A passenger who says she was raped and sexually assaulted by an Uber driver in New Delhi has sued Uber in a U.S. court, alleging that the company was negligent and that its commitment to passenger safety comes second to profits.
The lawsuit, filed on Thursday in San Francisco, asserts that a more thorough background check by Uber would have discovered two prior accusations of rape against the driver. It also says the company should have spotted that the police-endorsed "character certificate" he presented when registering to become a driver was a fake.
The alleged assault occurred on Dec. 5 last year while the plaintiff, who is not named in the suit, was taking a 45-minute Uber ride home. The lawsuit, which recounts the violent assault in detail, says the passenger fell asleep in the car and later awoke to find it parked in a secluded area with the driver on top of her. Despite her attempts to resist the rape and in the face of threats to kill her, she was assaulted for more than 30 minutes, the lawsuit says.
In early December, Uber called the assault "an abhorrent crime" and said it was committed to working with the New Delhi Police to bring the perpetrator to justice.
The company, reacting to a local backlash that would see it soon banned from operating in New Delhi, said safety was its top concern and that its Indian operations exclusively used "registered for-hire drivers who have undergone the commercial licensing process, hold government issued IDs, state-issued permits, and carry full commercial insurance."
The lawsuit takes issue with those claims.
"Through its relentless marketing efforts, Uber has urged the public to defy common sense and undermine every parent's edict -- 'Don't get in a car with a stranger'," it says. "Unfortunately, despite its self-proclaimed 'commitment to safety,' opening the Uber app and setting the pick-up location have proven to be the modern day equivalent of electronic hitchhiking."
Uber did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org