Uber Faces Lawsuit Arising from New Delhi Rape Case

New Delhi residents take part in a protest against the alleged rape of a passenger by an Uber driver on December 7, 2014.

New Delhi residents take part in a protest against the alleged rape of a passenger by an Uber driver on December 7, 2014. (STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images)

A woman who says an Uber driver raped her in New Delhi, India, is accusing the company of failing to properly investigate the alleged assailant’s background.

In a lawsuit filed Thursday in San Francisco, the unidentified woman 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 alleged rape last month prompted widespread protests in India against sexual violence and led to demands there for measures to better ensure women’s safety. Some protesters have called for Uber to be banned from India entirely.

New Delhi police have said the company could face criminal charges if it misrepresented the safety of its service, and law enforcement officials have already interviewed a New Delhi-based Uber executive.

“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.”

Thursday’s lawsuit adds to the legal woes the San Francisco-based ride-service company is facing around the globe even as it attracts more customers and investors.

In California, Uber has been sued by the district attorneys of San Francisco and Los Angeles for allegedly exaggerating the thoroughness of driver background checks. The lawsuit says that Uber can’t claim its background checks are the best available because the company doesn’t require its drivers to submit 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 website 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 ride service company, which lets passengers summon cars through a smartphone app, is operating in hundreds of cities in the United States and 53 other countries. The firm, which began operations in 2010, has raised billions in venture capital and is currently valued at more than $40 billion.

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