Imposter Uber Driver Rape Lawsuit Thrown Out by California Federal Judge
U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley of the Northern District of California threw out a lawsuit against Uber filed by an unnamed woman who had been raped by a man posing as a driver for the rideshare company. The man, who faces criminal charges and could be sentenced to life in prison, was a former Uber driver and had been suspended by the company weeks before the rape incident for allegedly harassing a female passenger.
Jane Doe, the unidentified plaintiff in the case, was visiting her fiancé near San Francisco in August of 2018. A resident of Mexico and a non-native English speaker, she asked her fiancé to call an Uber when her phone was dying and she was alone at a local shopping mall late at night. According to the complaint, she approached a car with an Uber decal in the window and, believing that it was the ride her fiancé requested, got inside.
The driver enabled the child safety locks and then drove her to a remote location where he raped and strangled her.
The lawsuit contended that Uber should be held liable for failing to take steps to prevent its identifying logo decals from being used to lure a sexual assault victim. The judge ruled that the driver was not acting within the scope of his employment with Uber when he allegedly drove Jane Doe to the remote location and committed the rape. Judge Corley, however, rejected Uber’s argument that the assault resulted from “a chance encounter with a predator,” concluding that the victim had made a plausible case demonstrating that the man was pretending to be an Uber driver.
Judge Corley did express the belief that Uber could be setting itself up for myriad lawsuits if the company allows drivers who have been identified as dangerous keep the company’s logo decals on their vehicles.
Furthermore, Corley wrote that if there had been an “intentional failure to retrieve” the decal from the driver on Uber’s part, the woman’s case “could rise to a level of ‘extreme indifference’ necessary to support an award of punitive damages.” Additionally, the judge stated that the plaintiff could revise her complaint and refile it to pursue a negligence claim.
The woman’s attorney, Matthew Davis, of the Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger personal injury firm in San Francisco, indicated his intent to amend the complaint, refile, and proceed with the case as soon as possible. Davis told PINews:
“We’ll amend and file for straight negligence and punitive damages…The judge’s comments indicate that she sees a basis for a negligence claim, and we feel confident moving forward.”
Uber responded to PINews by email with the following statement:
“Sexual assault is a horrible crime and our thoughts continue to be with the victim.” – Uber Spokesperson
In recent months, a barrage of lawsuits against rideshare companies Uber and Lyft have been filed in California courts. Levin Simes Abrams, a San Francisco personal injury firm, is reported to be investigating upwards of 120 claims of sexual assault and harassment on the part of ridesharing drivers.