Lyft sued over alleged sexual assaults by its drivers
The suit involves 14 separate alleged incidents across the US.
Corinne ReichertSenior Writer
Corinne Reichert (she/her) grew up in Sydney, Australia and moved to California in 2019. She holds degrees in law and communications, and currently writes news, analysis and features for CNET across the topics of electric vehicles, broadband networks, mobile devices, big tech, artificial intelligence, home technology and entertainment. In her spare time, she watches soccer games and F1 races, and goes to Disneyland as often as possible.
I've been covering technology and mobile for 12 years, first as a telecommunications reporter and assistant editor at ZDNet in Australia, then as CNET's West Coast head of breaking news, and now in the Thought Leadership team.
is being sued over sexual assaults allegedly committed by the company's drivers. The lawsuit alleges that 14 separate incidents across the US were reported to Lyft and that the ride-hailing company concealed the assault complaints from the public, media and law enforcement.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in the Superior Court of California for San Francisco County, calls Lyft's response to the complaints "appallingly inadequate" and alleges the company hires drivers without completing a background check, fingerprinting them or even performing a job interview. Lyft has also allowed drivers accused of sexual assault to continue working for the company, the suit says.
The suit alleges that there were around 100 reports of sexual assaults by Lyft drivers in California in the one-year period prior to May 2016 and that the actual number of attacks may be triple that, with the bulk going unreported.
"What the victims describe is terrifying and has no place in the Lyft community," Mary Winfield, Lyft's head of Trust & Safety, said in an emailed statement. "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."
Winfield added Lyft will "dedicate more resources" to make the service safer. In May, Lyft announced new features for its app aimed at improving passenger safety. The features include yearly background checks on drivers and an in-app button to dial 911. Safety features provided by Lyft rival Uber also include a 911 button and annual background checks.
The people behind the lawsuit say further changes could be made to the Lyft app to protect passengers and prevent assaults.
"Adding automatic audio and video recording to rides would prevent future assaults," attorney Mike Bomberger said in an emailed press release Wednesday from Estey & Bomberger, the law firm that bringing the suit on behalf of the alleged victims. "We believe Lyft knows how many assaults occur within their cars and that is why they don't want Lyft rides recorded."
The lawsuit also suggests adding a system to the app to determine whether a trip has gone off-route, was terminated early or took longer than it should've.
The suit covers 14 separate tort complaints involving negligence, concealment of risks, vicarious liability, intentional infliction of emotional distress, product liability and intentional misrepresentations.
The plaintiffs come from across the US, including Fresno, Cypress, West Hollywood and Palo Alto, California; Las Vegas; Charlotte, North Charleston and Jacksonville, North Carolina; Salt Lake City; Marlborough, Massachusetts; Tuscaloosa, Alabama; Elyria, Ohio; and Chicago and Bellwood, Illinois.
The law firm is asking any sexual assault victims of Lyft and
drivers to come forward.