Uber is facing yet another lawsuit after one of its drivers assaulted a passenger.
The mother of a 13-year-old Virginia girl is suing the ridesharing company for $2 million, claiming that Uber and its lax screening processes are responsible for her daughter's sexual assault.
The assault itself is not in dispute. In April, 39-year-old former Uber driver Isagani Morin was found guilty of assault and battery in the case and received a six-month suspended sentence. The lawsuit focuses on Uber's responsibility in the incident.
According to the lawsuit, the 13-year-old girl used Uber between 10 and 20 times last October and November – mostly for rides to and from school. Most of the time, Morin was the one to pick her up.
The complaint states that Morin made unwanted and inappropriate advances toward to girl, including Can I buy you a pair of panties for your birthday? and Age doesn't matter if two people are in a relationship.
The abuse allegedly culminated in Morin "reaching backward between the seats and rubbed Child Doe's inner thigh and asking Child Doe if her mother was home."
The lawsuit says that the girl gave Morin a low rating on the Uber app, but he continued to be the one to pick her up.
In asking for damages, the lawsuit admonishes Uber for its screening practices.
"Uber failed to properly screen and check the background of Morin before hiring him, and this negligence resulted in the hiring of an individual who exhibited overly aggressive sexual tendencies," says the complaint. "Uber failed to adequately train Morin. Upon information and belief, Defendant became aware of Morin's ongoing sexually aggressive tendencies and nonetheless retained him as an employee. Uber either knew or should have known of Morin's propensity to make unwelcome sexual advances, requests and demands for sexual favors, and other verbal and physical conduct of a sexual nature aimed at minor children by various words and acts."
"Uber failed to exercise reasonable care and was negligent in hiring and retaining Morin, a dangerous employee who Uber knew or should have known was a dangerous sexual predator, and who was to harm passengers of the carrier, including Child Doe."
Uber's terms of service state that "UBER DOES NOT GUARANTEE THE QUALITY, SUITABILITY, SAFETY OR ABILITY OF THIRD PARTY PROVIDERS. YOU AGREE THAT THE ENTIRE RISK ARISING OUT OF YOUR USE OF THE SERVICES, AND ANY SERVICE OR GOOD REQUESTED IN CONNECTION THEREWITH, REMAINS SOLELY WITH YOU, TO THE MAXIMUM EXTENT PERMITTED UNDER APPLICABLE LAW."
But does this absolve Uber of responsibility for its drivers? The girl's attorney thinks not.
“Under Virginia law, employers are liable for their employees,” the mother’s attorney, Jake Denton, told The Daily Beast.
But are Uber driver employees? Or are they just contractors. Uber says that it's merely a logistics company – a tech startup that allows ride-wanters to connect with ride-providers. But just this week, a California labor board ruled that an Uber driver was in fact an employee, stating that Uber is "involved in every aspect of the operation.”
In the case of the 13-year-old Virginia girl, Uber says it is "extremely troubled by these allegations" and it has "cooperated fully with law enforcement."
Image via Uber, Facebook