Ms. Doe is represented by attorney Jeanne M. Christensen, Partner from the Wigador LLP in New York City, New York.
“On behalf of our client, Jane Doe, we filed an action in California Superior Court against Uber. As alleged in the complaint, Ms. Doe was raped and sexually assaulted by her Uber driver, Iosefo Auvaa, during an Uber ride in Long Beach,” attorney Christensen says.
According to the statement of claim on the night of November 10, 2016, Ms. Doe had visited two drinking establishments in Long Beach with a female friend. She decided she would “make the safe choice” and use her Uber App to get home rather than drive her car.
The claim goes on to say that at approximately 1 am on November 11, 2016, Uber messaged that her driver, Iosefo Auvaa (“Auvaa”), was on his way. She gave him her home address and then passed out in the backseat from overconsumption of alcohol. The ride home should have taken no more than 15 minutes.
Ms. Doe awoke to find herself “in an isolated location with Auvaa on top of her and in the process of ripping her clothes from her body.” She then passed out again from “inebriation” and “trauma”.
Auvaa then dropped Ms. Doe off at her home sometime between 3:00 and 4:00 am.
A few hours later, Ms. Doe’s mother took her to the hospital where rape kit samples confirmed the assault and the police were alerted.
They found Auvaa at a car wash with Ms. Doe’s cell phone in his back pocket. On November 15, 2016, Auvaa was charged with “Rape by use of drugs”.
To Ms. Doe’s horror, the police investigation revealed that Auvaa had a criminal history.
The complaint alleges that “Auvaa had a documented history of sexual and gender-motivated violence, including being charged in 2006 with domestic battery and “annoying or molesting a child under 18.” Also as alleged, as recently as December 2009, a California court granted a temporary restraining order against Auvaa in connection with allegations of sexual abuse of a minor family member,” says attorney Christensen.
The statement of claim alleges that Uber Technologies has a history of gender discrimination in its corporate culture and similarly disregards the safety of female passengers.
“To be clear,” the claim states, “the number of reported sexual assaults and rapes of female passengers by male Uber drivers has skyrocketed in the last several years. Rather than taking steps to address violence against female passengers, Uber has shamelessly opted to continue its strategy of “growth at any cost.”
The lawsuit alleges Uber should have been aware of Auvaa’s history of violence and that it was negligent in its hiring practices.
“Background checks have not improved – they continue to be outsourced to private companies that, by law, have limitations on how far back into an individual’s history they can reach – and this has led to thousands of drivers with violent criminal records slipping through the cracks. Rather than using police-level background checks, Uber hires private companies that, by law, look back no more than seven years into a potential employee’s record. Moreover, Uber does not once require that prospective drivers meet with Uber before being approved to drive,” the complaint alleges.
“Disturbingly, drivers continue to operate under Uber’s control but with minimal monitoring, including no way for Uber to know if a driver has driven wildly off-route absent a passenger flagging such an issue,” it continues.
The claim asserts that Uber had “a duty to protect Ms. Doe from harm, including sexual assault committed by her driver.”
“Despite his documented troubling background, Uber allowed Auvaa to transport passengers, including Ms. Doe, for a fee paid to Uber,” states Christensen. “We are confident that a jury will hold Uber accountable for this horrific and senseless violence. Uber must take immediate action to prevent another tragedy like this from happening again.”
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The statement of claim says, “Uber’s negligence, fraud, misleading statements and other unlawful actions caused Plaintiff’s rape and sexual assault, which humiliated, degraded, violated and robbed Plaintiff of her dignity. The attack on Plaintiff has caused her to suffer both physical and psychological harm from which she may never fully recover.”
The lawsuit asks for damages to be determined at trial.