A woman who claims she was raped by her Lyft driver back in 2019 and gave birth to a child as a result of the sexual assault filed a civil lawsuit on Wednesday 10 January 2024 against the San Francisco-based ride-sharing company. This lawsuit is the latest in a series of legal actions against Lyft, accusing the company of having loopholes in its policies that facilitate incidents like the one described.
In the complaint, Tabatha Means says she requested a Lyft ride in April 2019 after a night out when she had been drinking. She goes on to claim that shortly after she got into the car, the driver, whose name has not been shared, began making inappropriate comments to her while she was visibly intoxicated. Once they arrived at the destination, Means alleges that the driver followed her into her home and raped her twice.
“I took a ride thinking I was safe,” Means said during a news conference held on Wednesday, as reported by The Cut. “You see these lights on, and you say your name, and you get in that car thinking that you’re going to be okay, and I trusted that.”
According to the lawsuit, Means chose not to report the alleged rape to the police as she feared not being believed. One month after the alleged assault, she says she began exhibiting pregnancy symptoms and decided to take a test, which was positive. That’s when Means told her sister about what happened and sought medical care to confirm the pregnancy.
“The remainder of Plaintiff’s pregnancy was a nightmare, losing contact with family members and support,” reads Means’ lawsuit. Her high-risk pregnancy was marked by three episodes of haemorrhaging before she received an emergency C-section to deliver her son at 33 weeks—pregnancy should normally last about 40 weeks.
Means also obtained an administrative order from Florida’s Child Support Services to obtain a DNA sample from the Lyft driver, according to the suit, which confirmed that he is the child’s biological father.
As a result of the assault, Means suffered from severe depression and anxiety, with the lawsuit adding that it cost her “her mental and financial stability.” “I’m still working to process this trauma, and at the same time I need to be a mom to my amazing children, including my youngest whose biological father was my Lyft driver rapist,” Means said in a statement. “I love my kids so deeply—but there are a lot of mixed emotions when the biggest blessing in your life can also remind you of your darkest hour.”
A Lyft spokesperson suggested the company was not responsible for Means’ alleged assault, claiming an internal investigation showed that while the driver gave the woman an on-platform ride to her original destination, he gave her a second ride to her home hours later that had not been booked through the app.
“Safety is fundamental to Lyft and the behaviour described has no place in our society,” the company’s spokesperson said in a statement. “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 has worked to design policies and features that protect both drivers and riders, and we are always working to make Lyft an even safer platform.”
Means’s lawyer, Rachel Abrams, disputed these claims. “As for the facts of Tabatha’s case, this incident absolutely involved a trip booked through the Lyft App, and Lyft’s attempt to deflect liability is a perfect example of its bad-faith handling of this crisis,” she said in a statement to The Cut.
It doesn’t help Lyft’s case that Means’ lawsuit is the latest in a yearslong string of litigation accusing the company of mishandling complaints involving drivers who have been accused of sexually abusing passengers. Three years ago, Lyft released a safety report disclosing that it had received more than 4,100 reports of sexual assault between 2017 and 2019. It should be noted that the company has not released a similar report since.
In 2022, 11 passengers and two drivers filed lawsuits in San Francisco’s Superior Court alleging they were sexually assaulted while driving or riding in Lyfts. Lyft’s main competitor Uber has also faced lawsuits claiming that measures to curb sexual assault have not gone far enough.