A Roseville woman’s lawsuit against Uber alleging that a driver for the ride-sharing service sexually assaulted her last year was transferred Friday to federal court in Minnesota.
The woman, identified in the lawsuit as Jane Doe, originally filed the suit in February in California, where the company primarily does business. According to the lawsuit, an Uber driver forced himself on Doe in August 2016 after she returned to retrieve a phone left in his car, speeding to an isolated area to continue the assault.
The man, who was identified in the complaint but is not being sued and hasn’t been charged with a crime, had driven Doe and two of her friends to a Minneapolis brewery and a bar that night. Doe’s lawsuit alleges that she suffered visible bite marks on her lip, scratches and bruises to her arm and that her shirt was torn open her during the assault, during which she repeatedly said: “Please let me go. I don’t want to do this.”
Doe has requested a jury trial on allegations of negligent hiring, supervision and retention of the driver, misrepresentation, assault and false imprisonment.
“While thinking she was taking the ‘safest ride on the road,’ in reality Plaintiff Jane Doe was subjected to harrowing and traumatic sexual violence at the hands of her Uber driver,” attorney Sara Peters wrote in the complaint.
Peters, a San Francisco-based attorney, wrote in the February complaint that the driver was still authorized to drive for Uber. An Uber spokesperson said Friday that the driver has since been removed from accessing the service, but could not specify when and why he is no longer authorized to drive for Uber.
The spokesperson said she could not comment further on pending litigation.
Peters alleged that Uber misrepresented its ride-sharing service as a safer alternative to taxis for young women and “intoxicated, late-night riders.” But the company’s “lax” hiring and a security screening process designed to incur minimal costs came at riders’ expense, she argued. A Star Tribune report last year counted police reports documenting at least five women in the Twin Cities to have been abducted or assaulted by men who presented themselves as Uber drivers in the previous two years. That tally did not include the alleged August 2016 assault of Jane Doe.
The report also found that felons, drivers with as many as four drunken driving convictions and men convicted of domestic abuse were driving for Uber or its rival Lyft in the Twin Cities.
Unknown to Doe, Peters wrote in the lawsuit, her driver on Aug. 5, 2016, had a record of moving violations and a prior criminal record of a sexual crime against another woman — which Peters said could have been revealed had Uber used a detailed fingerprint-based background check similar to that used in the taxi industry.
Minneapolis and St. Paul — like most major metropolitan areas — do not require Uber and Lyft drivers to be fingerprinted to verify their identities. Four cities require fingerprints and two, San Antonio and Tampa, stopped mandating fingerprints after the two services threatened to leave their markets.