Uber is the target of yet another sex crime lawsuit, this time concerning a driver who purportedly is a repeat offender. The driver, John Kyle Lane, sexually exposed himself to a rider just days after he had sexually assaulted another rider in a nearby town.
In this suit, the two women claim the company was negligent in its retention of Lane after the first incident, and are seeking at least $25,000 in damages yet to be determined.
Victim #1, Sexual Assault
In Chattanooga, Tennessee, a woman was sexually assaulted by Lane on July 22, 2017. The victim contacted the local police and Uber immediately. Uber replied the next day that they had launched an internal investigation, refunded her fare, and placed a restriction on her profile so that the two would never be paired again. Lucky for Victim #1, but not so lucky for Victim #2.
Victim #2, Indecent Exposure
On August 6, 2017, just fifteen days later, Lane picked up another Uber passenger, struck up inappropriate conversation, and exposed himself to her and demanded she touch him. This passenger immediately contacted local police and Uber. The company took six days to respond this time, and again promised an internal investigation, and that the driver wouldn’t be paired with this rider again. (Evidently a rider needs to be actually assaulted to get a refund?) However, this victim told Uber she wanted Lane’s account to be suspended, so that there would be no Victim #3. This time, Uber permanently banned Lane from the App.
Negligent Hiring and Retention by Uber
Uber has been hit with a multitude of negligent hiring claims in the past, including this one, for failing to exercise care and doing a sufficient background check on drivers. However, negligent retention has been less common. In a different case, Uber did continue to negligently retain a driver they knew had violently assaulted a woman months earlier, but that original victim was not an Uber rider. In this instance, Uber knew he had assaulted an Uber rider, chose to keep Lane on the App, and he committed a substantially similar crime on another Uber rider. It may be very hard for Uber to dodge liability for failing to “exercise reasonable care in retaining Lane and continuing to allow him to drive its customers”, given Uber had actual knowledge of the first sexual assault claim.
In the meantime, Lane has been charged with stalking, harassment, sexual battery, and indecent exposure.
If you have been the victim of a sexual assault, especially by an employee or contractor, contact the police and a local sexual abuse attorney who is trained to listen to your case, and provide you with insight and legal counsel on how best to proceed.