Watch CBS News

Lyft sued by Florida woman who says she was sexually assaulted by driver

Florida woman sues Lyft, alleging rideshare driver sexually assaulted her
Florida woman sues Lyft, alleging rideshare driver sexually assaulted her 03:10

SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco-based rideshare company Lyft is being sued by a Florida woman who says she was sexually assaulted multiple times by one of its drivers.

The victim alleges that she was violently and repeatedly raped by her Lyft driver, resulting in the birth of a child.

"I took a ride thinking I was safe. You see these lights on, and you say your name, and you get in that car thinking that you're going to be OK, and I trusted that," said Tabatha Means, the alleged victim.

According to Means, the assault occurred in April 2019, when the driver urged her to sit in front and then started touching her inappropriately. After rejecting his advances, she got out of the car, only for the driver to follow her into her home and rape her.

"I'm very upset with myself for not opening my mouth sooner. Not doing everything in my power to get proper treatment, for the driver for what occurred. I was there. I know what happened," Means said.

According to Lyft however, the alleged incident did not happen during a Lyft ride, but during a subsequent encounter between the alleged victim and the driver.

"Safety is fundamental to Lyft and the behavior described has no place in our society. The alleged incident from 2019 did not take place on the Lyft platform while using the Lyft app, but rather involved a separate trip arranged between the individuals involved," Lyft said in a prepared statement.  

Lyft said its investigation determined the person accused gave a ride on the Lyft platform to the woman's original destination, and there was no Lyft ride to her home associated with the alleged incident that happened hours later that same evening. Lyft also said there was no safety report or customer service report filed with Lyft and no police report was filed.

The company added that it became aware of the alleged incident after being contacted by attorneys years later. The driver allegedly involved is no longer driving for the Lyft platform, the company said.

For San Francisco resident Aura Barva, security is always at the forefront of her mind when she uses a ride-share app.

"I share my ride information with one of my friends, so they would know where the ride is going, and that gives some peace of mind," said Barva, who has used Uber and Lyft for over a decade.

Living in San Francisco for more than 10 years, Barva relies on ride-share services at least twice a week to avoid late-night rides on BART or Muni. However, she has a growing safety concern, especially at night.

"You always have that fear that something is going to happen to you, especially at night when you go out," said Barva. "As women, we are more vulnerable than men."

The apprehension surrounding ride-share safety has also intensified after Means filed the lawsuit against Lyft.

Barva emphasized the need for ride-share companies to enhance their security protocols, including more rigorous background checks and the implementation of safety plans within the cars.

"They need to run better background checks. It's really important, and also, it wouldn't hurt anyone to have like a safety plan or something inside of the car. Not only because something can happen with the driver, but if there's an accident or someone that needs help, maybe it's connected to 911," she suggested.

Lyft says it runs rigorous, annual background checks on all drivers, which include a nationwide criminal search, a county court records search, a federal criminal court records search, and a a U.S. Department of Justice 50-state sex offender registry search. 

The company said it has also implemented a safety service supported by security firm ADT, allowing riders to connect with an ADT professional silently or by voice if they feel uncomfortable or unsafe. Lyft says it also offers a "Smart Trip Check-in" feature which monitors for ride irregularities and contacts riders and drivers directly to see if they need help.

However, in Tabatha Means' case, she alleges that Lyft did not provide the expected assistance.

"Lyft wasn't there like they were supposed to be. All of those safe options were not there. They were not in place, so they don't know. They were not there," she stated.

While the lawsuit is ongoing, Barva mentioned that she has to continue using these services to have a bit of comfort when she goes out, always keeping her own safety measures in place.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.