A birthday dinner took a disastrous turn when a young woman named Jade was held prisoner by her Lyft driver. Jade’s case is yet another example of why ride-hailing companies need more stringent safety regulations.
Jade called Lyft for a ride home from a restaurant in Providence, Rhode Island, where she had gone to celebrate her 25th birthday.
When the Lyft vehicle arrived, Jade discovered the backdoor was locked, so she sat in the front seat and engaged in some small talk with the driver while looking at her phone.
“He put the car in park and I looked up and my stomach dropped because I was looking at a gated fence and I saw that I wasn’t where I requested to go, which was home,” she said. “He turned off the vehicle’s outside lights, he locked the doors, he took his phone from the dash and turned off the app.”
Then the driver began peppering Jade with personal questions about her family that she described as “very invasive.”
She was frightened by the turn of events. To make matters worse, her phone was dying.
“I realized this is not a joke, so I took a deep breath and said, ‘I’m most likely going to be raped’ because he had situated himself toward me and he had unbuckled himself,” Jade said.
At one point the driver suggested that they should go to dinner and drove her to an iHop.
“I just kept saying drive me home, drive me home, people are expecting me,” Jade said.
Jade’s 5-minute trip home had turned into a 40-minute nightmare. Finally, the driver pulled into a street near her house and she bolted from the vehicle, running to “somebody’s yard,” and watching until the driver left before finally making her way home.
“I cried all night and notified the police the next day,” she said. “I also reached out to Lyft and the response was, “We’re sorry for your inconvenient ride. We hope your next one is better.”
Jade called the company’s reaction “staggering” and repeatedly tried contacting them.
She recalled telling a Lyft employee, “No, no, no, no, no, you don’t understand. I need to talk to someone. I have a police report that shows he took me to an unknown destination, an abandoned industrial lot. Clearly, Lyft didn’t understand the extent of the situation.”
She also offered to send Lyft a copy of the police report.
“All they said was ‘we took the necessary actions toward this driver.’ So, it was frustrating because I felt like I wasn’t heard and I wasn’t getting the assistance I needed,” Jade said. “Having them say, ‘We are sorry, we hope your next ride is better’ was a slap in the face.”
To this day, she doesn’t know if the driver has been removed from the Lyft platform or if he’s still out there hunting unsuspecting women.
Police also called Lyft and received “no response at all,” Jade said.
Detectives acknowledged that Jade was held against her will and they did question the driver, who reportedly told them that he wanted to take her out to dinner. But they did not arrest him for kidnapping since he didn’t hold her down.
So, she posted her story on Facebook to alert others to the danger.
She wrote, “I don’t share this to scare anyone but to make individuals who utilize Lyft cognizant of the dangers.”
Sharing was also empowering.
“I realized how helpful it was to talk about what happened and get it off my chest,” Jade said. “People comforted me and I realized then that what happened was not my fault.”
But the pain is still there: today, Jade is in therapy and has taken a leave of absence from work. She also moved away from Providence because the driver had her home address and she feared he might come after her.
Today, she’s calling for Lyft to change its app so that “someone is alerted if you’re dropped off at a location where you didn’t want to go. Lyft should have some integration with police because it shouldn’t be up to the person who requested the ride to alert police. And when these incidents do occur, I feel like it should be mandatory to have someone from Lyft check in with the victim and say, ‘Look these are our next steps, this is what we plan to do.’”
Jade joined the Lyft lawsuit in hopes that it will raise awareness.
“We must unite and look out for each other’s safety. By telling my story and others, we can educate the consumers of ride-sharing apps on how they can best equip themselves to be safe and also alert them to any new safety precautions Lyft is going to take,” she said.
Jade contacted Estey and Bomberger’s Lyft sexual assault attorneys after reaching out to multiple attorneys who said she should seek an attorney who is skilled in the field of sexual abuse.
“I came across Estey & Bomberger while researching attorneys on the Internet,” she said. “They assigned Madison Anderson to work with me as a victim advocate and my first interaction with her was cathartic. She listened to my story for more than an hour and validated my feelings; she also explained how she can help me going forward.”
Victim advocates like Madison work directly with clients to support their recovery efforts and keep them updated on lawsuit developments.