Philly Woman Sues Uber Over Alleged UberX Rape

An UberX driver allegedly assaulted her after picking her up at an Old City bar.

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A Philadelphia woman and her husband have filed a lawsuit against Uber and a former UberX driver, claiming that she was raped in the man’s UberX vehicle last year.

We previously told you about the alleged attack in this March 2015 article.

The woman told police that she was picked up in Old City on February 6, 2015, and that the UberX driver held down her arms, ripped her pants and raped her. She said he drove her around for more than two hours before letting her out of the car, and she filed a police report the same day as the alleged attack.

At the time of our article, the Philadelphia Police Department indicated that the investigation was still open. More than one year later, the department confirms there still hasn’t been an arrest.

In the lawsuit, the woman reiterates the main allegations and also sheds light on more of the circumstances of that night. She had been attending an event sponsored by a running club at a bar at Second and Market streets. When it came time to leave, another member of the running club offered to get her an Uber ride home. According to her filing, she was intoxicated.

The ride should have taken 15 minutes, based on the traffic conditions at the time, states the lawsuit. After 20 minutes, the person who arranged the ride for her looked at the app and noticed that the driver was taking a very odd route to get from Second and Market to her home in Northwest Philadelphia.

According to the lawsuit, that person sent the following message to the driver through the app: “Sir, it looks as though you’re driving up I-95 when my friend who is your passenger lives out towards [Northwest Philadelphia]. As I mentioned her address is …” No response was received.

The lawsuit accuses Uber of negligence, alleging that the company did not properly screen its driver and that the company does nothing to verify that the person behind the wheel is actually the authorized UberX driver. It also accuses Uber of failing to monitor its service. Had there been a dispatcher available, she argues, someone would have seen the message sent to the driver or noticed that the driver went way off course. The suit points out that the man allegedly held the woman captive in his car for at least 90 minutes after the worried message was sent to the driver.

The woman also accuses Uber of misrepresentation, arguing that “Uber represents itself to be a safe and reliable means of transportation” and “touts itself as an empowering choice when bars close, and that it is the safe choice at the end of the night.” The suit cites Uber’s $1.00 “safe rides” surcharge. There’s also an accusation of reckless disregard on Uber’s part.

The suit also names former UberX driver Justin Hercules, a 60-year-old man from Northeast Philadelphia. The plaintiff accuses Hercules of battery and false imprisonment, but also alleges that her actual assailant may have been a “co-conspirator.” According to the suit, the woman was unable to identify her attacker “beyond a small, low resolution picture of the individual identified as Hercules by Uber.” The suit opens up the possibility that she was raped by someone using Hercules’ UberX app. Hercules has not been charged with the crime. According to state records, Hercules passed his limousine license test on March 10, 2015, and the Philadelphia Parking Authority confirms that he is a licensed limousine driver.

The woman says that she has suffered from extreme anxiety and night terrors, among other conditions, and that she’s incurred expenses for hospital and psychiatric care and anti-AIDS medication. According to the suit, she was out of work for eight months as a result of the attack. She and her husband are seeking damages of at least $400,000.

When we approached Uber about this in March 2015 — more than 40 days after the original police report was filed — the company told us that our call was the first they had heard about the allegations. They assured us that the company would suspend the driver’s access, pending the outcome of the investigation. Today, we reached out to Uber again for comment on the lawsuit and to see if Hercules’ privileges had been restored, and they told us they’d get back to us.

Neither Hercules nor the woman’s attorney immediately responded to a request for comment.

Follow @VictorFiorillo on Twitter.