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Lawsuit alleges Lyft does little to ensure safety of female passengers

Janet Moore, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in News & Features

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twenty women who say they were raped or sexually assaulted by Lyft drivers have filed a lawsuit charging that the ride-sharing giant ignored their complaints and does little to ensure the safety of female passengers. Two of the plaintiffs are from Minnesota.

The suit was filed in San Francisco Superior Court on Wednesday, and follows a similar complaint filed in September by 14 women who used the service across the country. Lyft, a popular ride-hailing app, is based in San Francisco.

"This company is harming thousands of women," said Mike Bomberger, a San Diego attorney who filed the suit. "This platform attracts predators."

The suit seeks an unspecified amount of financial damages for the victims. It alleges Lyft hires drivers without conducting adequate background checks, a charge Lyft denies. The suit also claims Lyft stonewalls police attempting to investigate reported assaults.

In a statement, a Lyft spokesperson said improving safety is an ongoing effort: "What these women describe is something no one should ever have to endure. Everyone deserves the ability to move about the world safely, yet women still face disproportionate risks. We recognize these risks, which is why we are relentless in our work to build safety into every aspect of our work. That means continually investing in new features and policies to protect our riders and drivers."

One of the women named in the lawsuit, Tykaja Hall of Fridley said she came forward "because I don't want this to happen again, hopefully it will be a warning to people."

Hall said she was sexually assaulted by a Lyft driver in December 2017, when she was 19. Hall and a friend took a Lyft home after attending a birthday party in Brooklyn Park. After dropping her friend off in Maple Grove, Lyft driver Jose Gerardo Lopez pressured Hall to drink tequila that was stashed in the glove compartment while en route to Fridley, according to police. Lopez began fondling her and then pulled into the parking lot of a hotel in Coon Rapids where he sexually assaulted her in the back seat, police said.

Several hours later, Lopez dropped Hall off at her house in Fridley, where her sister found her in the bathtub crying.

 

Lopez was arrested and convicted of criminal sexual conduct and sentenced to 45 days in jail, 10 years of probation and he was required to register as a sexual offender. His sentence bars him from driving for Lyft, Uber and taxi companies, according to court documents.

Since then, Hall dropped out of St. Cloud State University, where she majored in psychology and theater. She says she frequently suffers from panic attacks.

The second Minnesota plaintiff is identified as "Jane Roe 3" in the lawsuit. A resident of Prior Lake, she said she was raped by a Lyft driver while in Los Angeles earlier this year for work-related training. She reported the assault to Lyft the following morning and said the company representative was unresponsive, except to refund her $5.79 for the ride, the suit states. She also reported the rape to police.

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