Chicago Workers’ Compensation Lawyers & Illinois Injury Lawyers

A Federal Judge Allows a Rape Survivor to Continue Her Pursuit of Punitive Damages Against Uber

| May 29, 2024 | Uber/Lyft |

In recent weeks, this blog has covered many different ways that rideshare services like Uber and Lyft may potentially place their riders in danger. A federal case from Northern California exposed yet another possible danger and cause for concern, which is the risk posed by some terminated drivers; specifically, predatory terminated drivers who continue to drive around displaying their Uber decal or other insignia in order to lure potential victims. As the judge in that federal case pointed out in a recent ruling, the rideshare service may bear a degree of liability for such an attacked rider’s harm if the rideshare service acted with “extreme indifference” about collecting terminated drivers’ Uber decals and other company insignia.

If you’ve been hurt by an Uber or Lyft driver or a terminated rideshare driver, it is possible the rideshare service may be liable for some or all of the damages that you suffered. Be sure to reach out without delay to contact an experienced Chicago Uber injury attorney about your situation.

In that federal case, which was reported by Claims Journal, the plaintiff, a woman who was visiting Northern California from Mexico, hailed a ride with a driver parked near a Bay Area mall. She presumed the man was an Uber driver because the man’s vehicle had an Uber windshield decal on it.

The man, in reality, was a former Uber driver who had been suspended by the service for misconduct. Once he picked up the woman, he drove to a secluded area, raped her and choked her. The woman sued Uber Technologies and its affiliated company, Rasier LLC, for damages.

When you sue an entity for damages, you can allege that it was vicariously liable for damages done by someone who worked for it but, to do so, you have to have evidence that the wrongdoer was “acting within the scope of his employment” when the injury happened. This rape survivor attempted such an argument but failed because she lacked adequate proof that the driver was acting within the scope of his employment with Uber when he assaulted her.

That was not the “end of the line” for this victim, though. While the judge dismissed a significant portion of this woman’s case, that didn’t mean her case was over; in fact, far from it. There can be different kinds of dismissals in civil court. The judge can enter an order of dismissal with no option for a plaintiff to re-file, or the judge can order dismissal while giving the plaintiff the ability to amend and re-file her complaint.

This rape survivor’s case was one of the latter situations. The federal judge gave her permission to re-file and save the claims that were dismissed. Additionally, even without an amendment to the complaint to save those dismissed claims, a different part of the woman’s case survived the defense’s dismissal request.

Uber’s Failure Could Amount to ‘Extreme Indifference’ and Trigger Punitive Damages Award

That claim sought punitive damages from Uber for its conduct. A claim for punitive damages requires proof that the entity you’ve sued acted with “extreme indifference.” In the dismissal ruling, the judge said that, if the woman gave the court adequate evidence that Uber had intentionally failed to get its decal back from its former driver who had been de-platformed due to misconduct, then that failure possibly was serious enough to amount to extreme indifference under the law and entitle this woman to a punitive damages award.

What all of this can say to you is that there may be many different ways to obtain the positive result and essential compensation you need. Contact the experienced Uber injury attorneys at Katz, Friedman, Eisenstein, Johnson, Bareck & Bertuca for the helpful legal advice and determined advocacy you need. To set up a free case evaluation, contact us at 312-724-5846 or through our website.