ST. LOUIS, Mo. — A woman has filed a lawsuit against Lyft after she says a driver raped her in 2019. The suit seeks unspecified monetary damages.
Larry Ward, 53, is accused of raping the 30-year-old nurse in the backseat of his car after picking her up a few blocks from Busch Stadium in downtown St. Louis on June 22, 2019. Ward was arrested in December 2019 in St. Peters.
It is FOX 2's policy not to identify victims of sexual assault. But Cristen Giangarra spoke to the media on the record during a press conference Thursday. She wanted others to hear her story.
"I am here to hold Lyft accountable, for their employees, and gross negligence in protecting passengers like me from sexual abuse and rape. My hope is that no other passengers will be subjected to the trauma and pain that I have been through," said Giangarra.
According to prosecutors, Ward picked the woman up at 10th and Clark near the Tin Roof Bar after a bachelorette party. A statement from the victim's lawyer says she had been drinking. Giangarra chose the ride-sharing service so that she would not drive. She fell asleep during the Lyft ride.
The driver deviated from the direct route the victim requested, the lawsuit says he turned off his rideshare location software without her consent, then got into the back seat and raped her. Prosecutors said she was intoxicated and unable to consent to sex. Then the driver took her back to her destination and dropped her off at her front door, the lawsuit states.
The next morning, the victim went to an area hospital, where a rape kit was initiated and a DNA sample retrieved. A statement from the victim says that the sample matched Ward’s DNA last November, shortly before he was arrested. Ward was charged with felony rape and kidnapping.
The victim's lawyers say she relied on Lyft’s advertising campaign stating that “safety is our top priority” and Lyft is a “safe alternative” to taxicabs.
Lyft has drawn legal fire for not sharing information about its drivers with customers. When customers use the phone app to arrange a ride, they know nothing about the driver who’s coming to pick them up.
"Safety is fundamental to Lyft, and the driver has been permanently removed from the Lyft community. We continually invest in new policies and products to protect our riders and drivers, and last year alone launched more than 15 new features - including in-app emergency assistance, continuous criminal background monitoring of all of our drivers and mandatory feedback for rides rated less than four stars to ensure we are tracking any level of problematic behavior by drivers. In 2019, nearly one in five employees at Lyft were dedicated to initiatives that strengthen the platform’s safety. We’ve also partnered with RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, to roll out required sexual violence prevention education. Our work on safety is never done, and we will continue to invest in new features, policies and protocols to ensure Lyft is the safest form of transportation for our riders and drivers." - writes Lyft spokeswoman Dana Davis in a statement.