Louisiana Record

Friday, May 29, 2020

Lawsuit accuses Lyft of not doing enough to prevent sexual assault

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By Zeta Cross | Dec 16, 2019


It is all too common – particularly at holiday time: Friends or coworkers have too much to drink. To get them home safely, people call a ride share service such as Lyft or Uber. 

“I will never do that again,” attorney Meghan McCormick told the Record. “I cringe to think of what can happen.” 

One of McCormick’s law firm’s clients is a woman from New Orleans who is identified only as “Jane Doe”. Doe was intoxicated last January when her friends called her a Lyft. Instead of taking her home, the driver took her to his house, where he sexually assaulted her, the woman claims. 

“It is a huge problem,” McCormick said.

McCormick’s firm, Levin Simes Abrams Llc of San Francisco, is representing Doe and 200 other alleged victims from across the country who have been sexually assaulted, raped or kidnapped by Lyft drivers. Doe contacted the San Francisco firm because Lyft is headquartered there. 

McCormick says Lyft has been aware of the problem of sexual assault by drivers since 2012. 

In the complaint filed against Lyft, Levin, Simes and Abrams said the company is not doing enough to stop the assaults. 

“As a technology company, I am sure they have capabilities that we are not even aware of,” McCormick said. “In our opinion, the least they could do is put cameras in the cars to make it safer for passengers and drivers,” she says. 

The solution does not have to be high tech, McCormick said. What Lyft needs is a simple, straightforward policy that drivers can understand: 

“You do not fraternize with passengers," she said. "You don’t ask them out. You don’t ask for their phone number. You don’t use Lyft as a way to find a new date.”

McCormick said some drivers accused of assault have tried to defend themselves by saying the sexual act was consensual.  

“When someone is intoxicated, there is no such thing as consent,” McCormick said. 

It is up to Lyft to get rid of the ambiguity, she said. 

“In interviews with police, there have been responses like ‘I thought she was my girlfriend.' I don’t know what has led them to believe that a passenger that they have picked up – who was a complete stranger – was their girlfriend,” McCormick said.

Lyft needs a policy in place and training to make sure that drivers understand it, she said. 

“Here is our policy. Here is a quiz to make sure that you understand what is appropriate,” she said.

Lyft’s rideshare rival Uber is doing a better job in preventing sexual assault than Lyft, McCormick said. Through its app, Uber has a feature called “Follow My Ride” that offers passengers the option to have a trusted friend see their route. The friend does not need to register or get his or her own Uber app to use it. 

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