Sexual assault is a crime that has a long-lasting effect on survivors. They may require extensive medical help. Have difficulty returning to normal tasks like going to work. Struggle with dating and intimacy. Need to attend counseling sessions or treatment for the trauma of the incident.
While criminal charges and jail time for the perpetrator may offer some peace of mind, this peace of mind might not last long. Moreover, all too often those responsible for sexual violence face little to no criminal penalties.
Worse, all of those “effects” mentioned above tend to come with big financial costs that can easily become a huge drain on survivors. What can they do to get their lives back on track?
There is one way for sexual assault survivors to hold the responsible parties accountable, regain some sense of power and control, and recoup some of the damages they have had to endure due to their experience: file a sexual assault claim in civil court.
When most people hear this, they imagine a rape victim suing their attacker – and sometimes that’s true. Negligence claims are different, though, and the defendant isn’t always the perpetrator.
It’s called third party negligence, where another’s negligence enabled the perpetrator to engage in their violent act. Those are the types of cases we’re going to discuss below.
Uber Is Being Sued as a Third Party in Sexual Assault Cases
Despite the convenience and popularity of the app, the news surrounding Uber is rarely positive. The rideshare company has made news throughout multiple states and countries after numerous drivers sexually assaulted passengers. Now, victims are fighting back, and Uber itself may have to fork over cash to compensate victims for their injuries.
Two victims of sexual assault filed lawsuits against Uber in June 2017. In one case, the alleged rapist had a long history of criminal and civil violations, including a 16-year stint behind bars for attempted murder.
While Uber’s background checks only go back seven years (in compliance with federal laws), the driver had incidents on his record as recently as 2016. Court records show that passengers had sent complaints to Uber about the driver before the alleged rape, but while Uber said they were taking the complaints seriously, they did not deactivate his account until two months after the rape.
Uber has claimed to be a leader in hiring safe drivers, although they have also fought against rules like fingerprinting. When multiple parties have come forward to say that Uber drivers with criminal backgrounds have sexually assaulted passengers, these claims don’t hold much water. Third party negligence claims hold companies like Uber responsible for failing to hire safe drivers.
Who Can Be Sued as a Third Party in a Florida Sexual Assault Claim?
The following people or organizations may be found guilty of negligence in a sexual assault claim:
- Business owners
- Security officers or companies
Colleges may also take the heat for sexual assault incidents that happen on campus or at fraternities that are associated with the university.
In March 2018, for example, a woman sued the University of Arizona after an alleged rape at the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity. The fraternity had a recent history of violating the school’s code of conduct, but was still in good standing with University of Arizona.
Why Should Florida Sexual Assault Survivors Sue Third Parties?
Uber or the University of Arizona itself didn’t directly sexually assault victims, but they are being sued as a third party to the incident. Why?
Because if Uber had conducted strict background checks like they claim to do in their marketing materials, these victims may not have been raped. If the University of Arizona had made efforts to shut down a fraternity that was violating their code of conduct, the assaulted student may not have been inclined to visit the fraternity house. Victims sue third parties in sexual assault claims for the following reasons:
The Perpetrator Doesn’t Have Any Assets
The price of sexual assault can reach hundreds of thousands of dollars. An individual perpetrator may not have that money, especially if they are going to spend months or years behind bars.
However, a gigantic company like Uber does have that money. Third party negligence claims are often filed against businesses or companies who could have prevented the sexual assault and have the money to compensate victims for their trauma and financial damages.
The Third Party Had a Duty to Prevent the Sexual Assault
What constitutes as negligence? There are four elements that are required to prove that a third party was negligent and is responsible for the incident in question:
- Duty: The defendant (third party) had a duty to the victim. In sexual assault cases, this duty has to do with the victim’s safety. Uber, for example, has legal duties to keep all passengers safe and free from drivers who may put them in danger.
- Breach of Duty: The defendant, intentionally or unintentionally, breached that duty.
- Injuries: The breach of duty directly caused injury to the victim. Uber will be found guilty of negligence if it is found that ignoring the warnings of dangerous drivers or background checks directly caused a sexual assault.
- Damages: The injuries directly caused financial damages. These damages could include the value of emotional distress, counseling, medical treatment after a sexual assault, and more.
If you believe a third party should be brought up for negligence in your situation, the best thing you can do is reach out to a personal injury lawyer.
Peace of Mind
Only victims of sexual assault can truly understand how traumatic this incident can be. Third party negligence claims attempt to hold the responsible parties accountable and make things right after a sexual assault.
A third-party negligence claim can also bring attention about actions that could prevent a sexual assault. Civil sexual assault claims cannot erase the incident, but they can prevent further incidents and give the victim some sort of relief.
About the Author:
A partner at Lawlor, White & Murphey and a distinguished personal injury lawyer, Ben Murphey tries complex disputes that include civdentil appeals, maritime and admiralty claims, wrongful death, and labor disputes. Mr. Murphey has been recognized for his excellence in the area of personal injury litigation by being rewarded with a 10/10 Avvo Rating and named a Super Lawyers “Rising Star” for the last four consecutive years (2011-2014). Mr. Murphey regularly tries cases in state and federal courts around the country, being admitted to practice before all Florida courts and the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.