Fourteen women who say they were raped, sexually assaulted or harassed while using Lyft’s ride-hailing app filed a lawsuit against the company Wednesday, claiming that Lyft has received nearly 100 reports of such violations over two years and has not adequately responded to them.
The lawsuit argues that the company enables such attacks by luring unaccompanied or intoxicated women into Lyft drivers’ cars without adequately checking their drivers’ backgrounds or equipping riders with a panic button.
The suit also accuses Lyft of attempting to “cover up” and failing to notify law enforcement of the harassment or assault reports they receive from customers.
“It didn’t have to happen,” attorney Stephen Estey, who is representing the victims, said of the alleged assaults at a news conference Wednesday. “None of this had to happen to these 14 women.”
The victims are being represented by the Estey & Bomberger law firm. The lawsuit was filed in Superior Court in San Francisco, according to NBC News.
Speaking at the news conference, a woman identified as Gladys said that her Lyft driver was smoking crack, turned off his app and kidnapped her during her ride.
Gladys said she was held hostage for five hours as the driver drove her to a beach and raped her. During the ordeal, she said, she broke her finger while trying to slap her attacker away.
At the news conference, Gladys urged Lyft to utilize drug tests, in-car cameras and better GPS trackers for their drivers, all of which she believes would have helped alert the company to her attack.
According to the lawsuit, Gladys reported the incident to police, but the driver continued to work for Lyft.
“Make no mistake: There are serious crimes that must be stopped,” Gladys said. “What happened to me must never happen again.”
In a statement to HuffPost, a spokesperson for Lyft said the company was committed to safety for both its drivers and customers.
Lyft says it screens any person applying to be a driver for criminal offenses and driving incidents. The company also says it conducts annual criminal background checks via a third-party company and continuous criminal monitoring, dropping any drivers who do not pass the checks.
“What the victims describe is terrifying and has no place in the Lyft community,” Mary Winfield, Lyft’s head of trust and safety, said in a statement to HuffPost.
“As a platform committed to providing safe transportation, we hold ourselves to a higher standard by designing products and policies to keep out bad actors, make riders and drivers feel safe, and react quickly if and when an incident does occur,” Winfield added.
Despite Lyft’s commitment to safety, their customers have continued to come forward with allegations of assault and strange behavior from their drivers over the years.
In 2016, a 49-year-old Lyft driver was accused of picking up a female using the app, driving her to his house instead and assaulted her in his home. He was later arrested and charged with sexual battery, kidnapping and false imprisonment.
In April of this year, a 34-year-old driver was charged after he was accused of raping one of his passengers in a hotel bathroom in Seattle and handcuffing another victim and groping her.
A Lyft driver in Mount Prospect, Illinois, was arrested in May after a woman escaped his car and called the police to report that he had sexually assaulted her.
Attorneys representing the women in Wednesday’s lawsuit said Lyft was failing to resolve a “sexual predator crisis.”
“Complaints to Lyft by female customers who have been attacked by Lyft drivers, combined with subsequent criminal investigations by law enforcement, clearly establish that Lyft has been fully aware of these continuing attacks by sexual predators driving for Lyft,” the lawsuit says.
“Lyft’s response to this sexual predator crisis amongst Lyft drivers has been appallingly inadequate.”