August 12, 2015
By David Lee
ALLAS (CN) – Uber let “a tiger loose in a shopping mall” when it allowed a felon to drive and then rape a Dallas customer, the woman claims in court.
Jane Doe sued Uber, Triple Class Limousines and driver Talal Ali Chammout on Tuesday in Dallas County Court.
Chammout was arrested on July 25 and charged with sexual assault. He was jailed under $100,000 bond and when his attorney asked for a reduction, the judge raised it to $250,000, citing Chammout’s criminal record.
Doe’s lawsuit comes four days after Uber Dallas general manager Leandre Johns apologized to the city and to her in a letter. Johns acknowledged that Uber had made a mistake. He said Chammout’s Uber account “was marked as ‘Will Not Be Driving,'” after he applied in January 2014 to be an “UberBLACK partner” to “generate business for his family’s limo company.” But in April this year, Uber “mistakenly granted Mr. Chammout access to Uber as a driver.”
“It appears that the license Mr. Chammout provided when he initially applied to use UberBLACK as a partner was fake,” Johns’ Aug. 7 letter states. “This means he never underwent either a City of Dallas or Uber background check.”
Doe’s lawsuit says this is not the first time an Uber driver has been accused or raping or sexually assaulting a customer. She says similar allegations have been filed in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Orlando, San Francisco, Washington, D.C. and New Delhi, India.
Doe’s attorney Quentin Brodgon, with Crane Lewis & Brogdon in Dallas, said Tuesday that what his client suffered “is every woman’s worst nightmare and it’s the worst nightmare of every man with a wife or a daughter.”
He blasted Uber in an interview with The Dallas Morning News, saying, “an 8-year-old with access to the Internet and Google could have determined it was a bad idea for this driver to be driving women to their homes” late at night.
The lawsuit states: “What Uber should have known, and could have known through even the most casual perusal of the internet using Google, was that defendant Chammout had been convicted of felony assault in 1995 and convicted of the federal felony of possession of firearms in 2007.
“In fact, the federal government indicted Chammout in 2006 for being a felon in possession of firearms and conspiracy to possess stolen government property, including pistols and rocket launchers. As part of a plea agreement in 2007, the government dropped the conspiracy charge, and Chammout then served six and a half years in federal prison. He was not released until 2012, just three years before the events made the basis of this suit.
“News reports readily available to Uber on the Internet also should have made Uber aware that the federal judge presiding over the possession of firearms case cited the following other alleged acts of violence in sentencing Chammout to six and half years in prison: 1) allegations that Chammout had shot a juvenile in the leg, 2) allegations that Chammout had struck a juvenile in the face, 3) allegations that Chammout had hit his wife in the head with a crowbar and 4) allegations that Chammout had hired a hitman to kill his wife. Furthermore, Chammout’s criminal records indicated that he had been arrested for prostitution in Dallas in 2014.”
Chammout picked her up on McKinney Avenue at 8 p.m. on July 25, took her home, followed her inside, struck her on the back of the head and raped her, Doe says in the complaint.
After citing the eight other cities in which Uber drivers have been accused of raping a customer, the complaint states: “Each time, Uber apologizes. Each time, Uber promises to take all necessary corrective measures to prevent future similar incidents. And, each time, Uber denies all legal responsibility for the incident. Furthermore, in the face of this parade of horribles, Uber persists in pursuing an agenda of actively opposing any and all regulatory and legislative efforts to mandate that it strengthen the background checks performed on Uber’s drivers. This case is about holding Uber legally accountable for the foreseeable criminal acts of one of its drivers, and forcing Uber to institute basic, common-sense corrective measures to ensure that all of the drivers that it places in cars with its passengers many of whom are young women, truly pose no safety threat to those passengers.”
Uber did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday. Doe seeks punitive damages for sexual assault, negligence, disfigurement, pain and suffering, lost earning capacity and mental anguish.
In his summary at the top of the lawsuit, Brogdon describes Uber as “a $50 billion dollar company that rode into Dallas, Texas and other cities around the world, making big promises of convenience and safety. … Uber certainly honored its promise of convenience. But Uber consistently has failed to honor its promise of safety – all for the sake of padding its bottom line.”
From Courthouse News.