­tor driv­ers who go off route or turn off the app dur­ing a ride, ac­cord­ing to the law­suit.

An Uber spokesper­son said the com­pany is re­view­ing the law­suit.

“These al­le­ga­tions are im­por­tant to us and we take them very se­ri­ously,” Uber said in an e-mailed state­ment.

The plain­tiffs, rep­re­sented by San Fran­cisco law firm An­der­son & Poole and New York-based Wig­dor LLP, al­lege that Uber has shown women it val­ues prof­its over the safety of its con­sumers.

One of the women, who lives in Florida, claims that she was raped by an Uber driver in Oc­to­ber 2016.

Af­ter a night of drink­ing, the woman and her friend or­dered an Uber ride and were picked up a driver who had been charged with a felony in Mi­ami, the law­suit al­leges.

The driver, Nimer Ab­dal­lah, car­ried the woman — who was barely con­scious

af­ter hav­ing two drinks — up­stairs to her apart­ment and al­legedly raped her, the law­suit states. Ab­dal­lah was ar­rested that month and charged with two counts of sex­ual bat­tery, ac­cord­ing to the law­suit.

The other plain­tiff, a Los An­ge­les res­i­dent, was also in­tox­i­cated when she booked an Uber ride to take her home from a restau­rant in Jan­uary 2017.

The driver Miguel, whose last name is un­known, al­legedly sex­u­ally as­saulted her in the car, fol­lowed her into her home and forced her to have sex with him be­fore leav­ing, the law­suit states.

But what these women al­lege hap­pened to them are not iso­lated in­ci­dents. The law­suit cites other cases of sex­ual as­sault and pub­lic tweets about Uber driv­ers dur­ing the #MeToo cam­paign, where women shared their sto­ries about sex­ual harassment.

“A litany of in­ci­dents re­gard­ing sex­ual as­saults, and phys­i­cal as­saults, by Uber driv­ers on pas­sen­gers, shows a pat­tern of sim­i­larly heinous, but avoid­able at­tacks,” the law­suit states.

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