Lyft is being sued by a group of more than 20 women who say they were raped or sexually assaulted while using the ridesharing service. This is the second such lawsuit against the company in four months. The story was first reported by the Washington Post.
Mike Bomberger, a partner at the California law firm Estey and Bomberger LLC, told Digital Trends that in 80 percent of these complaints, the women were drunk or somehow vulnerable, and the driver assaulted or raped them in the vehicle.
Estey and Bomberger runs the website UberSexualAssaultLawyer.com, and is also representing the plaintiffs in a class-action suit filed against Lyft in September that involves 14 women with similar complaints.
“We have over 100 complaints, and we anticipate more,” Bomberger said. “We will be filing more lawsuits.”
A Lyft spokesperson told Digital Trends in a statement that the company has implemented 15 new features to boost safety, including continuing criminal background checks and in-app emergency assistance.
“What these women describe is something no one should ever have to endure. Everyone deserves the ability to move about the world safely, yet women still face disproportionate risks,” the spokesperson said. “We recognize these risks, which is why we are relentless in our work to build safety into every aspect of our work. That means continually investing in new features and policies to protect our riders and drivers.”
In September, days after the last class-action suit was filed, the company announced it was partnering with the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, and mandating driver education. In May, it announced that a panic button was being added to the app.
Such fixes depend on a user being awake and able to access their app. Bomberger said a more effective fix may be one Uber began rolling out last month: Recording the rides. All of the rides.
“If an employee knows they’re being recorded, the rate of assaults go down exponentially,” he said. “Right now, Lyft is trying to initiate safety features that you use only after the assault has started. Let’s try the novel idea of preventing the assault before it’s started.”
Bomberger said that at the very least, they hope to force Lyft to admit to the high numbers of people who have experienced similar assaults. “We’re expecting Lyft to try to do what they’ve done for five years, which is conceal the number of people assaulted in their vehicles,” he said. There are currently no public numbers as to how many people are assaulted in rideshare vehicles every year.
“Based on what we’ve heard from cities and states around the country, we know the number is in the thousands,” Bomberger said. “I’ve had hundreds of calls since September.”