Uber is a company that offers ride-sharing services, gaining massive popularity over the last several years. Known for their extremely rider-friendly app, Uber’s reputation has been mostly positive since its introduction. Regardless of the popularity their accessible application has garnered, Uber does not always choose the right drivers to follow through with this user-friendly platform. Some drivers operate with ulterior motives the company is unaware of. This was the case in Uber’s 2018 sexual assault case.
The plaintiff of Uber’s sexual assault case was a young woman who was returning home after a night of drinking. After calling an Uber driver, the plaintiff realized she needed to pull over so she could vomit. Her driver obliged to this request, pulling over and then allowing the plaintiff to pass out in his back seat. The driver, 54-year-old John Sanchez, sexually assaulted his rider while she was unconscious. The plaintiff eventually regained consciousness while the driver was assaulting her only one block away from her home.
The plaintiff reported this incident to the police, and they arrested the defendant, charging him with assault. To make matters worse, when law enforcement searched his house they found videos of Sanchez assaulting other women on his personal computer. Police also found Sanchez had 33 additional counts of assault reported against him, many involving drugs used to sedate his victims. The court found Sanchez guilty and sentenced him to 80 years in prison.
Pressing Charges Against Uber
This case was only one of several sexual assault incidents that have occurred through Uber’s ride sharing services. There is no public data available that illustrates the number of sexual assaults/attempted assaults caused by Uber drivers. However, plaintiffs have reported around 103 predators through personal testimony thus far.
Riders who have opened up about their stories are now pursuing a class action lawsuit against Uber. A class action lawsuit involves multiple people suing the same entity for related damages. In this case, women have teamed up and filed against Uber to address the damages caused by Uber’s negligent hiring practices when choosing their drivers.
Uber’s brand ensures a “safe ride home,” which completely contradicts the experiences of sexual assault victims. Several ad campaigns have illustrated women safely entering Uber vehicles after a night out, even partnering with Mothers Against Drunk Driving to promote ride sharing as the best alternative to drunk driving. Although this might be true in reference to driving while intoxicated, it by no means correlates with a safe ride home when drivers are assaulting drunk riders.
Uber updated its driver contract in 2016 to specifically not permit sexual contact between drivers and riders. However, accused drivers point the finger back at the company, stating they never received sexual harassment or assault training. As these issues started gaining more traction, Uber released a statement saying that addressing sexual assault has become a priority for the company.
How Are Driver’s Selected?
Although many drivers work for Lyft and Uber at the same time, both companies have their own policies in place for hiring their drivers. Uber’s selection process involves a digital background check through a platform called Checkr, disqualifying individuals with a history of sexual assault and/or crimes against children. However, they previously did not have a policy in place for rerunning these background checks periodically. Uber changed the policy in 2017 and now checks their drivers’ records every two years.
With more instances of sexual assault by Uber drivers surfacing, it remains crucial to protect yourself in potentially dangerous scenarios. Do not assume all drivers associated with ride sharing services share the same values as the companies themselves. Leaving yourself vulnerable in the presence of any stranger, including a ride sharing driver, can lead to unwelcome behavior and possibly an assault.
If you were the victim of sexual assault by an Uber or Lyft driver, contact us immediately to discuss the legal actions we can take against them.