Photographer: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Uber Settles Lawsuit Over Driver Sexual Assault Claims

  • Accord follows ruling rejecting company’s push to dismiss case
  • Two women sued over separate attacks in Boston, Charleston

Uber Technologies Inc. settled a lawsuit filed by two women who sought to hold the company responsible for alleged sexual assaults by drivers.

Terms of the accord weren’t disclosed in court papers. The settlement follows a federal judge’s ruling six months ago rejecting the company’s argument that it couldn’t be blamed for sexual attacks by drivers, who it classifies as contractors rather than employees.

A lawyer for the women said the May decision marked first time a court has said Uber can’t legally distance itself from a driver’s misconduct by asserting that an incident with a passenger occurred when the ride-hailing app was turned off.

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston in San Francisco dismissed the case Thursday.

Uber spokesman Matt Kallman declined to comment on the settlement. Jeanne Christensen, the lawyer for the women, didn’t immediately respond to phone and e-mail messages seeking comment. 

A woman identified in the case as Jane Doe 1 alleged that in February 2015 in Boston, her Uber driver waited until after he’d dropped off her friend to assault her before she escaped. A second woman, Jane Doe 2, claimed that when she hailed a ride in Charleston, South Carolina, in August 2015, the driver detoured from the route to her home so he could "viciously rape her."

The lawsuit echoed criticism from other passengers and government officials that the world’s largest ride-share service has misled customers about how thoroughly it screens the drivers it hires. The company has resisted requiring fingerprinted background checks, like those used for most U.S. taxi drivers, opting instead for services that check people’s names against court records.

Uber agreed this year to settle a lawsuit by prosecutors alleging that its background checks on drivers weren’t as thorough as advertised. The company pledged to stop describing its background checks as “the gold standard” and quit using the slogan the “safest ride on the road,” the district attorneys of San Francisco and Los Angeles said when their settlement was announced.

Uber in September 2015 reached a confidential settlement in a lawsuit filed by an office worker in New Delhi who accused a driver of raping and beating her and said the company’s safety measures were inadequate. Christensen’s firm also represented that woman.

The case is Jane Doe 1 v. Uber Technologies Inc., 15-cv-04670, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (San Francisco).

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