St. Louis woman says Lyft knew driver had criminal background
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St. Louis woman says Lyft knew driver had criminal background

According to a report by CBS affiliate KMOV out of St. Louis, a woman who has filed suit against rideshare company Lyft and the driver accused of raping her in June of 2019 amended her lawsuit Friday, alleging Lyft knew the driver was a convicted felon.

30-year-old Cristen Giangarra said she was kidnapped and raped by Larry Ward in downtown St. Louis. Ward, who was working as a Lyft driver at the time, reportedly picked up Giangarra after she had been out at Ballpark Village with friends.

Ward was charged in December of 2019 with rape and abduction as court documents allege that he turned off the Lyft app, entered the backseat of the car, and raped the Giangarra while she was semi-conscious.

On Friday July 24, 2020, Giangarra and her attorney Mike Gallagher said Lyft knew Ward was a convicted criminal, as he was rejected as a driver in 2017 when his background check revealed he had been sentenced to nine years in prison for selling drugs.

In 2018, Lyft changed background check companies to Checkr, and Ward re-applied and was approved to drive for the company.

“Lyft knew the driver Larry Ward was a convicted felon and had been sentenced to nine years in prison for manufacturing and delivering narcotics,” Gallagher said. “They knew Ward had been previously barred from their platform as a driver and they ignored their own company’s guidelines and allowed him to drive anyway.”

Friday’s amended suit also names Checkr as a defendant.

“I am here again before you to warn the public of Lyft’s negligence and to hold Lyft and Checkr accountable for my kidnap, rape and subsequent trauma and the secondary trauma inflicted on those with me after my attack on that frightful night,” Giangarra said.

A judge had reduced Larry Ward’s bail in February, citing his family ties to the area, that he’s been a resident of St. Charles County for the last eight years, and had a full time job with MoDOT prior to his arrest. He was released on bond.

Test results from the rape kit confirm Ward’s DNA was present.

Judge Michael Colona authorized posting 10% of Ward’s $100,000 cash bail, he must wear a GPS bracelet and be confined to his home in the 2200 block of Bay Tree Drive in St. Peters. The judge allowed him to work between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. He was ordered not to drive a car, contact the victim, or use any rideshare service apps.

A court spokesperson said judges must set bonds that are affordable for defendants unless they pose a high risk for the community.

The lawsuit says also Ward was previously accused of sexual assault in 2002, but Gallagher said the company’s background check only goes back seven years.

Giangarra hopes the suit will hold the company accountable, and prevent something like this ever happening again.

“My hope is that no other passengers are subjected to the trauma and pain that I have been through,” she said.