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Uber sued by more than 500 women over assault claims

David Swanson/Reuters

(NEW YORK, NY) — Uber is being sued by approximately 550 female passengers who claim they were attacked by their drivers, according to the law firm Slater, Slater, Schulman, LLP, which filed a legal complaint against Uber in a San Francisco court on Wednesday.

The women, who live in multiple states, “were kidnapped, sexually assaulted, sexually battered, raped, falsely imprisoned, stalked, harassed, or otherwise attacked by Uber drivers with whom they had been paired through the Uber application,” according to allegations in a statement from Slater, Slater, Schulman, LLP.

The abuse at issue took place between 2015 and this year, Adam Slater, founding partner of Slater, Slater, Schulman, LLP, told ABC News. The firm has filed roughly 25 lawsuits so far and plans to file the remainder within the next several months, he added.

The legal complaint comes about two weeks after Uber released a safety report that revealed at least 3,824 incidences of sexual assault in 2019 and 2020, ranging from “non-consensual kissing of a non-sexual body part” to “non-consensual sexual penetration.”

The company said in a prior report that the number of such sexual assault reports had declined 38% for the years 2017 and 2018.

The new safety report acknowledged that the number of sexual assault claims may have been impacted by a shift in overall usage of the platform amid the COVID pandemic. For instance, bookings on Uber’s core ride-sharing service declined 73% over a three-month period ending in June 2020 compared to the same period a year prior, according to a company earnings report.

“Uber’s whole business model is predicated on giving people a safe ride home, but rider safety was never their concern – growth was at the expense of their passengers’ safety,” Slater, the founding partner of Slater, Slater, Schulman, LLP, said in a statement.

“While the company has acknowledged this crisis of sexual assault in recent years, its actual response has been slow and inadequate, with horrific consequences,” he added.

In a statement, Uber told ABC News that safety is its top priority.

“Sexual assault is a horrific crime and we take every single report seriously,” the company said. “There is nothing more important than safety, which is why Uber has built new safety features, established survivor-centric policies, and been more transparent about serious incidents. While we can’t comment on pending litigation, we will continue to keep safety at the heart of our work.”

Uber’s report points to a set of safety measures that include background checks for prospective drivers, tools for passengers in the app and emergency response from the company.

A feature that allows drivers and passengers to record audio of their trips is available in 14 countries, including Mexico and Brazil, Uber said in December. A pilot program of that safety feature was set to begin in three U.S. cities the following month, the company added.

In the complaint, Slater, Slater, Schulman, LLP allege that Uber first became aware of assault allegations from female Uber passengers as early as 2014.

In 2018, Uber acknowledged that it is not “immune to this deeply rooted problem” of sexual assault.

Travis Kalanick, the founder and former CEO of Uber, resigned in 2017 after a former Uber employee Susan Fowler said she had been sexually harassed while working there and a passenger in India brought a lawsuit against the company tied to her rape by an Uber driver. The case was later settled.

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