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Almost 80 Uber sexual assault lawsuits centralized in San Francisco court

Close to 80 class action lawsuits against Uber Technologies are getting rolled up under one judge in federal court in San Francisco in the wake of a court order to centralize the ride-hailing company’s sexual assault cases brought by passengers across the country.

The Oct. 4 ruling by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation ruled stated that 79 class action suits targeting Uber Technologies for passenger sexual assault litigation have now been centralized in the Northern District of California in San Francisco under U.S. Senior District Judge Charles R. Breyer.

The legal actions are now pending across 13 U.S. federal court districts, and at least 14 different plaintiffs’ law firms are involved.

A key element between all the cases is Uber’s own terms of use, which state that class action lawsuits can’t be filed against the company in cases of sexual assault and must instead be heard individually. Uber argued in several filings for motions to dismiss that these lawsuits “have little in common” but the panel saw it differently.

“Uber’s argument that its Terms of Use preclude the motion for centralization is not persuasive,” the panel stated in the Oct. 4 court order. “Moreover, plaintiffs suggest they will challenge the enforceability of Uber’s Terms of Use. Centralization thus will allow for streamlined briefing on this common issue.”

The order stated that the presiding judges found that the Northern District of California was “the most appropriate transferee district for this litigation,” noting that 62 of the 79 actions are pending in this district, where Uber is headquartered.

Defendants also assert that they intend to name the drivers as third-party defendants, and the actions will hinge on each driver’s status and alleged conduct.

“Sexual assault is a horrific crime, and we take every report of this nature very seriously,” an Uber spokesperson said. “While we cannot comment on pending litigation, we are deeply committed to the safety of all users on the Uber platform.”

The panel concluded that common factual issues include questions include Uber’s knowledge about the prevalence of sexual assault by its drivers, whether Uber failed to conduct adequate background checks of its drivers and train its drivers regarding sexual assault and harassment, and whether the company implemented adequate safety measures to protect passengers from sexual assault.

“These actions share complex factual questions arising from allegations that Uber failed to implement appropriate safety precautions to protect passengers, and that plaintiffs suffered sexual assault or harassment as a result,” the judges stated in the court order.

“This is one of the largest federal sexual assault litigations ever, and it will undoubtedly change the American rideshare industry forever,” said Kevin Conway, managing partner at Peiffer Wolf, which has filed dozens of suits against Uber.

Full Story: BizJournals October 11 2023

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