Delhi Uber rape victim sues company in US, seeks unspecified damages

  • Avantika Mehta, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jan 30, 2015 10:46 IST

A 25-year-old woman, who alleged she was raped by an Uber driver in New Delhi, has sued the online car service in a US federal court accusing the company of failing to maintain "basic standards" for hiring drivers.

The woman filed a civil suit on Thursday for negligence against the taxi aggregating company in San Francisco saying Uber was aware of 32-year-old Shiv Kumar Yadav's criminal past.

"Defendant had advanced knowledge of the unfitness of Yadav, and employed him with a conscious disregard of the rights or safety of others," said the woman, who has been identified only as Jane Doe in the complaint.

In the lawsuit, the woman said the company "made these misrepresentations … despite knowing that they had not adequately screened her driver, Yadav, but rather, knowing that he was a threat to (her) safety."

The young financial analyst is being represented by Douglas Wigdor, who has represented high-profile plaintiffs, including a hotel maid who accused former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault.

The woman, who reported being raped and beaten in early December after taking a cab from Uber, is also seeking unspecified damages from the US-based company.

She has also asked the court to direct Uber to "promptly implement improved safety," and for specific safety norms such as a dedicated 24/7 customer support service, a panic button, the option of asking for female drivers, and for registered sex offenders to be banned from applying as Uber drivers.

Asking the court to hold the company responsible for the "heinous attack" on her, the young woman said she has suffered "both physical and psychological harm, permanent harm to her professional and personal reputations, and severe mental anguish.. from which she may never fully recover."

The plaint also points out other similar incidences of safety breaches on the part of Uber drivers including a man who assaulted his passenger while screaming "I hate Americans and gays."

It goes on to add that this class action lawsuit also "alleges that Uber's background checks and other safety measures fall well short of industry standards."

"Unlike many background checks, Uber does not require fingerprints, or even for the applicant to appear in person, and also that the company allows drivers to simply transmit photographs of vehicles rather than performing inspections."

In a statement, Uber did not directly address the lawsuit but said it is cooperating fully with the authorities to ensure the perpetrator is brought to justice.

"Our deepest sympathies remain with the victim of this horrific crime," the company said.

India is Uber's largest market outside the United States by the number of cities covered, and the country's radio taxi market is estimated to be worth $6 billion to $9 billion.

The rape allegation triggered protests across the country and reignited a debate about the safety of women in India, especially in New Delhi, which has been dubbed India's rape capital.

The Delhi government banned Uber last month following the allegations and arrest of the driver. But the company restarted services there last week and applied for a radio taxi license.

The San Francisco-based company said it would not take any commission from its drivers in New Delhi until uncertainty over how it can operate in the city is cleared up.

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