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Uber sued by rape victim after medical record scandal

The suit alleges that company executives believed the woman was fabricating the rape as part of a conspiracy conceived by a rival service.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick. The company has been sued over a rape victim's medical records.
James Martin/CNET

A woman raped by an Uber driver in India is suing the ride-hailing company and several current and former executives after they allegedly obtained and mishandled her medical records.

The woman, a Texas resident identified only as Jane Doe, is suing Uber and CEO Travis Kalanick, as well as former executives Emil Michael and Eric Alexander, alleging intrusion into private affairs, public disclosure of private facts, and defamation. The suit, filed Thursday in the Northern District of California (PDF), says the executives believed she was "fraudulently claiming that she had been raped  in collusion with a rival of Uber."

Uber fired Alexander earlier this month after it was reported he obtained the medical records of the woman, who was raped by an Uber driver in India in 2014. Alexander showed the medical records to top management at Uber, including Kalanick, according to reports in Recode and The New York Times.

"It is shocking that Travis Kalanick could publicly say that Uber would do everything to support our client and her family in her recovery when he and other executives were reviewing illegally obtained medical records and engaging in offensive and spurious conspiracy theories about the brutal rape she so tragically suffered," said the woman's lawyer, Douglas H. Wigdor, partner at Wigdor LLP.

An Uber spokesman referred to the woman in an emailed statement Thursday: "No one should have to go through a horrific experience like this, and we're truly sorry that she's had to relive it over the last few weeks."

The woman was raped by an Uber driver in Delhi, India, in December 2014. At the time, she sued Uber, alleging that company negligence and fraud led to her sexual assault. Uber settled the case in September 2015. The Uber driver, Shiv Kumar Yadav, was found guilty in October 2015 and was given a life sentence for kidnapping, rape and criminal intimidation. 

The lawsuit is the latest bad news for Uber, which in recent months has faced a slew of scandals. The company on Tuesday said Kalanick would take a leave of absence following a months-long investigation by former Attorney General Eric Holder into sexual harassment and unprofessional business practices at the company. On Monday, Michael, Uber's senior vice president for business, left the company

In his comments today, Wigdor referred to the broader issues surrounding Uber and to Holder's investigation of the company.

"Rape denial is just another form of the toxic gender discrimination that is endemic at Uber and ingrained in its culture," Wigdor said. "Hopefully, this lawsuit coupled with the changes recommended by the independent counsel will create real change and reform at Uber and elsewhere."

CNET's Dara Kerr contributed this report.