Rideshare Lawsuit Updates & News | May 2024

Editorial Team


Reviewed By Adam Ramirez, J.D.


Read in 8 mins

In the evolving gig economy, rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft face legal challenges over drivers' rights and passenger safety. Recent lawsuit developments are reshaping the industry's future. This section highlights key legal updates and their implications for the rideshare ecosystem:

  1. As of April 2024, 12 additional cases have been incorporated into the multidistrict litigation (MDL) involving Uber, bringing the total to 252 pending sexual assault claims in federal court.

  2. In the ongoing multidistrict litigation (MDL) regarding sexual assault claims against Uber, a critical discovery issue has emerged concerning electronic documents. The plaintiffs are grappling with documents provided by Uber, which include links that only direct to the most current versions of the linked information, rather than historical versions that may contain crucial edits or comments. These past versions could potentially reveal what Uber knew about the assault cases and when.

    The plaintiffs have requested that the court mandate the creation of an automated system to retrieve all versions of these documents. Uber opposes this, citing the complexity and time consumption such a process would entail. The defense argues that not only is the task technically feasible, but it would also be efficient in ensuring thorough discovery.

    This scenario underscores the complexities of modern legal cases involving digital information, particularly when the defendant operates primarily through digital platforms. Such cases demand significant resources and expertise in digital forensics, highlighting the need for law firms that specialize in complex litigation and understand the intricacies of technology-dependent discovery processes.

  3. Uber faces a new lawsuit from investors alleging that company executives, including CEO Dara Khosrowshahi and former CFO Nelson Chai, misled shareholders about the number of pending sexual assault claims to artificially inflate the stock price. Investors claim that the undisclosed figure, estimated at around 10,000 cases, significantly affected market valuation and investor trust, highlighting concerns over corporate governance and disclosure practices at Uber.

  4. Uber has introduced new safety measures aimed at enhancing passenger security, as detailed in their April 10th press release titled "Set it and Forget it: How to Maximize Your Safety Features." The updates include:

    • RideCheck Feature: Monitors for unexpected stops or deviations from the route, alerting passengers to confirm their safety.
    • PIN Verification System: Provides a four-digit code for passengers to match with their driver, ensuring the correct vehicle match.
    • Audio Recording Feature: Allows passengers to record their trip audio, stored in encrypted files accessible only through a safety report.
    • Share My Trip Option: Enables passengers to share their location and trip details with a trusted contact in real-time.

    Additionally, Uber introduced customizable settings that allow passengers to activate these features based on specific conditions, such as time of day or location, like near bars or restaurants. While these enhancements are likely in response to numerous sexual assault lawsuits, they also raise questions about the timing and motives behind these improvements, with some viewing them as too little too late or as a public relations effort to mend Uber's image.

  5. To facilitate the exchange of consistent information in the Uber rideshare assault litigation, all parties are required to complete and submit specific fact sheet forms. This process aims to streamline information gathering and identify key legal issues, aiding in the selection of bellwether cases for future test trials. With 43 new cases added since the start of 2024, the total now reaches 230 lawsuits alleging personal injuries from physical or sexual assaults by Uber drivers. This step is part of broader efforts to manage and resolve these claims effectively.

  6. A federal judge has ruled that Uber can be held vicariously liable for an alleged assault by one of its drivers, Kehinde Idogho Micah, following an argument with passenger Rommel Fuentes over payment. The court rejected Uber's request to dismiss the vicarious liability claim, determining that Micah was acting within the scope of his employment during the incident. This decision aligns with precedents from Virginia and South Carolina, which assert that actions by drivers are in furtherance of their employer's business. While claims of negligent hiring and retention against Uber were dismissed due to insufficient evidence, the case underscores ongoing concerns about rideshare companies' responsibilities for their drivers' conduct. Uber has consistently claimed to be merely a connecting app, a position the court has challenged.

  7. Judge Charles Breyer has mandated that Uber release all documents shared with government bodies during investigations into sexual assaults within the company. This order aims to uncover Uber's approach towards passenger and women's safety. Critics argue that Uber has inadequately protected passengers from potential criminal acts by drivers, pointing to the numerous reports and allegations of sexual assault as evidence of the company's negligence.

  8. A Connecticut court has denied Lyft's attempt to dismiss a lawsuit regarding a 14-year-old girl who was transported across state lines into New York and allegedly sexually abused. The lawsuit accuses Lyft of negligence for not verifying the girl's age in violation of its policy against driving minors unaccompanied. Despite Lyft's defense of not being liable for the driver's actions, the court is allowing the addition of vicarious liability and negligent infliction of emotional distress claims, removing a negligent supervision claim. The judge highlighted Lyft's existing policy on minors as evidence that the company should have foreseen such risks.

  9. A master complaint has been officially filed in the Uber multidistrict litigation, streamlining the process for new plaintiffs. This document outlines the core allegations against Uber, accusing it of prioritizing growth and profit over passenger safety since 2014. Despite knowledge of sexual assaults by drivers, Uber allegedly failed to implement essential safety measures such as in-car cameras, biometric verification, and stricter background checks. Moreover, the complaint accuses Uber of permitting drivers with histories of sexual misconduct to remain active on the platform. The plaintiffs are seeking compensatory damages for their injuries and punitive damages against Uber for its alleged negligence and harmful conduct.

  10. This week marked the filing of the 100th lawsuit in the Uber sexual assault multidistrict litigation (MDL). Despite its growth, this mass tort is expanding more slowly compared to cases involving commercial products. The slower pace is attributed to minimal advertisement on television and radio, coupled with the hesitancy of sexual assault survivors to come forward with their experiences. It is expected that the number of cases filed in the MDL will surpass 300 by the upcoming summer.

  11. Uber has appealed against the decision of the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) to consolidate sexual assault lawsuits into a single multidistrict litigation (MDL), arguing that the panel abused its discretion and neglected the diversity of state laws involved. Despite Uber's appeal, it's important to note that the JPML has a solid track record of its decisions on centralization of cases being upheld. This move by Uber is perceived more as a last-ditch effort or a strategy to delay proceedings.

  12. Uber made a move to dissolve the sexual assault multidistrict litigation (MDL), established on October 4, 2023, by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML). This MDL consolidated federal cases involving claims of sexual assault by Uber drivers. Uber's argument to Judge Breyer highlighted an alleged misuse of discretion in forming the MDL, suggesting it disregarded the varied state laws applicable to these cases. However, Uber's challenge lacks historical support, as the JPML's decisions to centralize cases have never been reversed in its 55-year history.

  13. As the Ninth Circuit reevaluates the Uber sexual assault multidistrict litigation (MDL), Uber has sought to block the addition of new claims. Plaintiffs have recently urged Judge Gergel to dismiss Uber's request, stating that excluding new claims could harm the integrity of the legal process. The court is expected to make a decision following a status conference held on January 19. Meanwhile, six new lawsuits have been filed against Uber by passengers alleging sexual abuse, including two reports of rape. These lawsuits claim Uber neglected to adopt basic safety measures to protect passengers using its service.

  14. In response to Uber's efforts to disclaim responsibility for certain incidents within the sexual assault multidistrict litigation (MDL), the Ninth Circuit has sought the guidance of the California Supreme Court. This move follows a claim within the MDL where a plaintiff argues that Uber should be liable for a sexual assault committed by a former driver who misrepresented himself as an independent contractor after being terminated. Uber maintains that it cannot be held accountable for the actions of someone not currently an active driver.

  15. The Ninth Circuit's recent ruling has led to a pause in the Uber sexual assault multidistrict litigation (MDL). Despite not succeeding in changing the case name to exclude "sexual assault," Uber obtained approval for a hearing to consider dismissing the MDL. The company argues that consolidating the lawsuits for pretrial activities is unsuitable due to the variance in claims, injuries, and laws involved. Following the appeals court's decision in December, Uber has requested a two-month suspension of the MDL proceedings. Currently, there has been no response to this request from either the newly formed Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee or Judge Breyer.

  16. The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) has decided against Uber's request to remove "sexual assault" from the title of the federal Uber sexual assault cases consolidated before Judge Breyer in the Northern District of California. Uber's legal team argued that including "sexual assault" in the MDL's name presupposes guilt, pointing to precedents where MDL titles were altered. However, the JPML has chosen to retain the original naming.

  17. The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, a group of federal judges, has moved to consolidate close to eighty lawsuits related to Uber sexual assaults before Judge Charles R. Breyer in the Northern District of California. This action creates a multidistrict litigation (MDL) for all current federal cases, with expectations for the number of lawsuits within the MDL to increase over time.

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