Uber was sued on Wednesday by a law firm claiming to represent around 550 women passengers using the ride-sharing platform who were allegedly assaulted by drivers across multiple states.
The complaint in the case was filed in San Francisco County Superior Court by the Slater Slater Schulman firm and claims that the plaintiffs were “kidnapped, sexually assaulted, sexually battered, raped, falsely imprisoned, stalked, harassed, or otherwise attacked” by drivers contracted with Uber.
The law firm issued a press release as the case was filed stating that Uber became aware as early as 2014 that “its drivers were sexually assaulting and raping female passengers.” It added that the company has nevertheless allowed sexual predators to continue to drive for Uber and attack passengers.
After the lawsuit was filed, Uber issued a press statement saying that it believes sexual assault to be a “horrific crime.” The company said that it takes “every single report seriously,” and it believes nothing is more important than safety.
Uber’s statement added that it has “built new safety features, established survivor-centric policies, and been more transparent about serious incidents.”
Uber went on to criticize the law firm that filed the lawsuit, saying that although it claims to represent at least 550 injured women, it has only filed for “12 to date.” The company also said the plaintiffs’ law firm has not provided any “critical incident details” that would show a connection to Uber.
The law firm responded by saying it has actually filed 24 claims and reaffirmed its client count at 550. It also said that it is actively investigating at least 150 additional claims of sexual assault against Uber drivers.
The firm went on to say that additional cases will be filed in “multi-party complaints,” meaning they are not filed in a single case as would be the situation in a class action.
The San Francisco case was filed about two weeks after Uber released a safety report. The company said that in 2019 and 2020 it received “3,824 reports of the five most severe categories of sexual assault.” Those categories range from “non-consensual kissing of a non-sexual body part” to “non-consensual sexual penetration.”
Attorney Adam Slater with Slater Slater Schulman said that although Uber has acknowledged the “crisis of sexual assault in recent years,” the response has not been timely or adequate. He added that has led to “horrific consequences.” He went on to say that the company had prioritized growth over rider safety.
Uber reportedly conducts safety screenings of new drivers when they sign up and annually thereafter. The usual defense that the company has offered in assault cases nationwide has been that it is not responsible for the acts of the drivers, as it considers them not to be employees but independent contractors.
Uber has not yet filed a formal response to the new lawsuit.