WADOO!!NEWS: Delhi Uber rape survivor drops case in US
WASHINGTON: A woman who had alleged that she was raped by an Uber taxi driver in New Delhi last year has withdrawn a lawsuit against the company in San Francisco amid indications that she may have settled the case out of court.
Terms of any settlement that may have been reached were not disclosed in Tuesday’s brief filing at the US district court of Northern California, but Uber had contested the lawsuit by arguing that the driver had a contract with Netherland-based Uber BV and Uber in the United States could not be held liable – an apparent legal stratagem that the plaintiff’s attorney had said was an attempt to evade responsibility.
The unnamed woman, identified only as Jane Doe in court documents, had alleged that Uber does not adequately screen its drivers and its negligence led to her being sexually assaulted and humiliated by an Uber-contracted driver later identified as Shiv Kumar Yadav. She had sought an unspecified amount of damages and compensation for the physical and monetary harm and the damage to her “professional and personal reputations” the assault had caused.
Douglas Wigdor, the US lawyer for the woman, said in an email that he had no comments to offer on the matter and referred this correspondent to the court papers.
The development in US will not affect the trial in Delhi. Yadav has been charged with rape by Delhi Police and is being prosecuted in court.
The purported settlement comes at a time Uber, one of the world’s most talked-up start-ups with a valuation of over $50 billion, is caught up in a raft of lawsuits, winning or settling some and losing some. On Tuesday, a federal judge granted class-action status to a lawsuit questioning the employment classification of Uber drivers as contractors (not regular employees), a definition central to its business model.
Defining the contracted drivers as Uber employees will bring into play regulatory oversight and make the company far more liable for infractions. The same court that accepted the withdrawal and purported settlement in the above case also ruled separately on Tuesday that there was simply no basis to Uber’s claim “that some innumerable legion of drivers prefer to remain independent contractors rather than become employees.”
The ruling could have profound consequences not just for Uber but similar companies in other lines of business such as home-stay hoteleering. In a case similar to that of the alleged Uber India assault, a customer who used AirBnB for a vacation rental in Madrid was allegedly sexually assaulted by his renter-host, raising questions about liability and jurisdictional issues.
Court decisions in such cases are expected to set important guidelines of what is being termed “sharing economy,” where excess or underused capacity is being aggregated by companies such as Uber and AirBnB skirting the regulatory framework.