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Uber’s bad week gets worse as women sue over allegations including kidnapping, rape, and false imprisonment

July 14, 2022, 10:31 AM UTC

Uber is being sued by women who allege they were subjected to various forms of violence by their Uber drivers, ranging from rape and sexual assault to stalking and kidnapping.  

The civil action suit, filed on Wednesday at San Francisco County Superior Court by law firm Slater Slater Schulman, said that female passengers in multiple states had been “kidnapped, sexually assaulted, sexually battered, raped, falsely imprisoned, stalked, harassed, or otherwise attacked by Uber drivers.”

The law firm said it had approximately 550 clients with claims against the ride-hailing giant, and was investigating at least 150 more claims.

An Uber spokesperson told Fortune on Thursday that the company takes “every single report” of sexual assault seriously.

“There is nothing more important than safety, which is why Uber has built new safety features, established survivor-centric policies, and been more transparent about serious incidents,” the spokesperson said. “While we can’t comment on pending litigation, we will continue to keep safety at the heart of our work.”

The company also told Fortune that while Slater Slater Schulman said it was representing 550 women with claims against Uber, only 12 cases had been filed to date.

“They have not been able to provide any critical incident details for us to identify a connection to the Uber platform,” a spokesperson said.

A spokesperson for Slater Slater Schulman refuted that, saying that 24 cases had been filed so far.

“Slater Slater Schulman LLP represents approximately 550 clients with sexual assault claims against Uber, with at least 150 more being actively investigated. The cases have been and will continue to be filed in multi-party complaints, which means they are not filed all at once as they would in a class action.” 

One woman making a claim against the company alleged that in February 2022, her driver sexually assaulted and attempted to rape her when she was a passenger in his vehicle in Chino Hills, Calif.

Another California woman said an Uber driver had “fondled and raped” her.

A separate allegation in the case outlined how in 2021, an Uber driver attempted to rape a woman outside Pittsburgh rather than take her to her destination.

In the same year, another of the other claimants said she was persuaded to sit in the front seat of her Uber driver’s vehicle, where “he forcefully kissed and sexually assaulted her.”

Adam Slater, founding partner of Slater Slater Schulman, accused Uber in a news release of prioritizing growth over its customers’ safety.

“There is so much more that Uber can be doing to protect riders: adding cameras to deter assaults, performing more robust background checks on drivers, creating a warning system when drivers don’t stay on a path to a destination,” he added. “It is well past time for Uber to take concrete actions to protect its customers.”

Thousands of assault claims

Earlier this month, Uber published its U.S. Safety Report, in which the company said it had received 3,824 reports of sexual assault and misconduct in 2019 and 2020.

This marked a 38% decline in reports of sexual violence, which may have been related to a huge drop in demand for Uber’s services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 43% of cases, passengers were the party accused of sexual assault, Uber said, and more than 99.9% of journeys were completed without safety complaints.

“Behind every data point is a personal experience, and sometimes pain and loss, that must be acknowledged,” Uber’s chief legal officer, Tony West, said in the report. “That’s why we continue to invest in safety, building new features to help prevent incidents and challenging the entire industry to raise the safety bar.”

In 2018, the company said it “was not immune to [the] deeply rooted problem” of sexual violence, outlining a number of changes it was making to its policies to help protect victims, such as publishing its safety report and allowing survivors to settle their claims with Uber without confidentiality provisions.

Tough times for Uber

Uber is already dealing with tough questions about its practices, thanks to a whistleblower disclosing uncomfortable truths about how the company was operating in the early days of its international growth.

Wednesday’s lawsuit comes just days after the leak of the so-called Uber files, which revealed how the company exploited sometimes violent protests held by taxi drivers opposing the company’s aggressive expansion in Europe.

The documents, which were leaked to the Guardian and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, also exposed Uber’s close ties to high-ranking European politicians, including French President Emmanuel Macron and former EU official Neelie Kroes.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with Uber’s response to the filings.

July 15, 2022: The headline and story have also been changed to reflect that Slater Slater Schulman LLP has approximately 550 clients with claims against Uber, but not all of them were a part of the lawsuit filed against the company this week. This article has also been updated to include an additional statement from Slater Slater Shulman.

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