A 23-year-old disabled woman is suing Lyft for an alleged sexual assault that happened at her West Hollywood home in May after a driver dropped her off, an attorney announced Thursday at a news conference.
Cheyenne Gutierrez said a Lyft driver picked her up from a grocery store near her home on Third Street and La Brea Avenue on May 27, and then helped her take heavy bags of groceries to her porch.
Gutierrez, who walks with a limp and is legally blind in one eye, said she made a mistake by accepting the driver’s help.
“He grabbed my face and tried to kiss me. I pushed him away and then he kept coming,” Gutierrez explained. “He grabbed my wrists and tried to force himself on me.”
She fought back, kneeing the man — whom she called a “coward” — in the stomach, prompting him to run off. After the assault, Gutierrez said she ran into her home and called 911 and Lyft’s safety number, and later filed a police report.
“I know he took advantage of me because of the way I walk and because he thought I was weak,” she said.
Attorney Mike Bomberger, who represents Gutierrez and spoke at the news conference, said the lawsuit is another example of Lyft’s failure to prioritize passenger safety.
“Lyft could adopt a policy that says, ‘If any of our drivers that commit sexual assault will be taken off of our platform,’ but they don’t do that,” Bomberger said. “Instead, oftentimes drivers have multiple assaults until they are finally taken off of the platform.”
Gutierrez said said she was never able to get the full name of the driver – “Renato” – from the company.
“Lyft has not helped law enforcement, which prevents them from prosecuting and arresting this gentleman,” Bomberger said. “The message Lyft sends to the predators and its drivers is: ‘We have your back.'”
Gutierrez said she was able to pull up Renato’s profile on the Lyft app Thursday.
But in a statement to KTLA, Lyft responded to Gutierrez’s lawsuit and said “the driver involved in the incident has been permanently banned from Lyft.”
“What has been described is something no one should ever have to endure. Everyone deserves the ability to move about the world safely, yet women still face disproportionate risks. We recognize their risks, which is why we are relentless in our work to build safety into every aspect of our work. That means continually investing in new features and policies to protect our riders and drivers,” the statement read.
Lyft said the company has launched 15 new safety features over the last few months, including daily continuous criminal background monitoring of drivers, in-app emergency assistance to make reporting easier for riders and sexual violence prevention education.
Gutierrez, who works at Universal Studio and often works late shifts, says she never personally heard back from Lyft regarding the status of the driver who allegedly assaulted her.
Now, she uses Uber.
“I’m very cautious now when I go back and forth to work,” Gutierrez said. “I cancel the ride several times until I get a woman driver.”
Also on Thursday, a long-awaited safety report was released showing than 3,000 sexual assaults were reported during U.S. Uber rides in 2018, company officials said.