A woman who says she was raped by her Lyft driver in 2019 and gave birth to a child as a result of the assault filed a civil lawsuit Wednesday in federal court against the San Francisco–based ride-sharing company. In the complaint, plaintiff Tabatha Means says she requested a Lyft ride after a night out when she had been drinking in April 2019. She claims that shortly after she got into the car, the driver, whom the complaint does not name, began making inappropriate comments to her while she was visibly intoxicated. Once they arrived at the destination, Means alleges, the driver followed her into her home and raped her twice.
“I took a ride thinking I was safe,” Means said at a news conference on Wednesday. “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 feared not being believed and chose not to report the alleged rape to the police. She says she began exhibiting pregnancy symptoms one month after the assault and took a test, which was positive. Means then disclosed the alleged rape and pregnancy to her sister and sought medical care to confirm the pregnancy. According to Means’s lawsuit, “the remainder of Plaintiff’s pregnancy was a nightmare, losing contact with family members and support.” Her high-risk pregnancy was marked by three episodes of hemorrhaging before she received an emergency C-section to deliver her son at 33 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.
The assault led Means to suffer severe depression and anxiety, the lawsuit says, as well as costing 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’s alleged assault, claiming an internal investigation showed that while the driver gave Means 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 behavior described has no place in our society,” the 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 that characterization. “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.
Means’s 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 has not released a similar report since. Lyft’s competitor Uber has also faced lawsuits claiming that measures to curb sexual assault have not gone far enough.
In addition to seeking unspecified compensation for the physical and emotional damage she says she suffered, Means is asking Lyft to implement safety measures including enhanced background checks of drivers, biometric fingerprinting, job interviews, and ongoing monitoring of Lyft drivers and rides. At the news conference, Means said she was suing because “this will continue. It is obvious they don’t care.”
This post has been updated with an additional comment from Lyft.