A Vallejo woman claims in a new lawsuit that her Lyft driver pulled into a dark lane, stopped the car and locked the doors, forcing her to flee out the vehicle’s window.
Gsa Gsa Ward said in the lawsuit that she summoned a Lyft car just before 1 a.m. in April 2019 to take her from her home to a convenience store less than a mile away. “Ms. Ward believed hailing a Lyft ride would be safer than walking at night,” according to the lawsuit filed in San Francisco Superior Court.
The legal action comes as the San Francisco ride-hailing giant faces a “mass tort” lawsuit by dozens of women alleging sexual assault by drivers. The firm’s rival Uber admitted in 2019 that thousands of sexual assaults had been reported during rides.
Lyft said in response to questions about Ward’s lawsuit that safety is “fundamental” to the company. “Since day one, we have designed products and policies that help protect both riders and drivers, and will continue our work to make Lyft an even safer platform for our community,” Lyft said in an emailed statement. The company added that it requires initial and annual background checks for drivers and conducts continuous monitoring related to crime and driving records. Passengers can access emergency help via the app, and reach a live person at any time after a ride, Lyft said.
Ward’s suit alleges that Lyft has refused to provide her with the driver’s full name, but that the app said he was called Rex.
“Soon after the ride began, Rex drove off course, turning down a dark side street without explanation,” the suit claimed. “Ms. Ward asked Rex what he was doing and got no response, so she began tapping him on the shoulder to get his attention. Rex then pulled over to the side of the road, stopped the car, and locked the doors.”
When Ward tapped the man again, he responded with the only vocalizations she ever heard from him, “a gurgling ‘mm mm’ sound” he’d first made after she’d given him directions to the gas station with the store, the suit alleged.
“Rex then lowered his sun visor, revealing a crystal meth pipe,” the suit claimed. “Ms. Ward exclaimed ‘Oh No!’ and Rex reached down for something that Ms. Ward could not see.”
Terrified, Ward told the driver she wanted out and she tried to open her door, but it remained locked, so she began clambering out her window, the suit alleged. “As Ms. Ward was climbing through her window, Rex attempted to close the window on her,” the suit claimed.
Ward managed to escape, her left leg scraped and bruised from the window glass, and ran home, the suit filed last week alleged.
In pain and deeply shaken, she received a call from Lyft before she could contact the company, according to the suit. Lyft said it had received a report that she’d left the ride via the window and the company wanted to know if she’d done that because she didn’t want to pay, the suit claimed.
“She also received an email from Lyft at 1:20 a.m. admonishing her not to ‘jump out of the car when it is in motion’ when she could ‘simply request that the driver stop to let you out,’” the suit alleged.
She is accusing Lyft of failing to protect her, and of negligent hiring, and is seeking unspecified damages.
Lyft and Uber in March announced a new program for ride-hailing companies and delivery firms to share information among themselves about drivers deactivated for sexual assaults and other serious safety incidents.
*By Ethan Baron, Mercury News*