Plaintiff Fact Sheets in the MDL Will Include Details of Uber Driver Assaults

The U.S. District Judge overseeing federal lawsuits related to Uber driver assaults on passengers has mandated that each plaintiff fill out a Plaintiff Fact Sheet. This document will gather vital details about the sexual attacks experienced after using the rideshare service, aiding in the selection of potential bellwether lawsuits that will act as early test cases in the expanding litigation.

Over 200 lawsuits have been filed against Uber by passengers, predominantly women, who allege harassment, groping, or even abduction and rape by Uber drivers. It is anticipated that several thousand lawsuits regarding Uber driver assaults will be pursued in the upcoming years.

Despite the introduction of “Safe Ride Fees” by Uber in 2014, plaintiffs argue that the company did not use these funds to enhance passenger safety, providing only superficial background checks for drivers. The company also failed to install surveillance cameras in cars, did not allow passengers to specify the gender of their drivers, and did not train drivers on sexual assault and harassment issues, as per the lawsuits.

Due to common factual and legal questions raised in complaints filed in various federal courts, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) consolidated all Uber driver assault lawsuits in October 2023. The litigation was centralized before U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer in the Northern District of California as part of a multidistrict litigation.

As part of the coordinated pretrial proceedings, Judge Breyer is overseeing the exchange of discovery into common issues affecting all claims and is expected to select a small group of claims for early trial dates. These trials may influence future settlement negotiations to resolve the litigation.

The Plaintiff Fact Sheets will collect case-specific information about the Uber driver assaults experienced by each plaintiff, including injuries and relevant background information for written discovery. Claims transferred to, or directly filed into the Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) court by March 26 must submit a complete fact sheet within 60 days. Plaintiffs filing cases after March 26 will have 30 days to file their fact sheet.

The form includes specific questions about the nature of the alleged assaults, such as whether the driver took the plaintiff to their requested destination, made any stops, had a camera in the vehicle, and details about the incident, including the nature of the assault.

These questions are more detailed than those typically found in product liability lawsuit claims due to the nature of these cases. The Court aims to create a profile of a typical, representative Uber driver assault lawsuit for use in the bellwether trials.

Uber has faced allegations of ignoring sexual assaults by drivers for years, prioritizing profits over passenger safety. Despite Uber’s argument that it is not responsible for the criminal acts of individual drivers, plaintiffs highlight the large volume of complaints involving rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment that went unaddressed for years.

Uber released a report in December 2019, outlining sexual assault allegations raised by over 6,000 riders between 2017 and 2018, including hundreds of rape cases. A second report was released in July 2022, identifying another 3,824 incidents of sexual misconduct, assault, and rape between 2019 and 2020.

Following coordinated general discovery in the Uber sexual assault lawsuits, it is expected that the court will select a small group of representative claims for case-specific discovery and early trial dates. These trials will help gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the litigation.

While the outcomes of any bellwether trials in the MDL will not be binding on other claims, average Uber sexual assault lawsuit payouts awarded by juries may influence later settlement agreements. If no settlement is reached, each individual claim may be remanded back to the U.S. District Court where it was originally filed for a future trial date.

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