Nov 3 (Reuters) – A federal judge in San Francisco on Friday said he wants a speedy resolution to scores of consolidated cases accusing Uber Technologies Inc of failing to prevent sexual assaults against passengers or properly responding after they happened.
At the first hearing since the 136 cases were consolidated by a multidistrict litigation panel last month, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer said the victims of the alleged assaults, and the thousands more who could file claims, deserved to have their cases resolved as quickly as possible.
“These are injuries of a type that are so … emotionally laden that it is important one way or the other to put some closure to these situations,” Breyer said.
The judge said he expected to resolve common legal issues in the cases, allowing them to head to individual trials. Those issues include how Uber vetted, hired, trained and monitored drivers and how the company responded to reports of sexual assaults, Breyer said.
Uber has for years been under scrutiny for its response to thousands of alleged assaults by drivers. The plaintiffs have accused the company of failing to conduct proper background checks, adequately train drivers and adopt safety measures such as requiring drivers to install cameras in their vehicles.
Uber has denied wrongdoing and said it takes reports of assault seriously and has adopted measures to protect passengers, including background checks. The company last year said it had received about 3,800 reports of severe sexual assault in the U.S. in 2019 and 2020, down from nearly 6,000 over the prior two years.
On Friday, lawyers for some of the plaintiffs suggested that many more people would be filing claims now that the cases have been consolidated.
William Levin of Levin Simes in San Francisco said his firm represents 77 current plaintiffs and expects to file at least 250 more complaints on behalf of passengers. Rachel Abrams of Peiffer Wolf Carr Kane Conway & Wise, also in San Francisco, said her firm has more than 1,000 clients who plan to join the case.
“My phone rings every day because this is really an epidemic right now that is going on,” Abrams told Breyer.
Breyer said he did not plan to hold a bellwether trial, where one plaintiff’s claims are tried to help value the other cases, in part because it would delay the proceeding.
Full Story: Reuters November 3 2023