SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — A San Francisco-based law firm has requested to unify all its civil lawsuits against Uber, in an effort to manage the growing caseload against the ridesharing company.
“What we’ve asked the court in San Francisco to do is to move them into one coordinated proceeding. It’s called a JCCP, judicial council coordinated proceeding. It’s a common thing to do when you have a lot of cases, and you have one defendant. Or if you have some sort of situation where you need to have everything organized in a certain way so that you don’t have inconsistent rulings all over the country,” said Laurel Simes, partner at Levin Simes Abrams LLP.READ MORE: Former California Senator Barbara Boxer Assaulted, Robbed In Oakland's Jack London District
The firm has filed 85 civil complaints in San Francisco County Superior against Uber, with another 321 pending or under investigation. More than 20 civil suits have also been filed against Lyft, with another 517 cases pending.
The alleged incidents occurred all over the country, with some dating back to 2017
“These are the first consolidated actions in the country against the company. So it’s on a bigger scale, and under a bigger spotlight,” said Rachel Abrams, partner at the firm.
Attorney Meghan McCormick recalled documenting victims’ statements, describing encounters involving groping, drivers locking doors and making inappropriate comments, taking unconscious passengers to the drivers’ homes, or manipulating the app to avoid detection.
“They end the ride early, so it looks to anybody watching, or to Uber, as if they did exactly what they’re supposed to do. And then they keep going with that woman and take her to a deserted place,” said McCormick. “Some of these drivers are so bold in what they do, and think they can do. It can’t be their first time.”
Several suits have been settled out of court, while others are headed to trial over the next several months, according to Simes.
The firm is now advocating for mandatory surveillance cameras in all ridesharing vehicles.READ MORE: KPIX 5 Exclusive: Older Concrete Buildings in San Francisco Raise Earthquake Concerns
“99% of these crimes would be prevented if there was a camera,” said Abrams.
“I personally hope that by our bringing all these lawsuits, it will pressure the companies to self regulate, so that we won’t need a federal law,” said Simes.
Uber released a statement, but did not directly address mandatory cameras:
“Sexual assault is a devastating crime and although no industry is immune from these issues, we remain steadfast in our commitment to support victims and help stop sexual violence by collaborating with experts, pioneering safety tech solutions, and setting the standard on transparency and accountability.”
Unfortunately, for a majority of the claims they have filed, plaintiff’s counsel has been unable to provide us with information to help us identify a connection to the Uber platform (date, city, location, names, trip information) For those claims which we’ve received sufficient information, we can confirm , we can confirm that:
The drivers were banned from the Uber platform. Drivers cleared motor vehicle and criminal background checks and met regulatory requirements to drive with Uber. Drivers are free to install a dashcam in their vehicle as long as they are following local laws which differ widely by state and jurisdiction.
Simes, who said the growing caseload was indicative of a “public safety issue”, offered tips for riders:
Do not fall asleep inside the ridesharing vehicle Ensure phones have sufficient charge before accepting a ride; Where possible, ride with a companion; Communicate with the driver that the trip is being monitored Do not allow the driver to approach your home’s entrance
“My hope is that these companies will realize that this is that they need to make these changes. They’re making changes slowly but they need to accelerate the pace of the changes they’re making, and they need to take care of this,” said Simes.
Lyft did not respond to a request for comment.