Twenty women who say they were sexually abused by their Lyft drivers are suing the company claiming it failed to implement policies and regulations that could have protected them. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
Dec. 5 (UPI) -- Twenty women who say they were sexually assaulted or raped by Lyft drivers have filed a lawsuit against the rideshare company, their attorney said.
Attorney Mike Bomberger of Estey & Bomberger said during a press conference Wednesday that he filed a lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court on behalf of the women who accuse Lyft of failing to adopt policies and procedures designed to protect them.
"Lyft has allowed drivers that have sexually assaulted and raped their customers and their passengers to continue driving under their app and platform," he said. "This lack of zero-tolerance policy encourages sexual predators to join the Lyft platform."
He said the company could adopt policies to report crimes committed in its vehicles to police, record drivers and suspend those who are accused of sexual assault, but they do not.
"The bottom line is Lyft does not take the safety of their passengers seriously and never has," he said. "Lyft's message to their drivers is safety and accountability do not exist and is not important. The Lyft platform is tailor-made for sexual predators."
Caroline Miller, one of several women involved in the lawsuit present during the press conference, told reporters that she fell asleep in her Lyft after a night celebrating her birthday only to be awakened by the hands of her driver down her pants as he was "groping and raping" her.
She said her story shows that Lyft needs to make significant safety changes and that the company fosters "a vile and dangerous business practice."
"They don't care about their customers, they only care about their profits," she said. "Lyft demonstrated that when they ignored my assault."
She said Lyft made no apology to her though Bomberger said the company offered her a refund for her ride.
Bomberger said their stories are not isolated cases and that thousands of people have had similar experiences in rideshares.
"The numbers are in the thousands," he said. "This isn't a hundred, this is several thousand women we believe have been assaulted."
Since September, he said he has received hundreds of calls from women stating they were assaulted.
"That's three months and we know that is a small fraction of the number that have been assaulted," he said. "And this case is not just about the women here before me who and have had their lives devastated, it's about all women Lyft puts at risk for driving in their cars."
In a statement, Lyft said it has taken steps over the years to improve safety for its customers.
"What these women describe is something no one should ever have to endure," a Lyft spokesman said. "Everyone deserves the ability to move about the world safely, yet women still face disproportionate risks. We recognize these risks, which is why we are relentless in our work to build safety into every aspect of our work."
The suit comes months after Estey & Bomberger filed a similar case against the company on behalf of 14 women in September.
Following the announcement of the lawsuit, Lyft launched new safety features for its smartphone application including easy access to emergency assistance and Smart Trip Check-In, which predicts when a ride is supposed to be completed and if there are delays the driver is contacted, among several others.
However, Bomberger called these features "gimmicks."
"One of the reasons we know that these don't work is eight of the women that are apart of this lawsuit had their incidents occur after these features were in play," he said.
The women are seeking unspecified damages for medical care, lost earnings and pain and suffering, he said.