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Fourteen women from eight states who say they were raped or assaulted by Lyft drivers in 2018 and 2019 sued the ride-booking company in San Francisco Superior Court Wednesday.

The lawsuit by women identified as Jane Roe 1 through 14 charges Lyft with concealment of alleged risks in using Lyft’s app, defective app design, negligent hiring and supervision of drivers and liability for the alleged attacks.

It alleges:

“Lyft has made a concerted effort in the media, in litigation and in criminal cases to hide and conceal the true extent of sexual assaults that occur in their vehicles.”

The lawsuit asks for unspecified financial compensation and punitive damages from San Francisco-based Lyft.

Mary Winfield, the head of Lyft’s Trust & Safety division, said in a statement:

“What the victims describe is terrifying and has no place in the Lyft community.”

Winfield said:

“As a platform committed to providing safe transportation, we hold ourselves to a higher standard by designing products and policies to keep out bad actors, make riders and drivers feel safe, and react quickly if and when an incident does occur.” 

The lawsuit claims Lyft would be safer if the company installed a surveillance system in its app that would record the entire ride and alert Lyft if the driver goes off course, used a fingerprints instead of names for background checks and made it mandatory to report rape and assault allegations to police.

In two incidents the lawsuit cites, drivers were convicted of sexual assaults in the Bay Area and Utah. In some other cases, prosecutions or police investigations are ongoing, the lawsuit says. In still other cases, women allege Lyft told them it took appropriate action, but the women say they don’t know what action was taken and whether the drivers still work with the company.

Von Another Believer on Wikimedia Commons Fourteen women from eight states filed a lawsuit against Lyft for alleged sexual assaults and rapes committed by the company’s drivers between 2018 and 2019. The lawsuit was filed Wednesday, September 4, 2019 in a San Francisco, Calif. court.

In the Bay Area case, it has been publicly reported that driver Eddy Palacios, 33, of South San Francisco, was convicted in February in San Mateo County Superior Court of felony sexual battery after pleading no contest to the charge. He was sentenced in April to one year in jail and required to register as a sex offender for life.

According to prosecutors, Palacios was taking a 29-year-old woman, identified in the lawsuit as Jane Roe 11, and her 31-year-old female friend to Palo Alto early on Nov. 25 after a night out in San Francisco. The passengers fell asleep during the ride. At about 3 a.m., Jane Roe 11 awoke to find the driver digitally penetrating her under her skirt. She screamed, awakening her friend, who turned on her phone to record a conversation in which the driver confessed and apologized.

The lawsuit says Jane Roe 11 believes the recording made it possible for Palacios to be prosecuted.

In addition, the lawsuit says:

“[Jane Roe 11] firmly believes that if Lyft had had a video camera or recording device in the vehicle, this would not have happened to her.” 

In another case in which there was no prosecution, Jane Roe 10, a blind woman in Alabama, alleges a Lyft driver forced his way into her home after a midday trip to a grocery store in January 2018, took away her cane and raped her.

The filing says she reported the alleged rape to Lyft, which told her it did not condone the driver’s behavior and that:

“[Lyft] followed up with this driver to take the appropriate and necessary actions.”

She was never informed whether the driver is still working with Lyft.

The suit says police detectives told Jane Roe 10 they closed a criminal investigation because they had no evidence the incident was not consensual.

The lawsuit claims:

“If Lyft had made a few basic changes to the app, the police would have had the evidence this incident was not consensual.” 

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