As an example of the failings of Uber's background checks, the complaint cites the more than 8,000 drivers in MA who were pulled off the road after the state government made a decision to introduce more stringent screenings and reviewed the records of the 71,000 people who drove on Uber or Lyft. It further says that Uber targets intoxicated passengers as a safe ride for riders who have been drinking. They are seeking substantial changes to how Uber vets its drivers, according to Recode, as well as compensation for instances of rape they themselves allegedly experienced.
An Uber spokesperson said: "These allegations are important to us and we take them very seriously".
The lawsuit, which describes the details of the assaults faced by the two plaintiffs, seeks damages for plaintiffs and to force Uber to take steps to prevent assault by drivers.
The lawsuit was filed by the NY firm Wigdor LLP, which is suing Uber in a separate case on behalf of a woman who was raped by an Uber driver in India.
"Uber has done everything possible to continue using low-priced, woefully inadequate background checks on drivers and has failed to monitor drivers for any violent or inappropriate conduct after they are hired", the lawsuit reads.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, accuses Uber of repeatedly fighting efforts to improve customer safety in states across the country and names MA and Maryland as examples where its failures to adequately screen drivers were allegedly exposed. The other was raped by an Uber driver in her apartment in Miami.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of all US riders who were "subject to rape, sexual assault, or gender-motivated violence or harassment by their Uber driver in the last four years".
The lawsuit claims that by labeling itself as a "technology" company instead of a "transportation" company, that Uber has been able to avoid costlier background checks.
Uber has successfully opposed state or national attempts at mandating fingerprint background checks in many markets, with the notable exception of NY and London.
Reviews of Uber driver applications by two U.S. states, Maryland and MA, have led to rejections of thousands more applications than under Uber's own system. That woman is now suing the company for invasion of privacy.
The suit says reports of sexual assault and rape perpetrated by male drivers against female passengers have "sky-rocketed" recently, though it does not provide direct evidence to support the claim.
Uber's image has been tarnished by findings of sexual harassment of employees and multiple reports of drivers assaulting passengers.