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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on August 6th, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 23 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 20, Issue 23

Lyft sued for not keeping passengers safe

By Karen Garica

Three individual Jane Does, one of whom is a San Luis Obispo local, who allege that they were sexually assaulted by their Lyft drivers, claim that Lyft Inc. misrepresented the safety of its rides to the women and the general public. 


UNSAFE RIDES
Three women who were sexually assaulted by their Lyft drivers are suing the company for unsafe rides and not properly checking the history of its drivers.
PHOTO COURTESY OF LYFT.COM

A complaint filed on July 24 against Lyft Inc. (a Delaware Corporation with its principal place of business in San Francisco) and Lompoc resident Jason Fenwick alleges that the company falsely claimed that its rides were safe, its drivers properly screened, and that its screening process was superior to others used by competing ride-hailing companies. Fenwick was arrested and remains incarcerated in SLO County Jail on $500,000 bail for sexual assault and battery charges pending a felony trial.

According to the lawsuit, Jane Doe 1 in San Luis Obispo, Jane Doe 2 in Los Angeles, and Jane Doe 3 in San Diego, were each sexually assaulted by their respective Lyft drivers on their way home.

On the evening of Nov. 4, 2018, Jane Doe 1, was drunk when she entered the Lyft vehicle and had blacked out by the time she arrived at her home, the lawsuit states, which her driver Fenwick escorted her into. 

The lawsuit states that Fenwick placed the unconscious Doe in her bed and then proceeded to wander around her home checking for other occupants and closing curtains so as not to be seen, oblivious to the home surveillance video system recording his every action. 

Fenwick preceded over the next 30 minutes to fondle, paw, kiss, molest, and disrobe the unconscious Jane Doe, according to the lawsuit, eventually removing her underwear in order to orally perform sex acts upon her and to penetrate her intimate orifices, the lawsuit states.

Fenwick took several breaks during the encounter, the lawsuit states, to survey the interior of the house once again for others present, and took several cellphone pictures of himself with the unconscious Doe. 

When the assault ended, according to the lawsuit, Fenwick left Doe naked in her bed, picked up Doe’s cellphone so that he could issue a $20 tip to himself for the Lyft ride and then departed Doe’s home for his next pickup. 

The lawsuit alleges that Jane Doe 2 in Los Angeles and Jane Doe 3 in San Diego were utilizing Lyft’s services in 2019 and 2017, respectively, when their Lyft driver sexually assaulted them.

According to the lawsuit, Lyft knew that its security screening was deficient, that its background checks were below industry standards, and that its drivers were not trained on sexual harassment and abuse standards.

Lyft is subject to a “heightened standard of care as a common carrier”—a person or company that transports goods or passengers on regular routes at set rates—according to the lawsuit. 

The lawsuit argues that a recent decision in the case Doe v. Uber Technologies Inc. (it doesn’t specify the date or case number), “the court rejected Uber’s argument that it is not a common carrier.”

“In reaching its decision, the court found that: a. Uber’s services are available to the general public and that Uber charges customers standardized fees for car rides; and b. Uber offers to the public to carry persons, thereby bringing it within California’s definition of common carrier,” the lawsuit states.

As Lyft and Uber provide nearly identical services and share a very similar business model, the lawsuit filed against Lyft in July states that California courts will likely regard Lyft as a common carrier. 

As a common carrier, the lawsuit claims that Lyft owed the Jane Does a heightened duty of care and is liable for both its drivers’ intentional and negligent acts, regardless of whether such acts were committed within the scope of employment. 

The Sun reached out to Lyft for comment but didn’t hear back before press time.

The parties must appear for a first case management conference on Dec. 2 in San Luis Obispo Superior Court. 

—Karen Garcia




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