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L.A. women sue Uber, saying it failed to warn them of sexual assaults by fake Uber drivers

Uber bans drivers from broadcasting recordings of riders
A lawsuit has been filed against Uber Technologies by three Los Angeles County women, alleging the ride-hailing service didn’t do enough to protect them.
(Rodger Mallison/TNS)

Three Los Angeles County women who say they were sexually assaulted by predators who posed as Uber drivers filed a lawsuit against Uber Technologies on Friday alleging the ride-hailing service didn’t do enough to protect them.

The women, who are not named in the lawsuit, allege Uber was aware that violent individuals prey on women by masquerading as legitimate drivers while waiting outside popular nightclubs and bars in Los Angeles. However, the women allege the Bay Area company did not warn its customers and failed to implement technology that could make the experience safer, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges that Uber has made it easy for anyone to print the company’s emblem and affix it to their car windshield.

“Uber [has] marketed to college age and young women as an alternative to drinking and driving, with a known risk that this target market … are vulnerable to sexual assault as soon as they engage the Uber app,” the lawsuit states.

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The lawsuit alleges nine people were sexually assaulted by people posing as Uber drivers between September 2016 and February 2018 in Los Angeles. The company has “egregiously chosen to hide and minimize” its safety problems, according to the suit. The Los Angeles Police Department could not immediately confirm if that number was accurate.

Uber said in a statement that it has been working with local law enforcement, including LAPD, for several years to educate the public about how to avoid fake ride-share drivers.

“In 2017, we launched a national campaign to remind riders to make sure they get in the right car by checking the information, like the license plate and car make and model, shown in the app,” the company said in a statement. “These important reminders have been part of our safety tips, and our law enforcement team regularly discusses this issue with agencies across the country.”

The lawsuit asserts the current safety measures aren’t enough to adequately protect customers.

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In December 2017, one of the three women alleges she was taken to a secluded location and sexually assaulted by a man who posed as an Uber driver. The driver picked her up from the Down and Out, a bar in downtown L.A.

The woman’s alleged attacker, identified in the lawsuit as Nicolas Morales, 45, was arrested and charged with more than two dozen felony counts in connection with the December attack and six others. He has pleaded not guilty, according to court records.

As she got in the car, the woman checked the driver, who looked similar to the picture, and the license plate and told the driver that the plate numbers did not match. The man explained he had crashed his car two weeks earlier and didn’t update the app.

“After Jane Doe No. 2 entered the vehicle, the actual Uber driver called [her] and was irritated that she had gotten in the wrong car and hung up on her,” the lawsuit states. “Jane Doe No. 2 realized she was in the wrong vehicle, but was unable to avoid the abduction and brutal rape that followed.”

The three women say the company charged them cancellation fees or forced them to pay for the ride they didn’t receive despite the attacks, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit comes more than a week after University of South Carolina student Samantha Josephson was kidnapped and killed when she got into a vehicle she mistakenly thought was the Uber she ordered.

As part of the suit, the women are asking a court to require Uber to implement “advanced safety devices” to protect customers from sexual assault. They are also seeking an unspecified amount of money in damages.

hannah.fry@latimes.com

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Twitter: @Hannahnfry


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