For most people, using a rideshare service to get around is an ordinary activity and no big deal. One night in October 2018, a woman named Gladis hailed a Lyft for a ride, but her ride was horrifically the opposite of ordinary. The driver allegedly locked the doors of his vehicle, drove around for many hours, and then forcibly took Gladis to a beach and raped her, according to her lawsuit.
Gladis was far from alone. In Gladis’ California lawsuit against Lyft, more than a dozen women additional women joined her, asserting that they were raped or sexually assaulted by Lyft drivers. ABC 7 in San Francisco reported that the women’s attorneys allegedly unearthed more than 100 instances where women suffered sexual assaults during Lyft rides, all in California and all in an 18-month period. What this tells you is that, for too many women, sexual assault or rape by rideshare drivers is a painful reality. If you suffer such harm while using a rideshare service like Lyft or Uber in Illinois, you should be sure to reach out to an experienced Chicago injury attorney to discuss your legal options.
The California survivors making up the group of plaintiffs in Gladis’ lawsuit asserted that Lyft’s efforts to weed out sexual predators from contracting as Lyft drivers were so insufficient as to amount to negligence in multiple different ways. For one thing, the service allegedly did not take proper steps after receiving a sexual assault complaint. According to the survivors, Lyft merely conducted internal investigations into the complaints and did not forward those complaints on to law enforcement authorities.
Additionally, Lyft was allegedly negligent for other things it did not do. Lyft did not install cameras into vehicles operated by Lyft drivers. Gladis asserted that a camera would have provided an alert that might have prevented her rape, showing the driver “grabbing my phone away from me and climbing into the back seat,” according to the ABC 7 report.
In addition to failing to install cameras, Lyft’s actions were allegedly “appallingly inadequate” in that the service failed to perform background checks on drivers, did not fingerprint them and did not even perform job interviews. San Francisco’s alleged “rideshare rapist” was a Lyft driver who avoided detection by using a false identity. That man “never would have passed a fingerprint check,” according to the report.
Holding rideshare services liable for their direct negligence… whether in California or Illinois
Lyft’s drivers are independent contractors, which means that Lyft generally cannot be held vicariously liable for their negligent acts or intentional misconduct. However, that rule of law does not protect employers from being held directly liable for their own negligence. That’s true whether you were harmed on a Lyft or Uber ride in San Francisco or in Chicago.
In other words, Lyft may not be civilly liable (and owe compensation) for damages as a result of the sexual assaults, but Lyft might possibly be liable (and owe the survivors compensation) for the damages that resulted from Lyft’s negligent hiring. This claim could arise if the survivors proved that Lyft’s methods for identifying potentially dangerous drivers in its applicant pool were unreasonably insufficient, thereby leading to Lyft not identifying those drivers and contracting with them in spite of the risk.
Lyft also could potentially be liable for what’s called “negligent retention.” This would be a winning claim if the survivors proved that Lyft had inadequate processes in place to monitor its existing pool of drivers and spot ones who were unreasonably dangerous and should have been removed from their positions as Lyft drivers. Both the claims of negligent hiring and negligent retention are available to plaintiffs in both California and Illinois.
The risks posed by unqualified or otherwise dangerous rideshare drivers and many and varied. One of the most horrific hazards is that posed by the depraved individuals who contract as Lyft or Uber drivers and then use that position of trust to assault or rape riders. When that happens, you may have legal options in the court system. In this most trying time, left the legal pros help you. The skilled Chicago injury attorneys at Katz, Friedman, Eisenstein, Johnson, Bareck & Bertuca are here to help, and providing you with the legal guidance and advocacy you need. To set up a free case evaluation, contact us at 800-444-1525 or through our website.