A Leesburg, Fla., woman is suing ride-share company Lyft after claiming one of its drivers violently raped and impregnated her and that the company failed to protect her, according to a complaint reviewed by PEOPLE.
The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Calif. following an April 2019 incident involving Tabatha Means and an unnamed Lyft driver, who Means alleges followed her into her home after a ride and repeatedly raped her while she was intoxicated. According to the complaint, the alleged attack resulted in a pregnancy and the subsequent birth of Means’ son.
Means’ attorney, Rachel Abrams, said in part to PEOPLE, “As for the facts of Tabatha’s case, this incident absolutely involved a trip booked through the Lyft App, and Lyft’s attempt to deflect liability is a perfect example of its bad faith handling of this crisis.”
On April 28, 2019, Means claims she requested a ride through the Lyft app back to where she was staying after a night out drinking, the complaint states. She said the driver told her to sit in the front seat and during the ride and began making inappropriate comments that made her uncomfortable.
When they arrived at the destination, the driver parked and allegedly began touching Means inappropriately, according to the complaint. While she rejected his advances and got out of the car, the driver allegedly followed her into her home, where she was repeatedly raped and forced to engage in oral sex. Means claims she begged the driver to stop and at one point he allegedly responded, “It will be just fine and over before you know it,” the complaint states.
About one month after the alleged incident, Means suspected that she was pregnant. She then took an at-home pregnancy test, which revealed a positive result and her doctor confirmed it two weeks later, according to the complaint.
The complaint further states that Means endured three hemorrhage episodes before giving birth to her son by emergency C-section. The baby was born at 33 weeks, and he was in the NICU for nearly a month due to his premature birth.
“[Means] later obtained an administrative order from Florida’s Child Support Services to obtain a DNA sample from the Lyft driver,” the complaint states. “The test results revealed the probability of 99.9999999998% that the Lyft driver is the father of [Means’] son.”
The complaint lists 10 counts, including general negligence, negligent hiring, breach of contract and strict product liability. The suit also seeks an unspecified amount of damages and demands a jury trial.
Abrams said during a Tuesday news conference announcing the lawsuit that her client was taken advantage of while she was in a “vulnerable state” and said Means did not file a police report out of fear.
“Over the years, Lyft has aggressively marketed itself as a safe alternative to driving while intoxicated, and specifically aimed those messages at young women,” Abrams said in a press release. “Lyft’s driver ‘background checks’ are a joke.”
Abrams claims that Lyft has yet to disclose safety data from 2020 to the present and hopes a resolution involves fingerprint-based background checks and not name-based background checks, as well as improving its in-app tracking system and maintaining a surveillance camera during all rides, per the press release.
“Every day is a struggle,” Means said in the press release. “I’m still working to process this trauma, and at the same time I need to be a mom to my amazing children, including my youngest whose biological father was my … driver-rapist. I love my kids so deeply – but there are a lot of mixed emotions when the biggest blessing in your life can also remind you of your darkest hour.”
As for what her message would be for others who may have had a similar experience, Means tells PEOPLE that “time is of the essence.”
“You have a voice and nobody can take that from you,” she says. “It took me quite some time to come to the realization that I was the one in charge of my voice! I know my truth, and there is no way to stop the evil that is in this world, but going down without a fight against the evil should never be the option.”
“My … driver stole far too much from me, but one thing that couldn’t be stolen was my voice,” she adds. “I also realized that the only way to try to improve and lessen the assaults occurring is to go to the source, the people allowing the situation to occur!”
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to rainn.org.
Full Story: People January 11 2024