Uber escapes responsibility for sexual assaults by impostor drivers

Uber Technologies Inc. had no duty to protect rideshare users from criminals posing as its drivers, and will thus avoid liability to three women who claim they were lured by the company’s decals and sexually assaulted, a court has heard. calling from California.

The rape scheme may have been foreseeable for Uber, but the crimes were not a “necessary component” of the app or the company’s actions, Uber Court of Appeals Judge Frances Rothschild said on Wednesday. California, second district. The alleged actions of Uber and two related companies have not “create the risk of criminals taking advantage of the existence of the Uber app,” she said.

Uber also did not have a common carrier relationship with the women while they waited for their rides, which would create an obligation to protect their safety, Rothschild said. Nor does their contractual relationship create such an obligation, she said.

The women, identified as Jane Doe Nos. 1, 2 and 3, allege that Uber allows its stickers to be printed at home by anyone with a computer and printer, the court heard. Uber reportedly advertises its services as a safe alternative to drunk driving, and touts its location-based GPS feature as allowing users to “stay safe and comfortable wherever you are until your driver arrives”. .

Uber reportedly has knowledge of imposters visiting popular Los Angeles nightclubs and bars to abduct and sexually assault rideshare users.

Each of the plaintiffs alleges that a car with a different license plate than the one assigned to them, but bearing an Uber sticker, arrived before the authorized car. Two complainants did not try to match the number plate, while one did but accepted an explanation from the driver, they say. All would have been raped.

The Court of Appeal upheld the dismissal of their action. “On the facts alleged, the Uber entities were not in a special relationship with the Jane Does that would give rise to an obligation to protect the Jane Does from harm by third parties, or to warn them of the same,” said Rothschild. And the women did not sufficiently allege improper conduct on Uber’s part, she said.

Judges Victoria Gerrard Chaney and Helen I. Bendix joined in the opinion.

Rizio Lipinsky, as well as F. Edie Mermelstein, who practices in Santa Monica and Huntington Beach, Calif., represented the plaintiffs. Perkins Coie LLP represented Uber.

The case is Doe v Uber Techs., Inc., 2022 BL 188437, Cal. CT. App., 2d Dist., No. B310131, 6/1/22.