Uber, Sexual-Assault Lawsuits and Investors
Maybe it will be Uber’s investors who demand the company submit its drivers to fingerprint background checks to stem potentially explosive legal costs.
Uber has settled the “Jane Doe” lawsuit over two alleged sexual assaults by Uber drivers in Boston, Massachusetts and Charleston, South Carolina.
Not surprisingly, the financial terms of the settlement were undisclosed. The suit asserted Uber doesn’t do enough to screen drivers for criminal history. It requested a permanent injunction for Uber to improve its safety measures, including implementing fingerprint background checks and in-person interviews with prospective drivers.
Uber’s lack of in-person interviews with drivers famously came to the fore when Uber driver, Jason Dalton, reportedly conducted a murderous rampage while driving for the company. Although Uber sassily denied an in-person interview could have predicted Dalton’s alleged actions, here on page 4 the U.S. Department of Justice characterizes personal interviews as the “basics” of background checks.
So yes: When it comes to background checks, Uber literally doesn’t perform the basics.
Sounds like a setup for a lawsuit.
Uber has also, of course, famously opposed the single most effective method for screening an individual’s criminal history: fingerprint-based background checks.
The big problem—from an Uber investor standpoint—is the recent Jane Doe lawsuit settlement represents just two of numerous alleged victims. In fact, Uber now has a steady stream of allegations against its drivers.
The key legal takeaway from the Jane Doe suit was the judge ruled Uber a “common carrier.” Common carriers are legally responsible for the wellbeing of the persons or goods the company transports—no matter that Uber currently uses contractors to do the actual transporting.
What this means is other sexual-assault victims could also successfully sue Uber using the legal principle of “common carrier.” This stream, or river, of possible lawsuits could devastatingly impact Uber’s profitability.
Maybe it’s an ocean. There exists the possibility thousands of Uber passengers have been affected by sexual assault.
Uber could readily diminish its financial vulnerability by fingerprinting drivers and conducting personal interviews. Perhaps Uber investors should begin pressuring the company to comport with the safest known screening practices—fingerprints—as a doable way to reduce its potentially limitless liability.