College Athlete Sues Lyft Over Carjacking Paralysis

A former college athlete sued Lyft in state court last Friday over its alleged failure to implement adequate safety measures for drivers. Plaintiff Pape Cheikh Thiam was left paralyzed last spring when he was shot in the back during a Lyft ride.

Thiam moved to the United States in 2016 to play soccer for an Illinois university on a full-ride scholarship. He joined Lyft as a driver in 2018 for a part-time job while he played soccer and attended school. In May of 2021, he picked up two passengers in an unfamiliar area allegedly known by Lyft to be a high-crime area. According to the complaint, the drop-off area was also known to Lyft but not to Thiam as a high-crime area. In fact, the complaint alleges that Lyft knew of at least four rideshare drivers who had been carjacked with a gun after being asked to drive to the same drop-off area. Thiam was shot in the back by one of the passengers during the ride, leaving him paralyzed.

The complaint alleges that Lyft has made it unnecessarily difficult to report safety incidents, comparing Lyft’s “labyrinthine series of clicks to file a complaint” with Uber”s “single click.” Lyft has designed its app this way on purpose, the complaint asserts, so that it may report a deceptively and artificially lowered number of serious safety incidents in its public disclosures. The complaint further alleges that it is Lyft’s policy not to report crime that occurs on its platform or assist victims.

Lyft requires an extensive initial background check and continuous annual background checks of all of its drivers, but requires extremely limited information from passengers and makes no effort to verify their identity, the complaint states. Lyft also allows passengers to use anonymous payment methods and to call rides for non-users who have not agreed to Lyft’s terms or conditions, according to the complaint.

In addition, the complaint states that Lyft incentivizes drivers to pick up passengers in high-crime areas by offering higher rates without disclosing that the pickup location is in a high-crime area. Lyft also does not disclose a passenger’s drop-off location until the ride begins, according to the complaint, so a driver does not have the ability to avoid driving through a high-crime area without personally confronting a passenger already in their car.

The complaint sounds in fraudulent misrepresentation, fraudulent concealment, failure to warn, design defect, gross negligence, and assault and battery.

According to a new report focusing on the safety of the gig economy, at least 50 gig workers have been killed on the job in the last five years and many more have been involved in serious non-fatal incidents.

Additional Reading

Thiam v. Lyft Complaint (April 1, 2022)

50 gig workers killed on the job in the last five years: study, The Hill  (April 6, 2022)

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