Editor’s note: This story contains recounts of alleged sexual assault and may be uncomfortable for some readers. WFLA is naming the woman because she has publicly shared her story.
TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A Florida woman filed a federal lawsuit against rideshare company Lyft after she claims she was “repeatedly” raped and impregnated by one of its drivers.
Tabatha Means, of Leesburg, Florida, filed the lawsuit Tuesday in a federal court in San Francisco, where the company is headquartered.
Means claims she was “repeatedly” raped by a Lyft driver that she was paired with through the app, and that Lyft is responsible for any injuries its drivers cause to passengers. The lawsuit claims Lyft has been made aware of sexual assault claims against its drivers since 2015 and the company’s response has been “appallingly inadequate.”
Means, while intoxicated, requested a Lyft ride on April 28, 2019. The driver asked how she was feeling to which she responded she wasn’t feeling well, according to the suit. The driver then allegedly began to make comments about her looks, making her uncomfortable.
When Means got to her destination, the driver pulled into a parking space and began inappropriately touching her, which she rejected, according to the lawsuit. The driver also allegedly attempted to kiss her.
The driver is accused of following Means into her home where he bragged about a sexual encounter he had with a passenger that he picked up before her, the lawsuit says. Means was then forced onto a bed and “violently raped” more than once.
A month after the rape, the lawsuit says Means suspected she was pregnant, which was confirmed when she took a pregnancy test, which is when she told a family member she was raped by the Lyft driver.
A DNA sample was collected from the Lyft driver through an administrative order from Florida’s Child Support Services, which returned a greater than 99% probability that the Lyft driver is her child’s father, according to the lawsuit.
“Those test results confirmed what [Means] suspected based on the obvious similarity between her son’s appearance and that of the Lyft driver,” the lawsuit reads. “Every day she looks at her son, she is forced to think about her Lyft driver-rapist.”
“Lyft contributed to the attack on [Means] by abandoning its utmost duty of heightened care toward its passengers,” the lawsuit reads. It says Lyft has failed to implement safety procedures such as fingerprint-based background checks and screening for its applicants to make sure convicted sex offenders can’t use a fake ID to become a driver.
“Sadly, Lyft’s priority is not passenger safety. Profits are Lyft’s priority,” the lawsuit reads.
The lawsuit says Lyft should have implemented a monitoring system since it knew about its passengers being sexually assaulted and raped.
“Lyft does not tell passengers whether their comments regarding drivers are shared with drivers, resulting in a rideshare culture where passengers are fearful that giving honest negative feedback could negatively impact their passenger star rating — or result in retaliation from the driver,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also accuses Lyft of falsely marketing itself based on safety.
“Lyft affirmatively induces passengers, particularly young, unaccompanied, intoxicated, and/or vulnerable women, to use its services with the expectation of safety, while Lyft simultaneously knows that sexual abuse of its passengers has been prevalent,” the lawsuit says.
“The application process to become a Lyft driver is simple, fast, and designed to allow the company to hire as many drivers as possible while incurring minimal associated costs,” the lawsuit says. “Lyft fought for and implemented a less robust hiring process knowing it would be at the expense of passenger safety.”
Lyft is accused of general negligence; negligent hiring, retention and supervision; intentional misrepresentation; breach of contract; among other things.
Means is seeking an unspecified amount of damages and is demanding a jury trial.
Full Story: WFLA January 12 2024