Seattle Uber driver allegedly assaulted a rider, returned to work

Aug 20, 2019, 5:15 AM | Updated: 9:59 am
seattle taxi, uber, lyft, rideshare tax, rideshares...
A tax on Uber and Lyft could set Seattle up for a showdown in the days ahead. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Attorney Michael Bomberger has grown into a specialty in his legal field, representing people who have been assaulted by rideshare drivers working for companies such as Uber or Lyft.

“My office has between 55 and 75 of these cases,” he told the Candy, Mike, and Todd Show on KIRO Radio. “We’ve only started taking them withing the past year. We know just from handling these cases that the number of sexual assaults that occur in these rideshare vehicles is so much more prevalent than what the public is aware of, and what is publicized in the media. I’ve had clients in the emergency room, where the nurses have told them they are the third rideshare assault in an evening. And that’s just one city, in one hospital.”

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Bomberger points out that it is common for such assaults to go unreported, and in many cases people are taking rideshares because they are intoxicated.

“It’s a perfect storm for a lot of these assaults occurring and people not knowing about them,” he said. “Companies trying to cover up what’s going on and not telling the public what is happening.”

That is more or less what happened to one of Bomberger’s recent clients who reportedly suffered an attack in Seattle. The driver in question was back on the road, driving customers around the city a short time later.

The victim told Buzzfeed that the incident happened on Aug. 3 when she ordered an Uber for a ride from Ballard to her hotel. She said the driver had trouble locating her and seemed angry when he arrived. He then drove excessively fast and erratically. She asked him to slow down while going over a bridge as she was feeling carsick.

After that, the man reportedly drove over a bridge and into an alley. She reports that he got out of the car and pulled her out of the back seat. He pushed her down repeatedly, and threw her suitcase on the ground. Then he allegedly sexually assaulted her, struck her, kicked her, and threatened her with rape if she told anyone what had happened. Then he drove away, leaving her in the alley.

She called 911 immediately. She says she was uncomfortable with the male first responders who arrived and did not immediately file a report on the incident. She did go to the hospital where she was treated for a sprained ankle, abrasions, and back pain.

Uber reportedly suspended the driver, temporarily. As Buzzfeed further reported:

Meanwhile, police are conducting a criminal investigation into the assault, but Uber said they didn’t know about it. Police didn’t seek evidence from Uber, and Uber didn’t ask police what was going on. The driver’s suspension ended, and he returned to carrying passengers.

Both the driver and the woman filed complaints about the incident. After reporters called about the story, Uber suspended the customer’s and driver’s accounts while the situation was investigated.

After the Buzzfeed story came out, the woman from the article contacted Bomberger. He followed up and put a private investigator on the case.

“Already today, I got an email from him,” Bomberger said. “(The driver) was charged before with assault and also something involving children …. this happened in 2017.”

“This is one of the problems with what these companies are doing,” he added. “They do a minimal background check.”

Uber, Lyft assaults

Reports of assaults involving rideshare drivers for Uber or Lyft have become more and more common in recent months. In April, one driver was charged for assaulting a woman while he drove. Another man is suspected of similar crimes throughout the Seattle area. A Tukwila man was arrested in May after pretending to be a rideshare driver and assaulting the women he picked up.

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Bomberger says that there is an added layer of fear following the incidents. The driver is initially provided with some information on the customer, such as their name and their photo. They may have driven the customer home, which was the case in some of the recent incidents around Seattle.

“In many of these cases, as you can imagine, they are dropped off at their home,” Bomberger said. “A lot of times what happens in these assaults, the women are intoxicated, the driver carries them in, brings them into their house and assaults them there. So the driver has actually been in their house.”

Bomberger also notes that after drivers are accused of such crimes, it is not uncommon for them to return to the job after a brief suspension.

“It happens all the time — all the time,” he said. “I just got an email an hour-and-a-half ago from a woman I’m representing in Orange County. She’s actually an Uber driver herself. She was raped by another driver who was 65 years old. She reported it two months ago. She just found out that he is still driving. The police are investigating the crime. But this guy is back out on the road and still driving for them.”

“I can’t explain why these companies have made the decision to keep putting these drivers on the road when it is such a high-risk situation,” Bomberger continued.

Bomberger says he has two daughters. Neither of them are allowed to use a rideshare unless they are with other people — never alone. He says that he has also represented men who have been passed out in a rideshare and experienced an assault. But he says that 99 percent of his cases involve female victims.

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Seattle Uber driver allegedly assaulted a rider, returned to work