San Francisco — A woman who says an Uber driver raped her in New Dehli, India, on Thursday accused the company in a lawsuit filed in U.S. court of failing to properly investigate the alleged assailant's background.
The woman's lawyers filed the lawsuit in San Francisco, where the company is based, and asked the court to protect the woman's identity.
The alleged rape last month prompted widespread protests in India against sexual violence and led to demands there for more effort to ensure women's safety. It also added to the legal woes the ride-service company is facing around the globe even as it attracts more customers and investors. Protesters in India called for a permanent ban of Uber there.
"Our deepest sympathies remain with the victim of this horrific crime," Uber spokeswoman Nairi Hourdajian said in a prepared statement. "We are cooperating fully with the authorities to ensure the perpetrator is brought to justice."
The India woman's lawsuit called Uber's service a "modern-day equivalent of electronic hitchhiking" and accused the company of failing to ensure passengers' safety. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages. The woman's alleged assailant has been arrested and charged with her rape.
Law enforcement officials in India have interviewed a New Dehli-based Uber executive. New Delhi police official Brijendra Kumar Yadav said last month that there is a possibility of criminal charges against the company if police find evidence the company misrepresented the safety of its service.
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A week after the woman reported that she was raped, prosecutors and Los Angeles and San Francisco jointly filed a lawsuit in state court accusing the company of exaggerating the quality of its background checks of California drivers. The California lawsuit says that Uber can't claim its background checks are the best available because the company doesn't require its drivers to submit their fingerprints for checking against a national criminal database.
On Dec. 17, Uber's head of global safety posted a long comment on the company's Web site promising to focus on rider safety while defending the company's safety record.
"We are finding solutions in many places that range from polygraph exams that fill gaps in available data to adding our own processes on top of existing screening for commercial licenses," wrote company security chief Philip Cardenas. "We are exploring new ways to screen drivers globally, using scientific analysis and technology to find solutions."
The taxi alternative, valued at $40 billion, lets passengers summon cars through an app in more than 250 cities around the world. It faces multiples legal and regulatory challenges as it expands in the United States and abroad.