One of the lawsuit’s core claims is that Lyft scarcely screens its drivers.
A series of recently filed lawsuits accuses Lyft of failing to protect its passengers from sexual assault.
According to The Mercury News, a series of new complaints were lodged against the rideshare giant in late December. They are part of a “mass tort” lawsuit compiled in August 2019. In the initial case, about 20 female plaintiffs alleged that they had been raped or otherwise sexually assaulted by Lyft drivers. Several dozen women have since joined the proceedings; attorneys expect that the lawsuit could grow to include hundreds more.
Similar to complaints filed against rival transportation service Uber, the fresh suits claim that Lyft does not adequately screen its over-the-road contractors.
“Since 2015, sexual predators driving for Lyft have continued to assault and rape Lyft’s female passengers,” say the five new complaints, which were submitted to San Francisco County Superior Court just before Christmas. “Even today, the hiring of Lyft drivers occurs without any real screening.”
“The key to Lyft’s business model,” the lawsuits say, “is getting as many new Lyft drivers on the road as possible.”
One plaintiff, adds The Mercury News¸ told attorneys she was sexually assaulted by Lyft driver at age 15. After violently raping her, the woman says she was forced to take contraceptive pills.
While Lyft has since recognized that some of its passengers have been abused by drivers, the company maintains that it takes a firm stance on women’s safety.
“What these women describe is something no one should ever have to endure,” San Francisco-based Lyft said in a statement. “Everyone deserves the ability to move about the world safely, yet women still face disproportionate risks. We recognize these risks, which is why we are relentless in our work to build safety into every aspect of our work.”
The lawsuit, notes The Mercury News, asserts that Lyft hires most drivers who apply for positions. Prospective contractors fill out and online form, and then are either offered positions or denied. They are not interviewed, fingerprinted, or subjected to any in-depth background checks.
However, Lyft has countered these allegations, saying that it conducts background checks prior to hire as well as annual criminal background checks, which include “a social security number trace, a nationwide criminal search, a county court records search, a federal criminal court records search, as well as a U.S. Department of Justice 50-state sex offender registry search.”
Lyft also claims to conduct “continuous criminal monitoring and continuous driving records check.” Drivers who accumulate moving violations or other offenses while contracting with Lyft lose their positions.
Nevertheless, critics and safety advocates say that neither Uber nor Lyft have ever been forthcoming about their passenger safety records.
Uber, for instance, was recently fined tens of millions of dollars for refusing to comply with California regulators’ request that it share detailed sexual assault logs alongside case responses.
The News states that the plaintiffs in the Lyft case are seeking unspecified damages.