A California judge has ruled to consolidate 80 lawsuits against Uber from women who claim the company hasn’t taken necessary steps to protect its riders from sexual assault. The ruling marks a major victory for the women who want to show the extent of the alleged sexual assault from Uber drivers.
Regardless of where the clients are based, their cases and supporting documents and witness and expert testimony will be presented to Judge Charles Breyer in the Northern District of California. Following the pre-trial hearing, the cases will then go to trial in the victim’s respective states.
“This is a big deal because those documents are going to help show, we believe, that the sexual assault problem from drivers to riders is a massive problem,” Bret Stanley, who’s representing several of the victims, told NPR. He added that victims claim Uber isn’t taking precautions to stop sexual assault before it happens, claiming the company conducts subpar background checks and doesn’t remove drivers if they are accused of sexual assault.
“They’re collecting this data, allowing the person to stay on the system,” Stanley told the outlet. “And then something terrible happens.”
A separate consolidated complaint was filed by Slater Slater Schulman LLP last year on behalf of 550 women who claimed they were attacked by their Uber driver. The law firm claimed Uber knew its drivers were frequently sexually assaulting passengers as early as 2014.
“Uber’s whole business model is predicated on giving people a safe ride home, but rider safety was never their concern – growth was, at the expense of their passengers’ safety,” Adam Slater, Founding Partner of Slater Slater Schulman LLP said in a news release. “While the company has acknowledged this crisis of sexual assault in recent years, its actual response has been slow and inadequate, with horrific consequences.”
The civil action alleged that “women passengers in multiple states were kidnapped, sexually assaulted, sexually battered, raped, falsely imprisoned, stalked, harassed, or otherwise attacked by Uber drivers with whom they had been paired through the Uber application,” the news release said.
Uber published its second safety report last year, revealing it received 998 reports of sexual assault, including 141 reports of rape in 2020 alone. Uber added that it received a total of 3,824 reports of sexual assault between 2019 and 2020 ranging from “non-consensual kissing of a non-sexual body part” to “non-consensual sexual penetration,” or rape.
Additional lawsuits have been filed against Uber in recent years, but the newly consolidated lawsuit will speed up the proceedings and show the scope of the victim’s claims. Uber has taken steps to provide an added level of security for riders with in-app features like a 911 option and location sharing which allows family or friends to view your location while in the Uber in real-time.
Uber did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment regarding the upcoming legal proceedings, but a spokesperson told NPR: “Sexual assault is a horrific crime, and we take every report of this nature very seriously.” They continued: “While we cannot comment on pending litigation, we are deeply committed to the safety of all users on the Uber platform.”
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