Toronto Woman Sues Uber For $5 Million After She Says Her Driver Raped Her

The 20-year-old woman said Uber failed in its duty to get her home safely.
Toronto woman suing Uber after alleged sexual asasult
A Toronto woman is suing Uber for $5 million after she alleges her driver raped her. Photos via Toronto police handout and Seth 

A Toronto woman is suing Uber Canada for $5 million, alleging she was raped by an Uber driver while getting a ride home in July.

The 20-year-old woman, referred to as A.B. in the lawsuit, is suing both the ride-sharing company and the driver Suhail Siddiqi for general and special damages, intentional acts of battery and sexual assault, and negligence. The allegations have not been proven in court.

It is believed to be the first lawsuit of its kind against Uber in Canada, according to A.B.'s lawyer.

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According to the statement of claim, obtained by VICE, Uber Canada failed its “utmost duty to carry passengers safely to their destination.”

Reached via email, Uber spokeswoman Kayla Whaling said the company would not comment on the pending litigation, but provided a statement it released after Siddiqi’s arrest in July.

"What has been described is horrible and has no place anywhere. As soon as we learned of this report, we immediately removed the individual's access to the app and revoked his license from the city,” the statement said. “We are fully cooperating with law enforcement and will continue to support their investigation."

Reached by phone, Siddiqi said he could not comment on the lawsuit.

Speaking to a reporter for the first time, A.B. outlined what she says happened in the early morning hours of July 14, according to her lawsuit.

A.B. alleges that she left a friend’s birthday party at around 2:30 a.m. She hailed an Uber through the Uber app and waited outside the house for her ride to arrive.

But her Uber driver got lost and was unable to locate her, so she cancelled the ride, the claim says.

“I noticed there was a car parked in front of the house,” A.B. said in an interview with VICE.

The car had a light-up Uber logo displayed, as well as a Lyft logo. The man driving the Uber, who she claims was Siddiqi, asked her if she was a different person. After A.B. responded that she wasn’t, she said Siddiqi offered to give her a ride home in exchange for cash.

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A.B. told VICE that she accepted the offer because Siddiqi had an Uber logo displayed and because he identified himself verbally as an Uber driver.

A.B., who was seated in the front passenger seat, said she tried to direct him towards her house.

“I was drunk,” she told VICE. “I was laying my head back on the seat.” At one point during the drive, she told VICE Siddiqi said she was "so sexy” and put his hand down her shirt. She said she froze and did not know what to do.

“A.B. felt trapped, helpless, and scared,” the lawsuit says.

She told VICE they ended up on a street she recognized as being near her house.

According to the claim, Siddiqi instead drove into a parking lot nearby where he sexually assaulted her in the car.

“Against her will, Siddiqi put his hands all over A.B., eventually forcing penetration,” the claim alleges, noting "at no time did A.B. consent to the sexual advances or the sexual assault.”

A.B. told VICE Siddiqi eventually stopped and went back into his seat. She said she asked Siddiqi for his phone number, which he gave her. Then she said he drove her to her street.

The claim alleges A.B. and Siddiqi got into an altercation on her street, as she was asking for his ID. She told VICE she asked for his Instagram handle, in order to identify him, and he refused to provide it, stating he had a fiance.

According to the claim, “Siddiqi took A.B.’s cellphone and started choking her.”

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“I felt terrified,” she told VICE. “I was gasping for air.”

Afterwards she alleges Siddiqi drove away with her phone.

She said she went inside and immediately told her mother what had happened. They called the police.

Two days later, Siddiqi, 33, was criminally charged with sexual assault, robbery and overcome resistance by choking. He appeared in court in July and again in August, and has been released on bail for $5,000.

Reached by VICE on the phone, Siddiqi said he could not comment on the criminal allegations against him and that the case is before the courts.

A.B. said she is speaking out now, and taking civil action against Uber, because she believes people should know what happened to her.

“[Uber is] advertised as a safe way to get home,” she told VICE. “I trusted them. I trusted him to get me home safely.”

According to the claim, Siddiqi “willfully inflicted pain and suffering” on A.B. The claim alleges Uber was negligent in its duty of care of A.B. and failed to adequately screen and background check Siddiqi, failed to warn A.B. of the inherent dangers of using Uber, and failed to implement technological safety measures to prevent passengers like A.B. from being assaulted by Uber drivers.

The claim alleges the damages are in part on account of the mental and physical toll the alleged sexual assault has taken on A.B., including post-traumatic stress, depression, insomnia, a mistrust of men, and an impairment of her ability to support herself.

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A.B. said Siddiqi’s prominently displayed Uber and Lyft logos are the only reason she agreed to get into his car. She said she is not suing Lyft because she had been using Uber at the time and Siddiqi verbally identified himself as an Uber driver.

Uber’s website touts safety as a priority, noting that “all potential driver-partners must complete a criminal background screening process before being approved to accept ride requests through the Uber app.”

After Siddiqi was arrested both Uber and Lyft told media that they had removed Siddiqi’s access as a driver.

But A.B. said that’s not good enough. She said she is fearful of coming home alone at night, and will check her street twice before leaving her vehicle.

“I have to have my family come out with me to make sure I get to my car safely and when I get home my family is there waiting.”

A.B.’s lawyer Darryl Singer, of Toronto-based law firm Diamond and Diamond, said Uber was named in the lawsuit because he believes Uber is “vicariously liable.” (Vicarious liability means an organization can be made responsible for the acts or omissions of its employees.)

He also said it doesn’t matter that Siddiqi wasn’t the driver A.B. ordered through the app, but was one she made a deal with in exchange for cash.

“It’s the Uber signage that gave her the comfort to get into the car. He was an Uber driver.”

However, Daniel Lublin, a Toronto-based employment lawyer and partner at Whitten & Lublin, said the fact that A.B. got into a car with a driver she connected with “outside of the guidelines of [Uber’s] technology” could have some importance.

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“The whole thing about Uber is you know who your driver is, so it makes the drivers responsible for their actions,” Lublin said.

Even if Siddiqi is technically a contractor, not an employee of Uber, Lublin said Uber could still be found responsible for his alleged actions.

Singer said said that while A.B. has no control over the criminal proceedings against Siddiqi, a civil lawsuit allows her to be involved every step of the way.

“There’s a certain amount of control she can take back,” he said.

Singer said civil suits such as this one can be easier to prove liability than obtaining a criminal conviction for sexual assault because the burden of proof is lower. In criminal cases the burden of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt, as opposed to a balance of probabilities in civil suits.

The case comes at a time when lawsuits against ride-sharing companies stemming from sexual assaults are ramping up. San Francisco-based law firm, Levin, Simes, & Abrams told Motherboard in August that it was handling 100 such cases between Lyft and Uber. In June, Uber reached five-figure settlements with two women who allege they were sexually assaulted by the same driver while out in Leeds, England, the Guardian reports.

In 2018, CNN reported that more than 100 Uber drivers in the U.S. had been accused of sexually assaulting passengers in the four years prior.

Singer said the lawsuit could take up to five years to resolve.

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