Uber could face class action lawsuit over safety complaints

Uber faces a class action suit by customers who say they suffered emotional trauma and physical injuries while using its service. Eleven people represented by Ulrich Roux Attorneys will approach the High Court in an effort to pursue a damages claim from the transportation service as a class action.

The class action comes on the back of criminal and civil suits involving people who were harmed, allegedly while using Uber.

In a criminal case, four men are currently facing trial on a number of charges including rape, attempted rape, kidnapping, robbery with aggravating circumstances and attempted murder. They allegedly attacked five Uber users between July and August 2016.

According to the charge sheet, the accused's modus operandi was for one of them to pose as an Uber taxi driver and pretend to be the driver who received the victim's Uber request. But he was not the driver linked to the victim's Uber app.

In most of the cases, the other accused would emerge from the boot of the car, through the back seat, and attack the victims, stabbing and raping them in all cases but one, which was an attempted rape. The victims were also robbed of their belongings and made to tell the accused their bank account details.

In the civil case, Roux said that eight people had come forward wanting to claim damages from Uber for incidents that took place while they were using the service.

Safety 'a top priority'

Roux said that the team of lawyers was drafting an application to have the case certified as a class action, which must be approved by the High Court before it can proceed. He said the team believed that Uber had "vicarious liability" in these incidents, as it advertised the service as safe and reliable to use.

Uber told News24 on Thursday that it could not comment on a case that has not yet begun, however, its thoughts remain with the riders affected by these incidents, it said.

"Our thoughts continue to be with the riders and their families, these incidents are deeply upsetting.

"As soon as these incidents were reported we reached out to local authorities and whatever information we could provide was handed over to the police and it was this close collaboration that led to the arrest of the suspect. In cases of this nature we work closely with police to support their investigations," Uber explained in a statement on Thursday.

The taxi service also wished to clarify that since these incidents, it had undertaken to improve its verification process and safety features for riders and drivers.

"Safety is a top priority for Uber, and has been since our launch in South Africa. We're committed to doing the right thing and take on our part of the responsibility to increase safety.

"We constantly invest and innovate to raise the bar on safety," Uber said.

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