Tech Industry

Uber sued by rider alleging rape; driver said to have violent past

Another lawsuit over sexual assault is filed against the ride-hailing company. Lawyers say the perpetrator had a history of "gender-motivated violence."

Uber has seen at least four lawsuits regarding its drivers allegedly sexually assaulting passengers.

Uber is facing yet another lawsuit alleging one of its drivers raped and sexually assaulted a female passenger. This comes one day after a similar suit was filed against the ride-hailing company.

In this new case, lawyers for a "Jane Doe" client say the driver had a "documented history of sexual and gender-motivated violence." They say he was charged twice in 2006: once with domestic battery and another time for "annoying or molesting a child under 18." Additional charges, in 2009, resulted in a restraining order against him, the lawyers say.

"Despite his documented troubling background, Uber allowed [the driver] to transport passengers," Jeanne M. Christensen, a partner at law firm Wigdor who's representing the woman, said in an emailed statement. "Uber must take immediate action to prevent another tragedy like this from happening again."

Uber, valued at $68 billion, is one of the largest ride-hailing services on the planet, operating in about 70 countries. But with its growth, the company has come under fire for numerous allegations of drivers committing sexual assaults.

A handful of states, including California, Massachusetts, Maryland and Texas, have previously launched investigations into Uber, alleging that the company routinely fails to adequately screen drivers and has hired drivers with criminal histories. Reports of alleged sexual assaults by Uber drivers make news headlines several times a month. At least four lawsuits have been filed against the company for these allegations.

On Tuesday, Wigdor filed another lawsuit against Uber on behalf of two women who are seeking class-action status for the case on behalf of all "female riders that have experienced rape, sexual assault or gender-motivated harassment at the hands of their Uber drivers." The complaint says the #MeToo campaign, in which people told personal stories on social media of being sexually harassed and assaulted, showed how many women have reportedly experienced misconduct by Uber drivers.

Uber says it takes these allegations seriously. On its website it says it's "dedicated to keeping people safe on the road" and that its technology "enables us to focus on rider safety before, during and after every trip." 

The newest lawsuit was filed in California Superior Court on Wednesday. The "Jane Doe" alleges her Uber driver raped her during a ride home in Long Beach, California, in November 2016. According to the suit, the woman was intoxicated and had blacked out in the back of his car. She woke up to her driver reportedly on top of her ripping off her clothes. He allegedly assaulted her and then drove her home. The next morning, hospital doctors confirmed the woman had been raped, according to court documents.

It's unclear if Uber's background checks discovered the driver's past history. The ride-hailing service uses a third party company called Checkr to do its background checks, and the searches for felonies, violent crimes and sexual offenses go back for only the past seven years.

Uber said it has permanently removed this driver from its app. "These accusations are extremely concerning," an Uber spokeswoman said. "We are in the process of reviewing the lawsuit."

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