It has recently been reported that two passengers have secured a five figure settlement sums from Uber after reporting that they had been sexually abused by the same Uber driver.
The claims were brought on the basis that Uber were liable for the sexual assaults as it had a duty of care to protect passengers because its drivers were employees.
These settlements appear to be the first known claims of this kind against Uber in the UK and while Uber initially contested the claims, they have now agreed to undisclosed settlements.
The women, who were not known to each other were picked up by the same Uber driver on different evenings in Leeds in December, 2015.
The initial investigations into the matter were carried out by Leeds City Council who are the relevant licensing authority. Leeds City Council said: “The individual [driver] in question was suspended immediately and not allowed to drive a private hire vehicle as soon as we were informed.”
It appears that the Uber driver used his brother’s Uber driver login details when his brother was out of the country and assaulted the women.
Following an investigation by Leeds City Council, they decided to revoke the licence of the Uber driver in June, 2016 however, the Uber driver appealed this decision.
At the hearing of the appeal at Leeds Crown Court in November, 2017, the Judge upheld the decision of Leeds City Council and found that the Uber account did belong to the perpetrators brother, who was in Pakistan at the time and went on to find that on the “balance of probabilities” the Uber driver had carried out the assaults. The Uber driver lost his private hire licence and was told to pay £1,500.
It appears no criminal charges have been brought against the Uber driver. The assaults were reported to West Yorkshire Police but there were evidential difficulties in relation to the identity of the suspect and investigations had to be finalised on that basis.
The first woman said her “whole life has been turned upside down since that night”, while the second said: “That one night has had such a negative impact on my life and to hear that it happened to another woman a week earlier was horrible.”
The lawyer who acted for the women, said: “If Uber had properly investigated the alleged assault suffered by our first client then we believe that the driver would not have been free to go on and pick up the second woman just a week later, during which it is reported he escalated in his abusive behaviour.”
Uber investigated the matter and stated that they “…typically waitlist drivers during investigations and if the allegations prove true, an individual would likely face permanent deactivation.” And have gone to say that “There is no place for this kind of behaviour in the Uber community. We take all reports very seriously and investigate thoroughly.”
In unrelated proceedings before the Court of Appeal decision in December, 2018 the Court upheld the decision of two lower tribunals that Uber drivers are workers. The Court of Appeal went on to say that Uber was wrong to classify its drivers as independent contractors. While this decision is under appeal to the Supreme Court there can be little doubt that it would have been unhelpful for Uber to be drawn into further litigation on this point in these claims.
The approach to be taken by Uber in similar future claims will no doubt be significantly impacted by the outcome of the Supreme Court Appeal.
Written by Sharon Moohan at BLM