The suit involves 14 separate alleged incidents across the US.
Lyft is being sued by 14 passengers alleging sexual assault by drivers.Angela Lang/CNET
Lyft is being sued over its drivers allegedly committing sexual assaults. The lawsuit alleges that 14 separate incidents across the US were reported to Lyft and the ride-hailing company concealed the assault complaints from the public, media and law enforcement.
The lawsuit, filed Sept. 4 in the Superior Court of California for San Francisco County, calls Lyft's response to the complaints "appallingly inadequate." It alleges the company hires drivers without completing a background check, fingerprinting them or even doing a job interview. Lyft has also allegedly allowed drivers accused of sexual assault to continue working for the company, the suit says.
The suit alleges that there were around 100 reports of sexual assaults by Lyft drivers in California in the one-year period prior to May 2016, and that the actual number of attacks may be triple that, with the bulk going unreported.
Screenshot by Corinne Reichert/CNET
Lyft didn't immediately respond to a request for comment, but in May of this year it announced new features for its app aimed at improving passenger safety. The features include yearly background checks on drivers and an in-app button to dial 911. Safety features provided by Lyft rival Uber also include a 911 button and annual background checks.
The people behind the lawsuit say further changes could be made to the Lyft app to protect passengers and prevent assaults.
"Adding automatic audio and video recording to rides would prevent future assaults," attorney Mike Bomberger said in an emailed press release Wednesday from Estey & Blomberger, the law firm bringing the suit on behalf of the victims. "We believe Lyft knows how many assaults occur within their cars and that is why they don't want Lyft rides recorded."
The lawsuit also suggests adding a system to the app to see whether a trip has gone off-route, was terminated early or took longer than it should've.
The suit covers 14 separate tort complaints involving negligence, concealment of risks, vicarious liability, intentional infliction of emotional distress, product liability and intentional misrepresentations.
The plaintiffs come from across the US, including Fresno, Cypress, West Hollywood and Palo Alto, California; Las Vegas; Charlotte, North Charleston and Jacksonville, North Carolina; Salt Lake City; Marlborough, Massachusetts; Tuscaloosa, Alabama; Elyria, Ohio; and Chicago and Bellwood, Illinois.
The law firm is asking any sexual assault victims of Lyft and Uber drivers to come forward.
A 2018 investigation by CNN found that more than 120 Uber and Lyft drivers had been accused of sexually assaulting or abusing their passengers in the four years prior to the investigation. States including California, Colorado, Massachusetts and Texas have all previously launched investigations into Uber and Lyft over allegations of failing to screen drivers properly.
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San Francisco's Rideshare with Care public awareness campaign, launched in September last year, tells passengers to ensure the license plate of a car matches the plate on their app. In March, a University of South Carolina student was allegedly murdered by a man posing as an Uber driver.