Via Financial Times

Nineteen women claimed in a lawsuit on Wednesday to have been raped or sexually assaulted while using Lyft, the ride-hailing app which the women say has not done enough to screen drivers or protect vulnerable passengers.

A lawsuit on behalf of the women was filed in a California court by Estey & Bomberger, a law firm that has already once sued Lyft and previously sued Uber on similar allegations. The latest suit claims that Lyft has lax safety standards and fails to monitor drivers.

Among the claims in the 56-page complaint is that assailants were specifically using the ride-hailing app to target intoxicated women after midnight and even carrying alcohol to give to their victims. In one case where the driver was charged, “police found at least three bottles of fruity flavoured alcohol, including a bottle of tequila, small paper cups, and numerous condoms”, the complaint said.

A spokeswoman for Lyft pointed to the company’s introduction of 15 new safety features that help to monitor drivers and check their criminal background and make it easier for passengers to report misconduct.

“What these women describe is something no one should ever have to endure,” the spokeswoman said.

“This year, nearly one in five employees at Lyft have been dedicated to initiatives that strengthen the platform’s safety,” she added. “Everyone deserves the ability to move about the world safely, yet women still face disproportionate risks. We recognise these risks, which is why we are relentless in our work to build safety into every aspect of our work.”

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One of the women alleges that she was raped in late December 2017 after her Lyft driver — who had turned off the app and offered the final leg of the journey for free — pressured her into drinking tequila and then drove her into an empty parking lot to attack her in the back seat. Charges were filed and the driver was found guilty earlier this year of sexual assault in the fourth degree, according to the lawsuit.

Another woman said she fell asleep in the back of the ride-sharing vehicle and woke up to her driver “raping and groping her”. The complaint said the assailant was arrested but that Lyft only offered the woman a refund and could not confirm whether the driver still worked for the company. 

Plaintiffs called Lyft’s response to the incidents “appallingly inadequate”. They are seeking damages for medical treatment plus lost earnings and incidental expenses. 

They suggest that Lyft implement surveillance cameras within its app that could record audio and video in “all rides and have footage saved and accessible for up to 72 hours after each ride”. 

Lyft says its work to prevent sexual violence is “never done” and it pledged to keep investing in “features, protocols and policies to ensure Lyft is the safest form of transportation for our riders and drivers”.

Shares in Lyft were down 0.4 per cent to $47.32, on a day when Uber shares were flat and the S&P 500 index was up 0.6 per cent.