By JOSH FRIEDMAN
A Nipomo woman who said she was sexually assaulted by a Lyft driver who brought her home after a night of drinking filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against the rideshare company, as well as the driver.
The lawsuit details the alleged assault and argues crimes involving Lyft drivers are common because of the company’s inadequate screening process and negligent supervision. The crimes listed in the lawsuit include trespassing, fraud, assault and sexual battery.
“After being dropped off at her home around midnight by a Lyft driver, Jane Doe woke up the next morning in her bed bruised, naked and bleeding from her intimate private parts,” according to the lawsuit filed by by attorney Jim McKiernan. “The entire assault by the Lyft driver was captured on a home video surveillance system, amounting to approximately 30 minutes.”
On Nov. 4, Jane Doe was intoxicated when she stepped into a Lyft vehicle driven by 51-year-old Jason Fenwick. She had blacked out by the time they arrived at her home, where she was escorted inside by Fenwick.
Fenwick placed her in bed and then wandered around the house, snooping and checking for other occupants and closing curtains. He was oblivious to the home surveillance system that was recording his every action, according to the suit.
Fenwick proceeded to “fondle, paw, kiss, molest and disrobe the woman.” Eventually he removed her underwear and performed oral sex and penetrated her, according to the lawsuit.
During the sexual assault, Fenwick took several breaks to surveil the inside of the home. He also took several photos of himself with the unconscious woman.
After the assault, Fenwick grabbed the woman’s phone and used it to leave himself a $20 tip for the Lyft ride.
On Nov. 8, San Luis Obispo County sheriff deputies arrested Fenwick on charges of oral copulation with an intoxicated victim, sexual penetration with a foreign object, using a device to see through clothing and burglary. Fenwick remains in jail with his bail set at $500,000.
Lyft has high driver turnover and rushes to fill driving positions. Lyft’s high demand for drivers and inadequate background checks result in the hiring of dangerous drivers and drivers with criminal records, according to the suit.
In alleging Lyft drivers frequently commit sexual assaults, the lawsuit cites a May 2018 CNN report that says that more than 120 rideshare drivers, including Lyft drivers, sexually assaulted passengers over a four-year span. The suit also lists nine specific incidents of alleged sexual assaults by Lyft drivers.
McKiernan filed the lawsuit as a class action case, listing “all others similarly situated” as plaintiffs, in addition to the Nipomo woman, who is referred to as Jane Doe.
“Jane Doe’s ‘safe trip home’ on the evening of Nov. 4, 2018 was anything but… and will trouble her and traumatize her for the rest of her life,” according to the lawsuit.
McKiernan suggests that Lyft could monitor their drivers through an app currently used by customers to track drivers, to monitor the amount of time drivers spend at the homes of their riders. Lyft employees could then call both the client and the driver to determine a reason for the delay in leaving the drop off point, McKiernan said.
The Nipomo woman is seeking unspecified damages, as well as reimbursement for legal fees. Likewise, she is seeking the imposition of fines and changes to Lyft policies, including mandating fingerprint testing and cameras inside vehicles, as well as the addition of a “panic button” to Lyft’s app and a feature allowing female customers to request female drivers.