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New lawsuit against Lyft alleges kidnapping and gang-rape

Lyft faces new sexual assault accusation
Lyft faces spate new sexual assault allegation 00:56

A woman who claims she was kidnapped at gunpoint and raped by her Lyft driver is now suing the San Francisco-based ride-hailing company for failing to keep its passengers safe. Alison Turkos said her Lyft driver held her at gunpoint in New York City in 2017, drove her across state lines, and then, along with two other men, raped her. 

Turkos is among a reported five women who have filed lawsuits against Lyft, alleging they were sexually assaulted or raped by its drivers. The plaintiffs accuse Lyft of refusing to cooperate with law enforcement, failing to adequately screen potential drivers, and failing to address what they call "the sexual predator crisis" on the platform.

In an essay published on Medium, Turkos shared Lyft's response to her after she reported the alleged sexual assault. In it, Turkos claims Lyft asked her to pay for the cost of her ride. 

"Lyft 'apologized for the inconvenience that I'd been through' and informed me they 'appreciated the voice of their customers and were committed to doing their best in giving me the support that I needed.' However, to my utter shock, Lyft informed me that I would still be expected to pay for the original estimated cost of my ride and I would be 'unpaired' from the driver in the future — I'd later learn he remained a Lyft driver," she wrote. 

In her lawsuit, Turkos claims a rape kit was performed on her two days after the attack confirming forensic evidence of an attack by at least two men. The alleged rape was reported to the NYPD before being transferred to the FBI for further investigation. Turkos' lawsuit accuses Lyft of negligence in its hiring, supervision and retention practices.

A driver in front of the Lyft drivers hub in Los Angeles, California, March 29, 2019. Apu Gomes / AFP/Getty Images

"Lyft made a conscious decision not to implement procedures that would effectively screen its drivers and monitor its divers in order to identify and terminate drivers who were sexual predators," the lawsuit said. According to a 2018 CNN report, at least 103 Uber drivers and 18 Lyft drivers have allegedly raped, forcibly touched or kidnapped passengers, among other crimes.

Rachel Abrams, an attorney representing Turkos, called on Lyft to "make the changes necessary to end this epidemic and keep its passengers safe." 

"Our hope and our client's hope is that, in holding Lyft accountable, other women will not suffer the same fate as Alison and countless others," Abrams said. "We commend Alison for her courage in coming forward and making her fight for justice public."  

Last week, Lyft issued updates concerning its safety features, and said it will make its drivers undergo mandatory safety training exercises along with daily continuous background check monitoring and in-app emergency assistance

In a statement, a Lyft spokesperson said, "What this rider describes is awful, and something no one should have to endure. The unfortunate fact remains that one in six women will face some form of sexual violence in their lives — behavior that's unacceptable for our society and on our platform. In this case, the driver passed the New York City TLC's background check and was permitted to drive." 

In a statement, Abrams called Lyft's public statement regarding Turkos' attack "reprehensible." 

"Lyft could have and should have implemented safety measures to prevent these numerous sexual assaults from happening," Abrams' statement said.  "Instead of taking any responsibility for what has happened to Alison and countless other women, they chose to label this horrific attack as a societal problem of sexual assaults against women." 

An additional statement from Levin Simes Abrams, the law firm representing Turkos, said: "We have filed 18 complaints for sexual assault victims against Lyft to date. We currently represent 68 women that have been sexually assaulted by Lyft drivers and that number continues to grow weekly."  

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