A second lawsuit was filed Wednesday against Lyft in a case involving 20 cases of sexual assault involving drivers. And this suit joins a separate one filed in September by the same law firm that covers 14 other cases of assault.
The latest lawsuit filed in San Francisco Superior Court says that Lyft failed to protect 20 riders from predatory drivers. And the second suit refers to the first one, saying that in the three months since it was filed the company's response to the crisis has been "appallingly inadequate." As Business Insider reports, the 20 victims in the new suit are mostly women, and they say the assaults all have occurred since the September filing of the first case.
"During the last three months, Lyft had ample opportunity to make changes to ensure the safety of female passengers," says victims' attorney Mike Bomberger in a press release. "But instead of protecting, women, the company chose to invest in a costly public relations campaign with no regard to safety."
Bomberger added, "There is a corporate culture at Lyft that refuses to fix a known sexual-assault problem. This sends a message to drivers that there is no accountability for sexual assaults."
Lyft spokeswoman Alexandra LaManna issued a statement in response to the suit saying that what the victims describe "is something no one should ever have to endure" and that women unfortunately "still face disproportionate risks" while moving about in the world. "We recognize these risks, which is why we are relentless in our work to build safety into every aspect of our work," LaManna says. "That means continually investing in new features and policies to protect our riders and drivers."
The suit alleges that Lyft has known about the problem relating to driver screening and predatory behavior for four years. As the Washington Post notes, the new suit further claims that the company has instituted a new standardized protocol in recent months to handle complaints about drivers that "likely will result in dangerous sexual predators remaining on Lyft’s platform until a more serious incident, like a rape occurs."
The suit was filed by San Diego-based law firm Estey & Bomberger, the same firm that filed the September case. Among the 20 victims is a woman who claims to have fallen asleep in the backseat of a Lyft only to wake up and find the driver on top of her "with his tongue in her mouth." The suit also includes details of harrowing efforts to deter assaults, like one woman who urinated in the back of a car to stop an attempted assault, and one who told the driver she was HIV-positive.
Additionally, the suit makes claims about Lyft's Trust & Safety team that echo ones that were described by female customers in a Washington Post piece in August:
"Lyft riders who report sexual harassment or sexual assault to Lyft’s Trust & Safety Team are often left feeling no better off than had they not reported at all. [The company] more often than not, does not tell the victim what steps Lyft conducts in an investigation, does not tell the victim if there have been other allegations against the same driver, and does not tell the victim whether the driver has been removed from the platform."
In the August piece, almost a dozen women interviewed described how the Trust & Safety team fell short in how they handled complaints of serious sexual misconduct by drivers. One woman, LA-based comedian and writer Anna Gillcrist, took to Twitter after her own case of harassment by a Lyft driver, which resulted in Lyft giving her a $5 credit. After telling the story, she heard from a male friend who had gotten a $10 credit after complaining about a driver who didn't pick him up at his exact location. "That just made me laugh," she said.
As CNN reported in September, rival Uber hasn't been without its own accusations of sexual assaults by drivers. At least 103 Uber drivers have been accused of sexual assault since 2014. But as some have pointed out, at least Uber now has an emergency complaint module that accessible in the app with a single click — as well as an unreleased feature that will let riders secretly record their driver during the trip. Lyft still buries its complaint feature several clicks deep in the app.
So much for Lyft being "more woke."