[By Maria Cramer]
Nineteen women sued Lyft this week, joining a growing list of people who say the popular ride-hailing service failed to prevent drivers from sexually assaulting them, then ignored the complaints.
The lawsuit is the latest to accuse Lyft of failing to enact basic safety measures that would have prevented the alleged assaults. After the women reported the attacks, Lyft did not follow up on their complaints or played down the seriousness of what happened, according to the lawsuit, which was filed on Wednesday in the Superior Court of San Francisco.
“It’s not just the fact that these sexual assaults happened. It’s about the cover-up,” said Michael Bomberger, a San Diego-based lawyer who filed the suit. He filed another lawsuit in September, when 14 women came forward to say they had been sexually assaulted by Lyft drivers.
Mr. Bomberger said many of the women he represents had gone to the police only to learn that Lyft, a San Francisco-based company that competes with Uber for drivers and passengers, had refused to provide information that would have helped investigators.
“Lyft doesn’t even tell our clients who the driver is so they can get a temporary restraining order,” Mr. Bomberger said. “What Lyft is doing on so many levels is done with the intent of silencing the victims and protecting their brand.”
Alexandra LaManna, a spokeswoman for Lyft, said on Thursday: “What has been described is something no one should ever have to endure. Everyone deserves the ability to move about the world safely, yet women still face disproportionate risks.”
She added that this year, nearly one in five employees at the company had been dedicated to initiatives strengthening the platform’s safety, and that in recent months it had introduced more than 15 new safety features.
In the wake of the September lawsuit, Lyft announced that it had been screening drivers’ criminal backgrounds daily to find out if they had been arrested. Lyft said it already had effective security measures in place, like a feature that lets passengers tell their friends and family where they are going.
Mr. Bomberger said the company needed to do far more, like installing video and audio surveillance that would let drivers know they are being recorded.
Ann, one of the first women to sue Lyft, said she wanted the company to admit its responsibility for the assaults.
“They just dismiss us,” said Ann, who asked to be identified by her middle name. “I just want them to acknowledge that they need to do something.”
Ann, 39, was out drinking with friends in March 2018 when she used Lyft to go back to her apartment in Marlborough, Mass. She was heavily intoxicated, and the driver helped her walk up the stairs to her apartment.
When she got inside, he spun her around by the shoulders and forced her to perform oral sex on him, she said.
The driver has been charged with one count of rape and has pleaded not guilty.
Ann said she knows he lives in her town and remains terrified she will see him again.
“I can’t shop. I can’t get gas in my own town,” she said. “I can’t do anything.”
More than 200 women have come forward to say they were assaulted by Lyft or Uber drivers, according to Mr. Bomberger and Rachel Abrams, a San Francisco-based lawyer who has also filed a suit against Lyft.
Ms. Abrams said the victims ranged in age between 20 and 40. Many of them were drunk or unconscious when the alleged assaults occurred. One woman who was assaulted is blind, and another has autism, Mr. Bomberger said.