WOODLAND HILLS (CBSLA.com) – A woman who alleges she was sexually assaulted by an Uber driver earlier this month in the Hollywood area sued the ride-hailing company Thursday.
The allegations in Erica Holland’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit include negligence, sexual battery, intentional misrepresentation, civil rights violations and intentional infliction of emotional distress. She’s seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, as well as a court order directing Uber to provide appropriate training to its drivers to avoid civil rights violations and sexual harassment.
An Uber representative released this statement: “What this rider reported is awful. Our Community Guidelines prohibit any sexual conduct and we removed the driver’s access as this matter continues to be reviewed.”
Holland, a producer, choreographer and performer, says she summoned a ride about 10:25 p.m. June 9 to take her to a Melrose Avenue club, Pour Vous, where she was booked to perform a show.
Holland said the assault occurred after she sat in the front passenger seat of the Uber car.
“He violently grabbed my hair and pulled my head towards him,” Holland said at a news conference Thursday in Woodland Hills, flanked by her attorney Lisa Bloom. “It was extremely painful, I was in complete shock. I was paralyzed with fear.”
“I was afraid to call 911 at that point because I figured his actions were so violent, and a man that can do that would be capable of anything,” Holland added.
Upon arriving at Pour Vous, the driver sexually assaulted her again, Holland said.
“As I exited the car, I had a loose-fitting dress on,” Holland said. “And he shot his hand up my leg.”
Holland said that action prompted her to confront him.
“I threw my bags out onto the ground and I grabbed the front window,” Holland explained. “And I said, ‘You are a terrible person. Don’t ever do that. Don’t ever touch a woman without her permission. Go home. I am reporting you to Uber and the police.’”
Despite her “shock and humiliation,” Holland performed on stage at Pour Vous, according to the complaint. After the show, she called police and wrote an email to Uber, the suit states.
The next day, Holland awoke with hives on her thighs and stomach because of the stress from the attack, the suit alleges. She says she is still traumatized and trembles when she recounts what happened.
“I felt really ashamed,” Holland told reporters. “I felt shameful that I was crying, that I was trying so hard not to cry in the car.”
The driver in question was not named at the news conference.
The lawsuit comes as Uber is facing growing turmoil within the company. Earlier this week, co-founder Travis Kalanick resigned as CEO.
Bloom told CBS2 Thursday she recently received a confidential in-house memo from Uber that indicates there may be as many as 6,000 sexual assault complaints against the company.
In April, an Uber driver from Costa Mesa was arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting a passenger in Santa Ana. Last month, a 41-year-old Uber driver from Moreno Valley was arrested on allegations of sexually assaulting a University of California, Riverside student he dropped off at a campus apartment.
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