Passenger Suing Lyft After Alleged Assault by Driver

The plaintiff claims Lyft’s background checks should have screened him out

byStephen Edelstein|
Passenger Suing Lyft After Alleged Assault by Driver

A passenger who was allegedly raped by a Lyft driver is suing the company, and claiming that there should have been more thorough background checks that would have prevented him from getting a job driving for Lyft in the first place. The suit, filed in Illinois Cook County Circuit Court, comes at a time of increased scrutiny of Lyft's background check policies.

The plaintiff, identified only as Jane Doe, alleges that on July 7, 2017, Lyft driver Angelo McCoy picked her up using the Lyft app, and drove her to a secluded area where he threatened her with a knife, zip-tied her hands, and raped her. Jane Doe said she escaped after two hours of captivity by jumping out of the car at an intersection on Chicago's North Side.

McCoy was arrested and charged with aggravated criminal sexual assault, aggravated kidnapping, armed robbery, and unlawful restraint, according to a July Chicago Tribune report. Prosecutors said he entered a pickup time of 11:06 p.m. and that a drop-off time of 11:11 p.m. was recorded, but said the 25-year-old woman was actually held against her will until around 1:00 a.m. A friend confirmed seeing the woman get into a car matching the description of McCoy's 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport. Left deactivated McCoy's account as when it became aware of the allegations.

In a press release, Tomasik Kotin Wassermann, LLC, the law firm representing the woman, argued that stricter background checks should have prevented McCoy from getting a job as a Lyft driver. The law firm claims McCoy was hired despite a  "criminal" history including "charges of theft, driving under the influence, and possession of weapons." It also claims Lyft's current background check process does not verify "documents such as vehicle registration and drivers' licenses, require no vehicle or road tests, and do not monitor whether drivers are under the influence of alcohol or carrying weapons."

Scott Coriell of Lyft communications said the latter statement was "not accurate," pointing to a list of requirements to be a Lyft driver in Chicago that includes a driver's license, vehicle inspection form, registration, and insurance, as well as Lyft's zero-tolerance drug and alcohol policy. He would not comment on the current lawsuit because it involves pending litigation.

The lawsuit comes shortly after Lyft deactivated the account of another Chicago-area driver, Raja L. Khan, who was found to have ties to terrorism. Khan, a 30-year Chicago taxi veteran, reportedly spent seven and a half years in prison after a federal conviction for terrorism aide. After his release, Khan reportedly had trouble finding a job with taxi companies and Uber but was hired by Lyft. He worked as a Lyft driver for five months before being booted off the service last month.

Lyft uses a third-party vendor, Sterling Talent Solutions, to conduct background checks, and after the recent incidents, Chicago officials are calling for the company to change its policies. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said this week that Lyft, as well as Uber and other ride-sharing companies, should look into different technologies such as facial recognition to screen drivers, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Other city officials are pushing for a requirement that all ride-sharing drivers be fingerprinted.