In February 2019, a woman under the pseudonym “Jane Roe 2” made the safe and responsible decision to take a rideshare after drinking. What should have been a normal, safe ride home, turned into a nightmare – one she keeps reliving. That night, her lyft driver raped her, and abandoned her in the middle of a dark street.
After she reported the crime, Lyft took no action against the driver. In December 2019, Estey & Bomberger filed a lawsuit against Lyft and Uber, representing over 100 survivors of sexual assault, including Jane Roe 2. Every day, women like Jane Roe 2, continue to be vulnerable during rideshares, and they should not be. In our recent study, we found that female riders are more afraid of their driver’s behavior than they are about getting into an accident, and rightfully so. Out of the 1,000 female rideshare passengers surveyed, half reported they had experienced some form of sexual harassment in a rideshare.
The majority of women understand that they can file a lawsuit against Lyft or Uber for inappropriate and unacceptable driver behavior, but surprisingly, 71 percent of women did not know that they could file a lawsuit under a pseudonym to protect their privacy.
When can you file a lawsuit anonymously?
The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution gives the defendant the right to confront his or her accuser during a trial. This typically means the accuser’s identity may be revealed during testimony.
However, judges in both federal and state courts can allow anonymity for victims, if revealing their name:
- Puts them at risk of retaliation
- Compromises their privacy in a sensitive, personal matter
- Or exposes them to criminal prosecution
In most sexual assault cases, you are allowed to file a lawsuit anonymously and maintain that anonymity.
In California, several criminal and civil judges have allowed sexual assault victims to use their first name only, their initials or the classic “Jane” or “John” Doe.
- In the 2019 sexual assault lawsuit against Lyft, Estey and Bomberger represented a Massachusetts woman who was raped, under the pseudonym “Jane Roe 2.” She shared her survivor story, while still maintaining her privacy.
- Another example is Chanel Miller, who was known as “Emily Doe” in the 2015 trial of the Stanford Rape Case. Her “impact statement,” which went viral, was released anonymously. Her criminal case against Brock Turner gathered nationwide attention while protecting her identity and her privacy. She was known as “Emily Doe” until she chose to reveal her identity in 2019.
- In a different case, a California actress sued Harvey Weinstein and the Weinstein Company, anonymously. She was referred to as “Jane Doe” in her complaint in civil court.
In which instances would you be able to file a lawsuit against Lyft or Uber?
You have the grounds to file a lawsuit in any non-consensual sexual contact. If it is unwanted and unwelcome, it is not okay.
Consent is agreeing to something, and having the freedom to change your mind at any point. Consent is communicated freely and clearly. If it was not communicated clearly or if there is a shadow of doubt, then it is not consent. If you are intoxicated, unconscious, underage or asleep, it means you could not give consent, and what happened is not your fault.
Most women in our survey were aware that you can file a lawsuit in cases involving alcohol.
- 81 percent responded that you could file a lawsuit if the driver kissed a rider who had been drinking.
- 87 percent said that you could file a lawsuit if the driver had sex with a rider who did not say no but who was intoxicated.
However, this awareness has not necessarily translated into filing an actual lawsuit. This could be because a strong majority did not know they could file anonymously.
Why does filing a lawsuit matter?
Chanel Miller writes in her book, Know My Name, “It should’ve been enough to say I did not want a stranger touching my body. Why aren’t my boundaries inherent?”
Filing a lawsuit will not erase what happened, nor the painful memories or the emotions associated with it. But it can help you:
- Take back a little control
- Find closure
- Hold the person and corporation accountable for their crime
- Empower others to come forward and speak their truths
- Push for better safety measures by the companies
Who can help you file a lawsuit anonymously?
Filing a lawsuit is a way to fight back and to instigate change. The opposite of silence. Its message comes across loud and clear: What you did is not okay, and I am not going to stand by and let it happen again. It takes a lot of courage to stand up to the person who sexually assaulted you, but you do not have to do it alone. Our attorneys at Estey & Bomberger can help you file a lawsuit anonymously.
Our team brings over 20 years of experience representing survivors of sexual assault, and will handle every aspect of your case, while ensuring you have complete confidentiality and anonymity. If Uber or Lyft refuse to take your safety seriously, we can help you file a lawsuit and force them to.
Sexual assault is never okay, and you are not alone.