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With dozens of women suing the ridehailing giant Uber over alleged sexual attacks by its drivers in multiple U.S. states, a Bay Area law firm representing plaintiffs reportedly submitted a court petition to group more than 80 cases into a single legal action. Of the alleged incidents, two occurred in San Jose, one in Walnut Creek, and one in San Francisco.
The dozens of lawsuits claim the company knew as early as 2014 that its drivers were raping and sexually assaulting female passengers. “In the seven years since, sexual predators driving for Uber have continued to sexually assault, harass, kidnap, physically assault, and/or rape Uber’s passengers,” the suits filed in San Francisco Superior Court and other California state courts reportedly allege. “Uber has failed to implement basic safety measures necessary to prevent these serious sexual assaults, which continue to this day.”
Uber reportedly retorted that for most of the suits, it hadn’t received enough details from the plaintiffs’ lawyers or the lawsuits to connect the claims to the company. In the cases with sufficient information, the drivers — whom the company found had cleared motor vehicle and criminal background checks — were banned from the platform, according to Uber.
The suits against Uber are virtually identical, with the women identified only as “Jane Doe” because they are alleged sexual assault victims. In most of the cases, details of the claimed attacks are not mentioned. The suits relate to alleged incidents across the U.S. dating back to 2014. One particular case, one from Kern County, the incident claimed rape at gunpoint.
“Sexual assault is a devastating crime and although no industry is immune from these issues, we remain steadfast in our commitment to support victims and help stop sexual violence by collaborating with experts, pioneering safety tech solutions, and setting the standard on transparency and accountability,” Uber reportedly said in an emailed statement to The Mercury News.
Of the suits, 14 incidents allegedly took place just after late 2019 when Uber issued its “Safety Report” that revealed thousands of sexual assaults had been reported during rides and concluded with an assertion by the company that in response it had “launched more safety features than ever before.” The most recent alleged incident occurred Apr. 30 in San Diego. “We’re still getting cases where somebody will say, ‘This happened last night,’” the attorney reportedly said. In total, 200 or so additional women are expected to join the legal action — with more than 100 alleging they were attacked by Uber drivers after the report was issued.
Back in Dec. 2020, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) fined Uber and threatened to suspend their license to operate in the state after the company refused to share the information, including full names and contact information, arguing that doing so would violate victims’ rights to privacy. Uber had noted that fulfilling the commission’s demands would create a “shocking violation” of sexual assault victims’ privacy. By Feb. of this year, Uber appealed a $59 million fine.
The safety report disclosed there had been roughly 6,000 cases of reported sexual assault between 2017 and 2018. Of the 3,045 reported sexual assault cases in 2018 (up from 2,936 in 2017), Uber reportedly said 235 were rapes and the remainder were varying levels of assault. A vast majority involved unwanted kissing or groping.