Uber and other rideshare services have cultivated an image as the “safe option.” But Uber’s own safety statistics paint a different picture. The company has received thousands of physical and sexual assault reports. Some of these assaults have proved fatal for victimized riders and drivers.
Those who survive these attacks often feel the company failed to protect them. Some of these survivors have filed civil lawsuits against Uber, or the responsible company, in hopes of obtaining justice and compensation for their suffering.
In 2016, an Uber driver went on a deadly shooting spree in Michigan. Five years later, one of the survivors filed a lawsuit against Uber. The lawsuit claims Uber’s safety features failed to stop the rampage and prevent the deaths of six people.
Kalamazoo Uber Shooting
In February 2016, Uber driver Jason Dalton began a shooting spree in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The spree lasted over four hours and claimed six lives. Two more individuals were wounded.
At 6 PM, Dalton drove to an apartment complex. He cut off Tiana Carruthers with his vehicle and then began to drive away. After driving only ten feet, Dalton stopped his car, drew a gun and fired at Carruthers 10 times.
Carruthers was badly wounded but survived. Dalton drove away before police could arrive.
Four hours later Dalton drove to a car dealership. There, he fired at Richard Smith, Richard’s son Tyler Smith and Tyler’s girlfriend. Richard and Tyler were killed. The girlfriend survived.
The third and final attack took place 15 minutes later at a Cracker Barrel restaurant. Dalton shot and killed Mary Jo Nye, Mary Lou Nye, Dorothy Brown and Barbara Hawthorne. A fifth victim was also shot at the restaurant but survived.
Police began hunting for Dalton, using vehicle descriptions provided by employees at the dealership and the restaurant. Shortly after midnight the next day, Dalton was arrested outside the Wild Bull Bar and Grill. Investigators later found a cache of weapons and gunpowder in his home.
When questioned, Dalton claimed the Uber app “started making me feel like a puppet” and forced him to go on the rampage. He was later sentenced to life without parole.
Survivor Alleges Uber Failed To Prevent Michigan Uber Driver Shootings
In 2021, one of Dalton’s last passengers before the deadly Uber shooting spree filed a lawsuit against Uber. Matt Mellen got a ride from Dalton less than two hours before the attacks. He described the ride as “traumatic,” with Dalton “driving in a deadly, dangerous manner certain to cause injury, death, damage.”
“We were driving through medians, driving through the law, speeding along and when we came to a stop, I just jumped out of the car and ran away.”
After escaping, Mellen and his girlfriend, who was also in the car, attempted to use Uber’s Safety Incident Reporting Line. The safety line is intended to put Uber users in contact with a rapid response team available 24/7.
However, Mellen was unable to report Dalton after an hour of trying to contact the team. Because of this, Dalton’s account was not deactivated. Shortly thereafter, he began his killing spree.
Mellen’s lawsuit claims Uber’s negligence directly led to the murders. Had Dalton’s driver account been suspended, the attacks may never have happened. Mellen also sought damages from Uber for the cost of therapy following the traumatic incident.
Rideshare Safety Features May Fail Users
However, advocates and survivors feel rideshare companies have not gone far enough to protect users. Furthermore, the safety features provided do not always work.
Survivors who have been assaulted by their driver are demanding more from Uber and Lyft. For many, taking legal action is the best way to hold these companies accountable. It may also help survivors obtain compensation and begin healing. If you were assaulted while using Uber or Lyft, an experienced rideshare assault attorney can help you determine your next steps.
Buffa, B. (2019, February 5). Uber shooter Jason Dalton sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole. WWMT.
Feather, A. (2021, September 14). Lawsuit claims Uber could have stopped driver Dalton before Kalamazoo shooting spree. News Channel 3.
Ongweso Jr., E. (2021, September 15). Lawsuit Alleges Uber Did Nothing to Stop a Driver’s Deadly Shooting Rampage. Vice.
Uber. (2016, April 8). Why I Ride – Mari. Retrieved March 2, 2022.
Uber. (N.D.) Safety Incident Reporting Line. Retrieved March 2, 2022.
Uber. (N.D.) Uber Community Guidelines. [PDF]
(2016, March 15). Kalamazoo Driver Who Killed Six Says Uber App Made Him Do It. Vice.