In recent years, rideshare companies Uber and Lyft have replaced taxicabs in most of the country, and millions of people have used these companies for rides.
Uber has been facing a growing number of allegations and civil lawsuits from rideshare passengers alleging that Uber drivers sexually assaulted them. The lawsuits against Uber allege that the company should be held liable for these sexual assaults because it negligently failed to screen its drivers properly.
Recently, a growing number of sexual assault lawsuits with similar allegations have been filed against Uber across the country. These cases were recently consolidated into an Uber new class action lawsuit (In re: Uber Technologies Inc., Passenger Sexual Assault Litigation – MDL No. 3084). This new MDL has over 200 plaintiffs and is expected to grow to thousands.
Our national mass tort firm is currently accepting new Uber sexual assault cases. If an Uber driver assaulted you, contact us today at 800-553-8082 or contact us online.
Uber Sex Assault Litigation Updates:
February 27, 2024: A Connecticut federal judge rejected a Lyft effort dismiss a lawsuit identified as 14-year-old, identified as Jane Doe, being driven out of state by one of its drivers, leading to her sexual abuse. The judge allowed Doe’s family to amend their complaint, challenging Lyft’s motion to dismiss on several grounds.
The suit accuses Lyft and the Lyft driver of negligence for not verifying Doe’s age, which resulted in her being transported to New York and abused. Worse still, this child was wearing pajamas, a hoodie and carrying a bookbag but failed to make any reasonable inquiry of the minor plaintiff to determine her age… and he just takes her wherever she wants to go across state lines? Insane. This is a strong case.
The court’s decision to let the family amend their complaint includes adding claims for vicarious liability and reinforcing allegations of negligent infliction of emotional distress, while dropping a claim for negligent supervision among others. The judge found the amendment timely and not futile, particularly noting that the driver should have recognized Doe as a minor, given her appearance with pajama pants and a backpack, dismissing Lyft’s counterargument.
Furthermore, the judge also rejected Lyft’s claim that the driver was not acting within his employment scope, highlighting that Lyft’s own policies on not allowing minors to ride alone suggest the company foresaw potential harm from such situations. The judge further rejected Lyft’s stance on the negligent infliction of emotional distress claim and decided to wait on a relevant state supreme court decision regarding the familial consortium claim, indicating the legal landscape might soon clarify this issue.
February 17, 2024: The master complaint in the MDL filed on Friday accuses Uber of knowing for nearly a decade that its drivers were sexually assaulting passengers without implementing effective policies to prevent such crimes.
What is a master complaint in an MDL? A master complaint serves as a consolidated document that outlines the common allegations and legal claims brought forth by the plaintiffs. The master complaint integrates the collective grievances and demands for relief from the individual lawsuits within the MDL, providing a unified legal basis for the litigation. This approach helps us drill down on what the core issues really are.
The master complaint argues that despite being aware since 2014 of the assaults, Uber allegedly prioritized rapid expansion and profits over passenger safety, neglecting to adopt stricter safety measures like biometric checks, in-car cameras, or enhanced background screenings. The complaint criticizes Uber’s superficial safety efforts and accuses it of allowing drivers with histories of sexual misconduct to continue operating, seeking both compensatory and punitive damages.
February 4, 2024: Uber tried last week to convince the MDLD judge to halt the 399 Uber sex abuse lawsuits pending in the MDL from passengers who claim they were sexually assaulted by rideshare drivers, pending an appeal decision on whether to reverse the centralization of these cases by the US Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. The argument did not seem to go well for Uber.
Uber argued against the panel’s decision to centralize the lawsuits into a federal court in San Francisco, citing an abuse of discretion and a failure to consider the varied state laws applicable to the cases. One problem for Uber: the absence of any appellate court decisions overturning the Panel on Multidistrict Litigation’s centralization decisions in the Panel’s 55 year history.
February 2, 2024: 4 new cases were added to the Uber passenger sexual assault class action MDL over the last month. That brings the total number of cases pending in the MDL up to 99.
Uber Sexual Assaults
Uber has become a major company with billions in revenue. Uber drivers transport millions of passengers every year in all 50 states in the U.S. Uber drivers are technically not employees but rather independent contractors.
Over the last decade, Uber has been facing a steadily growing tide of complaints, public scrutiny, and civil lawsuits involving Uber drivers detaining and sexually assaulting their rideshare passengers. Ever since Uber started getting really big, complaints and stories have regularly surfaced about Uber drivers subjecting their passengers to sexual assault. The incidents often follow a similar pattern in which an Uber driver gets a vulnerable passenger in the vehicle. Instead of taking them to their destination, take them to a secluded area and sexually assault them in the car.
According to Uber’s own safety and incident reporting data, Uber receives an average of 3,000 to 7,000 reports of alleged sexual assault from Uber passengers each year. The majority of these involve allegations of non-consensual sexual touching. But a smaller percentage of the incidents involve much more severe allegations, including forcible rape. Of course, these are just the numbers self-reported by Uber, and they probably do not reflect the true level.
Allegations in Uber Sexual Assault Lawsuits
Uber has recently found itself named as a defendant in a growing number of civil lawsuits filed by rideshare passengers who claim that an Uber driver sexually assaulted them. The lawsuits accuse Uber of failing to properly screen and perform background checks on Uber drivers before hiring them.
The Uber sexual assault lawsuits claim that the company was not concerned only with rapid growth and had no concern for passenger safety. They claim that Uber made it possible for Uber drivers to sign up. To do this, Uber used a background check system designed to get drivers approved as quickly and conveniently as possible.
Uber used a company called Hirease, Inc. to do its background checks. Hirease brags that it can vet drivers within 36 hours. To have such a short turnaround, Uber disregarded industry standards used by other taxi companies and livery services. For example, it abandoned fingerprinting and ran applicant drivers against private databases, such as FBI records. These shortcuts led to growth for Uber.
But according to the lawsuits, they put Uber passengers in danger. At one point, Uber was so fixated on growth that it began mailing cell phones to applicant drivers so they could begin driving before Uber’s cursory and ineffective background check was even complete.
The lawsuits also allege that executives at Uber decided not to interview drivers or train drivers to ensure Uber’s drivers understood their responsibilities and what was appropriate and inappropriate when interacting with passengers. They also accused Uber of declining to implement policies to protect passengers from sexual assault—policies such as a zero-tolerance policy concerning fraternizing or making sexual advances towards passengers, and most certainly with respect to engaging in sexual activity with or sexual touching of passengers.
The lawsuits contend that Uber’s disregard of these policies and its deliberate decision to use a shallow and cursory background check process for drivers was negligent and that it resulted in increased rates of sexual assaults by Uber drivers.
Uber Sexual Assault Class Action
There is now an Uber class action lawsuit for sexual assault cases. Actually, that statement is not technically correct. This is an MDL, not a class action. Our sexual abuse lawyers call it a class action because that is what people call it. But an MDL is actually a little different.
An MDL is a legal procedure used in federal court systems to consolidate multiple civil cases that share common factual issues into a single district court. This process streamlines pretrial proceedings, including discovery and motions, to increase efficiency, reduce court costs, and ensure consistent rulings across similar cases. Every Uber sexual assault lawsuit will have the same elements of what Uber knew about the sexual assault of its clients and what it did to try to keep women safe. In the Uber MDL, pretrial discovery will be the same for all Uber sex abuse lawsuits.
In October 2023, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) agreed to consolidate all of the pending Uber sexual assault cases in federal courts into a new class action MDL. The Uber sexual assault MDL has been assigned to a judge in the Northern District of California.
This means that all future Uber sexual assault cases filed in federal court will be automatically transferred into the MDL. The cases in the MDL will go through the process of consolidated discovery. Then, a handful of representative cases will be selected for bellwether test trials. The results of these test trials are then supposed to be used to help both sides negotiate some type of settlement, with the test trials giving them some idea of what to expect if the rest of the cases went to trial.
So if you have a federal court Uber sex abuse lawsuit in New York, Florida, Texas, Illinois, or any other state, your lawsuit will be transferred to California for consolidated proceedings. If there is not an Uber sexual assault settlement that comes out of the MDL, your case will get returned to federal court in your state.
Our rideshare sexual assault attorneys expect the documents revealed during the pretrial discovery process will be damning. They will highlight the extent of the issue of sexual assault from drivers to riders. The cases, which include allegations ranging from groping to kidnapping to rape.
The specific grouping of cases in this sexual assault MDL involves incidents where passengers were the victims of alleged sexual assault by Uber drivers. The good thing is that a class action lawsuit will make a global Uber sexual assault settlement easier to put together.
The specific grouping of cases in this MDL involves incidents where passengers were the victims of alleged sexual assault by Uber drivers. The victims claim that Uber has the capacity to make rides safer but has been slow and inadequate in its response. They criticize Uber for substandard background checks and failing to remove drivers after allegations of sexual assault. They suggest that the platform could be made safer with measures like fingerprint background checks and dashcam recordings of every ride.
This MDL is a critical juncture for Uber, highlighting the urgency and complexity of addressing passenger safety in the rideshare industry. It also represents a significant moment in legal history, as it’s the first time a federal judge will oversee such a broad spectrum of cases against Uber, aiming to streamline the proceedings and clarify many individual claims.
How to Determine Settlement Compensation or Jury Awards in Sexual Assault Lawsuits Against Uber
Determining settlement compensation and jury payouts in Uber sexual assault lawsuits involves a variety of variables, and the variables have different weights.
- Severity of the Assault: The nature and severity of the sexual assault play a crucial role. More severe or violent assaults often result in higher settlements or awards. There are Uber rape cases and Uber sexual harassment cases. The settlement compensation for the latter, all things being equal, will be lower.
- Physical Injuries: The extent and nature of any physical injuries sustained by the victim can significantly impact the amount. As you would expect, more severe physical injuries typically lead to higher compensation. That said, some of the most serious rideshare lawsuits have no physical injury.
- Emotional and Psychological Trauma: Sexual assault often results in long-lasting emotional and psychological harm. The severity of this trauma and its impact on the victim’s life are critical factors.
- Medical and Therapy Costs: The cost of medical treatment and psychological counseling required as a result of the assault is usually recoverable. This includes both past and future expected costs. Are these costs necessary to bring a viable claim? Of course not.
- Punitive Damages: Our lawyers talk more about this below. In some cases, punitive damages may be awarded to punish egregious conduct and deter similar acts in the future. The likelihood and amount of punitive damages depend on the defendant’s behavior.
- Defendant’s Ability to Pay: In every case, we are worried if the defendant can pay. This is not a variable in the Uber cases where we can find Uber responsible. They have endless money for settlements and verdicts, which impacts value because the same case would be worth much less if it were a taxi company.
- Publicity and Reputational Considerations: Uber desperately avoids negative publicity in high-profile cases. Uber does not want to try cases; it wants iron-tight confidentiality clauses when it settles them.
- Age and Vulnerability of the Victim: The victim’s age and any vulnerabilities may be considered, especially in cases involving children or individuals with disabilities. You will see below a rideshare lawsuit involving an 11-year-old girl. Of course, that drives settlement compensation.
- Case Strength and Evidence: You need to be able to make your case at trial. The strength of the case, including the availability and quality of evidence, will impact not only the likelihood of winning at trial but also the amount of a settlement or award. What makes for strong evidence in a sexual assault lawsuit? A credible plaintiff. That alone is often enough.
Settlement Amounts for Uber Sexual Assault Lawsuits
Most mass tort MDLs eventually get resolved in a global settlement deal in which the defendant pays a large sum of money to resolve all pending cases. Individual cases are then ranked into tiers based on various factors such as strength of evidence and severity of injuries. Cases in the highest tiers get bigger settlement payouts than those in the lower tiers.
Our mass tort lawyers think that the settlement tier values for Uber sexual assault cases could be in the range of $100,000 to $400,000. Cases in the highest tiers will be those involving forcible rape with strong evidence. Lower-tier cases will be those involving lesser degrees of sexual assault.
Of course, it is early in this litigation. We have a long way to go. If you want to call our estimated average Uber sexual assault settlement to be a guess, that would not be unfair. But we think people want to know what lawyers predict regarding settlement payouts, so we provide it here.
Sexual Assault Verdicts and Settlements
Below are summaries of settlements and verdicts in sexual assault cases involving situations similar to Uber driver sexual assaults. What we are trying to do here is give you an idea of how similar cases play out. Obviously, there are limits and how instructive a scattering of jury payout and settlement amounts in sexual assault cases is to understanding appropriate compensation. But they are one tool of many to understand better how to value a sexual assault lawsuit.
- $130,000 Verdict (Oregon): The plaintiff was a front-seat passenger in a taxi cab driven by the defendant’s driver. The plaintiff contended the driver rubbed her leg, groped her breast, grabbed her hand, placed it on his groin, and tried to kiss her without her consent. The event was captured with black and white still images from the taxi cab. The defendant admitted liability, and the only issue at trial was damages.
- $9,000,000 Settlement (Pennsylvania): A man – an evil man – orchestrated a meeting with an 11-year-old via Instagram. He used Lyft to transport the girl to a Days Inn hotel, where he sexually assaulted her. The girl’s rideshare sexual assault attorneys sued Lyft and, later, the Days Inn because it did not take sufficient actions to prevent the incident. The lawsuit, filed by the girl and her mother, accused Lyft of failing to enforce its policy against drivers transporting unaccompanied minors, as Lyft drivers transported the girl to meet the assailant. Lyft and two Days Inn hotels agreed to a $9 million settlement payout to settle their sexual assault lawsuit.
- $400,000 Settlement (Virginia): An unemployed singer and actress in her early 30s allegedly was raped by the male co-defendant taxi driver. The plaintiff claimed posttraumatic stress disorder as a result of the alleged assault. The co-defendant offered to drive the plaintiff to a hospital emergency room with an injured friend and subsequently engaged in sexual intercourse in the taxi. The plaintiff contended that the co-defendant raped her. The defendants contended that the intercourse was voluntary, and the defendant cab company contended that the co-defendant was not on duty.
- $620,000 Settlement (California): The plaintiff was a mentally disabled woman in her 30s who relied on cab service to get around. The defendant was her regular cab driver, and he sexually assaulted her numerous times. The plaintiff had repeatedly asked the disability cab service for a different driver, but nothing was done. The driver allegedly fondled her breasts and genitals by means of force and deceit. The plaintiff said she did not consent to the touching. The plaintiff also said that the defendant would force her to sit beside him and would drive to an alley behind her home, lock the doors, restrain her, and sexually assault her.
Punitive Damages May Drive Uber Sexual Assault Settlement Payouts
Every Uber rideshare sexual assault lawsuit will allege that the company has been aware at least since 2014 of ongoing issues with sexual predators among its drivers assaulting passengers. Despite numerous passenger complaints, police investigations, and legal actions related to driver misconduct, Uber failed to take adequate safety measures to protect its passengers. Uber’s executives consciously chose not to enforce stringent background checks for drivers.
Why? These suits allege that the company put women’s safety on the back burner to satisfy its passion for rapid expansion and profit maximization. To expand, you need drivers and lots of them. This decision to prioritize financial growth over passenger safety led to the neglect of implementing crucial safety precautions.
Uber could have done the right thing and put in safety measures, including thorough background checks, biometric fingerprinting, job interviews, electronic monitoring systems, and strict policies against driver misconduct. Why not?
Again, these precautions were allegedly deemed costly and potentially damaging Uber’s reputation. So under its executive officers’ direction, Uber chose to overlook these essential safety practices, putting passengers at increased risk of assault, rape, kidnapping, and exploitation.
Not in every jurisdiction, but in many, these allegations will allow attorneys for sexual assault victims to submit punitive damages to a jury. Punitive damages are financial penalties imposed on a defendant in a lawsuit intended to punish particularly harmful behavior and deter similar misconduct in the future. Unlike compensatory damages, which aim to compensate the victim for their loss, punitive damages are awarded when the defendant’s actions are deemed especially egregious or recklessly negligent.
Our attorneys think juries will be primed to award significant punitive damages in cases where a defendant’s failure to protect women’s safety is found to be egregiously negligent or indicative of a disregard for the well-being of others. These substantial financial penalties are imposed to punish the defendant for their neglect and serve as a strong deterrent against similar neglectful behavior. Uber knows this, and this risk will increase settlement amounts for every rideshare sexual assault lawsuit.
Contact an Uber Sexual Assault Lawyer Today
Our national mass tort lawyers are currently investigating Uber sexual assault cases for placement in the MDL. If an Uber driver sexually assaulted you, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit and participate in any settlement. Contact our sexual assault lawyers today at 800-553-8082 or contact us online for a free consultation.