Proposed Consolidation JPML Hearing on Uber Sexual Assault Litigation

by | Sep 27, 2023

Oral arguments on the petition filed with the Judicial Panel for Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) to consolidate all sexual assault cases filed against Uber into MDL No 3084, In Re: Uber Technologies, Inc. Passenger Sexual Assault Litigation, are scheduled to be heard at the JPML Hearing Session on 9/28/2023 in Lexington, KY.

According to the Notice of Hearing Session and Memo in Support of the Petition to Transfer there are at least 22 lawsuits pending in 11 different jurisdictions against the rideshare company.  According to the memo:

“Plaintiffs are rape and sexual assault survivors who were sexually assaulted by Uber drivers who were supposed to safely transport Plaintiffs to their destinations as passengers. Plaintiffs are aware of many such cases yet to be filed.

The cases against Uber are premised on the fact that Uber failed to adequately vet its drivers and failed to take appropriate safety precautions once it had notice that a subset of Uber drivers were sexual predators and were sexually assaulting Uber passengers on a widespread basis. The cases allege that Uber was aware of the problem but nevertheless failed to conduct appropriate background checks, failed to adequately train and supervise its drivers, failed to adequately respond to complaints about predator drivers, failed to adopt safety design changes in the Uber App, and failed to adopt standard safety measures such as video and audio surveillance.”

In an 84-page Safety Report issued in December 2019, Uber disclosed that it had received nearly 6,000 reports of sexual assaults, including 464 rape allegations, during its rides in 2017, 2018 and through October, 2019.

Plaintiffs have asked the panel to transfer the actions to the United States District Court for the Northern District of California and has also asked that the case be assigned to the Honorable Charles R. Breyer; Uber has opposed the Motion to Consolidate, arguing in its response that:

“Plaintiffs’ motion for centralization should be denied for two independent reasons. First, the plaintiffs contractually agreed in the Uber App Terms of Use agreement to proceed “on an individual basis only,” and to not pursue any “coordinated [or] consolidated” action….. Second, these cases are ill-suited for centralization because they have little in common. Each involves different types of sexual misconduct allegedly committed by different drivers (none employed by Uber) against different plaintiffs, in different time periods and places, with different witnesses and under different circumstances. Plaintiffs’ own counsel has stated that “the details and severity of the cases widely vary. The core factual questions are thus unique to each case”.”

The opposition memo further outlines the procedural history of the litigation noting that there was an earlier attempt to coordinate the cases against Uber in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of San Francisco; that attempt involved nearly 1500 cases of victims alleging sexual assault by independent drivers. Although these cases were ultimately coordinated, all of the approximately 1000 non-California cases were dismissed after Uber filed a Motion for Forum Non Conveniens in the California Judicial Council Coordination Proceeding (JCCP) in October, 2022 that resulted in the Court’s ruling that the non-California cases should be litigated in the state where the injury occurred. That forum non conveniens issue is still pending appeal.

In response to the forum issue, the memo currently pending before the JPML identifies several common questions of fact that warrant transfer and consolidation of the actions; these include:

  • Uber’s knowledge that its drivers have been sexually harassing, assaulting, and raping its passengers;
  • Uber’s failure to adopt or improve its safety procedures and policies;
  • Uber’s failure to require sexual harassment or assault training for its drivers;
  • Uber’s failure to conduct adequate background checks before hiring its drivers and otherwise failing to ensure that its drivers were fit to drive vulnerable passengers;
  • Uber’s failure to implement safety features into its app;
  • Uber’s failure to address passengers’ reports of sexual harassment, assault, and rape by Uber drivers;
  • Uber’s failure to terminate drivers who assaulted passengers or were unfit to perform their duties;
  • Uber’s marketing tactics and failure to warn passengers of the risks of being sexually assaulted, harassed, or otherwise attacked by an Uber driver;
  • Uber’s status as a common carrier; and
  • Uber’s false statements indicating that it would provide safe rides to vulnerable passengers.

In an earlier complaint filed by the law firm of Slater Slater Schulman LLP in July, 2022 in San Francisco County Superior Court, plaintiffs alleged that Uber was aware that its drivers were sexually assaulting female passengers as early as 2014 but the company’s response has been “slow and inadequate”. 

The JPML will determine at the upcoming hearing whether it is appropriate to grant plaintiffs’ petition to transfer and consolidate these cases and will select the jurisdiction and judge to preside over the newly- consolidated MDL.

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