Uber hit with another sexual-assault lawsuit

Uber once again is facing accusations that its ride-hailing service is unsafe after another woman says she was sexually assaulted by her driver.

The woman, a college freshman identified only as “Jane Doe” in a lawsuit she filed against Uber this week in San Francisco Superior Court, is accusing the company of negligence in hiring the driver, assault, battery, false imprisonment, infliction of emotional distress and fraud.

The driver, Salim Mohamed Salem, also known as Salim Mohamed Abdussalam, had a criminal record and should have been prevented from driving an Uber, according to the complaint.

Uber did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The unnamed passenger ordered an Uber in East Lansing, Michigan on Monday after drinking earlier in the evening, according to the complaint, and vomited once she got in the car. After she was sick, the woman claims the driver rubbed her back “in an unwanted and inappropriate manner.” He began driving in the opposite direction of the passenger’s requested destination while continuing to touch her, including under her shirt, according to the complaint. She says the driver eventually stopped in an isolated area, ordered her into the backseat, and sexually assaulted her.

The 3-mile trip took 28 minutes, according to the complaint.

Echoing accusations Uber has been fighting for months, the woman’s lawyers accuse Uber of marketing its rides as a safe option — particularly for women who have been drinking — when in reality, they claim the company doesn’t do enough to ensure its passengers are protected. The lawyers point out that Uber doesn’t require its drivers to undergo background checks based on their fingerprints, and has fought attempts by regulators and lawmakers to force them to do so.

According to the complaint, Uber knew or should have known that the driver in this case had a record of at least on prior arrest, at least one bench warrant for failing to appear in court, and possibly a second driver’s license issued from another state.

Several other women have claimed they were sexually assaulted by Uber drivers, and some also have tried to hold the company responsible. In November Uber paid an undisclosed amount to settle such a lawsuit filed by two woman in Boston and Charleston, South Carolina. The same month, Palo Alto police arrested an Uber driver accused of groping a female passenger.

To make the case that Uber is liable for the misconduct of its drivers, the lawyers in this week’s case also argue that Uber drivers are the company’s employees — disputing Uber’s longstanding claim that its drivers are independent contractors. Uber agreed to pay up to $100 million settle a massive, high-profile lawsuit over that issue last year, but a federal judge rejected the deal.

Of course, it’s not just Uber drivers who have been accused of misconduct. In December police arrested a San Jose taxi driver suspected of sexually assaulting two women, at least one of whom was his passenger.

Photo: The logo of Uber is seen in front of its headquarters on Aug. 26, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

 

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