Uber Sexual Assault Litigations Go Global

Last week, a group of Canadian lawyers filed a class-action lawsuit against Uber “on behalf of passengers that were sexually assaulted, assaulted, battered, raped, kidnapped, forcibly confined, stalked, harassed, otherwise attacked or subjected to other sexual misconduct by an Uber driver with whom they had been paired through the Uber App.” It is a comprehensive list of torts.

According to court documents, Uber became aware as early as 2014 about its drivers “physically and/or sexually assaulting and raping female passengers” but failed to implement meaningful safety measures that would help to avoid or mitigate such crimes.

Previously, the Canada Public Utilities Commission fined Uber $59 million because the company failed to report sexual assault and harassment incidents by their contracted driver. The fine was later reduced, and a settlement was reached in 2021, in which Uber agreed to pay $9 million toward safety-related initiatives.

In response, an Uber spokesperson said that safety was at the heart of their company and concerns. Their actions, however, suggest otherwise.

If you or a loved one was sexually assaulted in a Lyft, Uber, or other ride share and ready to come forward with your story, the compassionate sexual abuse survivor lawyers at The Yost Legal Group are here to listen and fight for the justice you deserve. We are available by phone or text at 410.659.6800. 

Legal Issues in Uber Sexual Assaults

According to the company’s own records, several thousand sexual assaults occur on Uber rides every year. In 2020, there were 998 Uber sexual assaults in the United States alone. The assault could be physical or non-physical. Both kinds of assaults usually cause serious injuries. More on that below.

Once again according to the company’s reports, the driver is the assailant in about half these cases. A passenger is the assailant in the other half. In the court of public opinion, Uber may be able to wash its hands of passenger-on-passenger sexual assaults. But civil court is different. Uber has a legal duty to provide a safe environment. The extent of this duty varies, mostly according to the relationship between Uber (the property owner) and the passenger (the guest), as follows:

  • Invitee: Paying riders are commercial invitees in Maryland and most other states. Paying riders have permission to be in the car and they benefit the owner financially. As a result, Uber has a duty to keep the invitee reasonably safe. This duty includes a responsibility to provide adequate security.
  • Licensee: Non-Paying passengers (guests of invitees) are probably licensees (permission, but no benefit) in Maryland. Therefore, the owner has a duty to warn the licensee about latent hazards (e.g. “Are you sure you’re okay?” or “Please be careful. The man sitting next to you is drunk”). Furthermore, the owner’s agent (which in this case is the driver) has a duty to stop sexual assaults once they start. Agents cannot sit and do nothing as the situation escalates.
  • Trespasser: Since Uber rides are prepaid, this category (no permission and no benefit) rarely applies in these cases. Most people who get into Ubers have already paid and have permission to enter the vehicle. Occasionally, however, people get into the wrong car. Since they’re trespassers, they aren’t entitled to legal protection.

The duty to provide adequate security begins at passenger pickup and ends at passenger drop-off. Drivers have a duty to pick up and drop off passengers at safe locations. Dark street corners may be convenient locations, but they aren’t safe.

After a driver-on-passenger assault, survivors may still be able to hold the company liable for damages, generally under one of the following theories:

  • Negligent Hiring: Uber demand has bounced back to pre-pandemic lockdown levels, but Uber supply has not increased as much. To get more drivers on the road, Uber often hands out contracts and does not ask too many questions. If an incompetent operator, such as a driver with prior customer service assaults, causes injury, the owner may be legally responsible for damages.
  • Negligent Supervision: Uber gives its drivers a lot of freedom and flexibility, mostly to attract drivers. But his freedom is not unlimited. If misconduct allegations arise, the company has a duty to promptly, thoroughly, and transparently investigate the matter. Furthermore, the discipline, if any, must be based solely on the outcome of that investigation. Uber cannot sweep problems under the rug.

These third-party liability theories do not change the fact that the driver is individually responsible for their behavior. These theories simply help compensate survivors.

This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages may be available as well, in some extreme cases.

Sexual Assault Injuries

These incidents cause deep emotional wounds that, in many cases, take decades to unravel. Sexual assaults, especially physical assaults, also cause immediate physical injuries, such as:

  • Head Injuries: Any blow to the head, no matter how slight, can cause a brain injury. The force of the motion, not the force of the blow, usually causes a brain injury. This motion causes the brain to violently slam against the inside of the skull. Head injuries are always permanent and often degenerative.
  • Trouble Breathing: A number of physical injuries, such as bruised ribs, a throat injury, broken ribs, or anxiety, could cause trouble breathing. This injury is especially common if the survivor has asthma or another pre-existing condition.
  • Superficial Wounds: These injuries include broken teeth, cuts, bites, bruises, and needle marks. These kinds of injuries also have high infection rates, which can lead to further injuries and difficulties.

We said these injuries were “immediate,” but that is not quite true. Many sexual assault physical injuries are latent for several days. If you are a sexual assault survivor, always ask a doctor to evaluate your physical condition.

Were You Sexually Assaulted by an Uber Driver? Call Now.

Uber is ultimately responsible for the sexual abuses committed by its contracted drivers on its app platform. If you or a loved one was sexually assaulted by an Uber drive, we are here to help. We are here to listen. We are here to get you the justice you deserve. For a free consultation with an experienced sexual abuse survivor lawyer, contact The Yost Legal Group. We are available via e-mail, phone (1-800-YOST-LAW), and text (410-659-6800).