"One in six women will face some form of sexual violence in their lives -- behavior that's unacceptable for our society and on our platform. As a platform committed to providing safe transportation, we hold ourselves to a higher standard by designing products and policies to keep out bad actors, make riders and drivers feel safe, and react quickly if and when an incident does occur."
That sounds like a reassuring enough statement, coming from Lyft's Head of Trust & Safety Mary Winfield, until you wonder why the statement was necessary in the first place. And why is because yet another class action lawsuit has been filed against the ridesharing company alleging rampant sexual assault by its drivers. The suit claims Lyft received nearly 100 complaints of sexual assault in in just one state, California, in just two years, between 2014 and 2016. Winfield acknowledged the alleged behavior "is terrifying and has no place in the Lyft community." And yet.
"Lyft knew from the outset that sexual assault was going to be a problem," said one plaintiff's attorney Stephen Estey, "especially because they have vulnerable passengers who have been drinking." In fact, in six of the alleged incidents described in the lawsuit, women had fallen asleep in the car and awoke to being sexually assaulted, and another was assaulted in their home after being helped to the door.
In one particularly harrowing, 5-hour ordeal, a California woman was picked up from a Halloween party by a crack-smoking driver who proceeded to lock the doors, say "I love you," terminate the ride in the app, and assault her in the back seat before driving her to a beach and raping her. In another, a blind Alabama woman's cane was stolen before she was sexually assaulted.
The lawsuit, filed by 14 women plaintiffs, claims Lyft's response to a "sexual predator crisis" was "appallingly inadequate," and the company continues to allow "culpable drivers who have complaints of rape and sexual assaults lodged against them" to continue driving for the company. The plaintiffs are seeking special, general, and punitive damages.
This latest filing is far from the only suit targeting ridesharing apps with sexual assault claims. Lyft was hit with a class action lawsuit earlier this year by a woman who claims a driver helped her into her house while she was unconscious, deactivated her home surveillance system, and raped her. And Uber is facing so many lawsuits claiming sexual impropriety by its drivers that it's almost impossible to keep track of them all.
If you or someone you know has been assaulted by an Uber, Lyft, or other ridesharing app driver, contact the police immediately. Then talk to an experienced assault and battery attorney for help.