‘It is not safe to allow your riders to ride with him’
A woman who says she was raped by an Uber driver is suing the ride-hail company for allegedly ignoring previous warnings about the driver’s violent history.
The victim, a post-graduate student from Kansas City referred to in court documents as “Jane Doe,” says she was raped by an Uber driver named Yahkhahnahn Ammi on January 28th, 2017. The incident was reported to the Kansas City Police Department, which has collected evidence and is currently investigating the matter. Ammi has not been arrested and was driving for Uber as recently as March 20th, 2017.
A spokesperson for Uber said the company had just received the complaint and declined to comment while the specifics were being reviewed. “What’s reported in the complaint is deeply troubling and something we take extremely seriously. We are reviewing the litigation,” the spokesperson said. She confirmed that Ammi had driven for Uber, and was deactivated in March. A spokesperson for the Kansas City Police Department did not immediately return a request for comment.
AMMI HAS NOT BEEN ARRESTED AND WAS DRIVING FOR UBER AS RECENTLY AS MARCH 20TH
Ammi is a convicted felon who served eight years in prison for first-degree murder, according to the suit. After leaving prison, he had a string of minor infractions and lawsuits filed against him. He began driving for Uber in December, 2016. On December 25th, several weeks before Doe was raped, Ammi is alleged to have “viciously assaulted” a woman he was residing with in St. Louis, Missouri.
The assault victim filed domestic abuse charges against Ammi; he was charged and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Meanwhile, the victim also submitted an incident report to Uber to warn the company about the danger posed by Ammi to riders. According to court documents, her report read: “Your driver YAHKHAHNAHN ‘Yah’ Ammi assaulted someone badly 12/25/16!! He hurt the woman badly! He has a warrant out for his arrest. He is a scam artist his real name is Perrie D. Gibson born 8/21/79 or 78 it is not safe to allow your riders to ride with him!!”
Image: Jane Doe v. Uber Technologies
Representatives from Uber spoke over the phone with the St. Louis victim, and claimed it was launching an internal investigation. The lawsuit contains screenshots of the response from Uber stating that the company “will be in contact with you as soon as possible regarding this matter.”
Image: Jane Doe v. Uber Technologies
The victim also posted images of the injuries she sustained from her assault by Ammi on social media, using his full name and warning others to avoid accepting rides from him. But despite her report and public allegations, Uber failed to follow up with the victim and Ammi was permitted to continue to drive for the ride-hail service. A spokesperson for Uber confirmed the receipt of the incident report from a third party, and said the company believes it was handled properly.
Several weeks later, the plaintiff was connected to Ammi through the Uber app for a ride to a university-sponsored event. During the trip, Ammi persuaded Doe to exchange contact information so he could provide her and her classmates a ride home. Hours later, Ammi gave an intoxicated Doe a ride home, and then gained access to her apartment by claiming he needed to use the restroom. After refusing to leave, Doe claims she was raped by Ammi.
“IT IS TRULY UNCONSCIONABLE THAT UBER WOULD PERMIT THIS DRIVER TO CONTINUE TO DRIVE.”
“It is shocking that Uber would hire someone convicted of attempted murder in the first place,” said Norman Siegel, an attorney representing the plaintiff. “But it is truly unconscionable that Uber would permit this driver to continue to drive for the company after Uber was expressly warned that he violently assaulted a woman and presented an immediate danger to Uber passengers.”
Uber frequently touts its commitment to safety in its promotional material. But after a recent lawsuit accusing the company of misrepresenting its safety standards, Uber is now barred from using certain language when marketing itself, including phrases like "safest ride on the road" and "gold standard in safety." It also agreed to pay $10 million after settling a California lawsuit over its misleading statements regarding driver background checks.
Uber has also resisted efforts to require it to fingerprint drivers. The company argues that requiring drivers to be fingerprinted as part of criminal background checks would hamper its on-boarding process, which they need to maintain at a brisk pace because driver turnover is so high.
Jane Doe’s lawsuit isn’t the first to accuse Uber of mishandling cases involving its drivers who are accused or convicted of rape and assault. The company is currently being sued by a woman who was raped by a driver in India after reports surfaced that a top executive at Uber obtained her medical records. The executive, Eric Alexander, was convinced the allegations were actually a sabotage effort by Uber’s top competitor in India, Ola. Alexander kept the records and showed them to several others at Uber, including then-CEO Travis Kalanick.
Alexander has since been forced out of the company. And last week, Kalanick became the latest to resign after months of nonstop scandals and controversies. The company has been roiling from a massive investigation into its toxic workplace that resulted in the review of hundreds of cases of inappropriate behavior and 20 terminations. The company says it is committed to improving relations with drivers and riders.