KGTV reporter Vanessa Van Hyfte recently reported on an Oceanside mother of two who says she is still traumatized a year after her Lyft driver assaulted her in front of her Oceanside home. The woman was on her way to the store to pickup groceries for her family when the assault occurred.
“I was going to get out of the car and he climbed in the back and put his hands down my pants and said he wanted sex. It was surreal and I was terrified and I had never been in a situation like that before in my life. I was screaming and told him to stop and I was calling the cops.”
As if the situation wasn’t already bad enough, the driver proceeded to lock the woman inside his car as he sped off down the road.
“He was driving toward the beach and I was yelling.”
The driver slowed down at a certain point, allowing the woman to escape. While a warrant has been been issued by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department for the driver’s arrest, at the time of writing, he has yet been charged.
The woman’s story is one of neary 300 cases against the ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft that our law firm is litigating. Trial attorney and partner Steve Estey, who has numerous national record-setting verdicts, will take on Lyft in September in what is the first trial of it’s kind against the ride-hailing company.
To achieve justice for our clients and to improve the safety of riders using ride-hailing apps, our law firm has filed mass tort lawsuits against both Uber and Lyft.
Stephen Estey is clear about why our firm is standing up to Uber and Lyft, “The rideshare platform has created a platform for sexual predators.”
Our law firm will argue that the ride-hail company was negligent in numerous ways and failed to protect female passengers from a known danger. The suit against Lyft alleges that, “Lyft’s response to this sexual predator crisis amongst Lyft drivers has been appallingly inadequate.” Similarly, our complaint against Uber argues, “Uber induces young, unaccompanied, intoxicated, or vulerable women to use its product with the expectation of safety, all the while knowing that sexual abuse of Uber’s passengers in prevalent.”
“The background check is very minimal and it’s not fingerprint based… and the lack of supervision, there are no cameras. They won’t do that because they know what it will show,” said Stephen.
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) regulates ride-hailing companies. In December, the CPUC fined Uber $59 million dollars for failing to hand over detailed data about sexual assaults. Ultimately, the case against Uber was was settled and company agreed to pay $9 million dollars in fines.
From 2017 to 2018 Uber claims it completed more than 2.3 billion trips. During this time period in the United State more than 3 million trips took place each day. Because it contained private survivor information,Uber says the company did not initially release data to the CPUC . In their own Community Safety Report, Uber reported 5,981 sexual assaults between 2017 and 2018.
Lyft reported 4,158 sexual assaults between the years 2017 and 2019 in its Community Saftey Report. The assault numbers in the Community Public Safety report only account for five out of twenty-one subcategories of sexual misconduct and sexual assault, with a wide range from flirting to rape. These safety reports are voluntarily provided and submitted by the ride-hail companies and Stephen Estey says the numbers would likely be far greater if all subcategories were taken into consideration.
2021 Department of Justice statistics indicate one-third of women who are assaulted do not report to authorities. This includes one of our clients, who claims she was assaulted in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter in 2015. According to our client, she was assaulted by an Uber driver who was giving her a ride to the Hilton hotel after a night of partying with friends. We are protecting her identity because she is a survivor of sexual assault and we respect our client’s wishes to remain anonymous.
Our client recalls a similar reaction to that which many woman face in such a situation, “I kind of froze, he took my breast out of my bra and started telling me inappropriate things. Then he took the key to my room and followed me up to the room and tried to have sex with me. I didn’t think anyone would believe me because I am a bigger girl, but I am hoping this will help other women like me who may be bigger by coming forward. I blamed myself for years over what happened and I know it is not my fault.”
According to the ride-hailing companies own Community Public Safety Reports, women are being assaulted in vehicles at an alarming rate. Unfortunately, despite these public records, most riders are not aware of the true risk they take every time they enter a ride-hailing vehicle.
“I have daughters and don’t let them ride in a rideshare alone and if they are I make sure they have a buddy system in place or they don’t ride in the front seat or right rear passenger seat- that tends to be where predators grope so it’s a little safer to place yourself behind them,” said Stephen.
Uber released a feature in May 2022 that allows passengers to choose female drivers and both Uber and Lyft have developed a series of in-app safety features that allows riders to share their location with family and friends, connect directly with the ride-hail company, or 911 to access emergency assistance.
But we believe the companies need to do more, starting with cameras in all cars, finger-print background checks, and letting riders know of the risk. Until Uber and Lyft enact these changes, our law firm will continue to fight to uphold the rights of victims who are assaulted by their drivers.