Uber Passenger Alleges Verbal and Physical Assault by Driver

Passenger claims details for Uber car he was sent prior to ride did not match the car and driver that showed up -- for abortive physically and verbally abusive trip

James Alva works in both the tech and nonprofit sectors, and has an office in a sleek new work-share tower housing dozens of largely cutting edge businesses and overlooking the heart of Mid-Market.

He is, in many ways, the prototypical San Franciscan. He's certainly the prototypical Uber user.

But not anymore.

Following an incident in the wee hours Sunday, Alva took to every form of social media available to him to publicize his allegation that Uber driver "Daveea" physically assaulted him after calling him a "dirty Mexican" and a "faggot."

Alva's story -- now San Francisco Police Case No. 130995523 -- begins at 1:52 a.m. on Sunday.

After leaving a Castro bar, he summoned an UberX ride on his iPhone app for the 0.7-mile ride up Market Street -- just as he's done dozens of times before. A notification on his phone flashed a photo of the driver that would meet him in a silver Toyota Prius.

He was a little surprised when, he says, a blue Prius showed up with a different license plate and, to his recollection, a different-looking driver than the man in the photo. But the driver said "Are you James?" And, after all, he was. So he got in.

Things went poorly.



Alva claims that the driver grew surly when given directions instead of home address, and snapped when his passenger began attempting to verify that this was, in actuality, the right driver. "He started saying I was a dirty Mexican faggot, things like that, as he was still driving," claims Alva. The driver then pulled over at around 18th and Market and, per the passenger, said "You know what? You gotta get out of my car."

The subsequent receipt for this trip -- $14, incidentally -- reveals the driver and passenger shared a ride for just 2 minutes, 55 seconds.

Alva claims the driver swatted the iPhone out of his hands when he attempted to snap a photo from the back seat, then shoved him and swatted the phone away once more when Alva photographed the vehicle's rear license plate. Alva phoned 911 shortly after 2 a.m. He took police up on their suggestion he initiate a citizen's arrest, and was provided with a "reportee follow-up," explaining a police report would be generated in seven to 10 days.

The officer on scene determined there "was not probable cause to arrest the driver for battery" on-site, per a police spokesman, and the case has been forwarded to the District Attorney "for further consideration." The driver and passenger left, separately, without further incident.

Alva's flurry of activity on social media and direct missives to Uber resulted in a phone call from Matthew Hearns, the San Francisco community manager for Uber. Alva was, first of all, refunded his 14 bucks. He was told the driver in question was under temporary suspension. And he was told that Uber would be cooperative at which time -- if ever -- police followed up on the case.

Alva is still uncertain, however, how this blue car -- and driver -- showed up in lieu of the silver car he was expecting. Uber spokesman Andrew Noyes told SF Weekly the driver in question works for a partner livery service operating more than 40 vehicles. That company, Noyes says, recently "received new plates for the car and the update had not yet registered in our system."

Asked how this would explain a different-colored car than Alva's recollection, Noyes noted that this incident took place in the very early hours, following the rider's time in a bar: So, "we're not going to get in a back and forth with the rider over allegations."

Alva remains concerned that the driver he received was not the man the iPhone app promised. Past drivers have told him they "share phones," and he wonders if drivers pass around their phones and onboard hardware -- making a mockery of Uber's reassuring notification to would-be passengers of exactly who will be picking them up.

Noyes said this would violate Uber policy -- and assured us that the driver who picked up Alva, and is currently suspended, was also the man dispatched for the job. And yet, Noyes still says that riders should never get into a car that doesn't match the description of the vehicle they were waiting for. 



Just how much responsibility Uber has for its drivers' alleged actions remains to be seen. It still, after all, claims to merely be a tech platform connecting riders and drivers. And the driver in question, like all drivers, is not an Uber employee -- and, in fact, is only affiliated with a third-party partner entity that, itself, is only contracted by Uber.

Past allegations of wrongdoing by Uber drivers have resulted in ambiguous company statements. A claim that a Washington, D.C. Uber driver assaulted his passengers spurred company CEO Travis Kalanick to fire off an in-house e-mail stating it'd be wrong to "come away thinking we are responsible even when these things do go bad." Uber's terms of service deny any liability with regards to its third-party partner entities.

Alva, meanwhile, has had his fill with Uber. From now on, he says, he'll take cabs. Or, perhaps, throw his thrice-a-week business to Lyft. A company built around fist-bumps, goofy pink mustaches, and having riders sit in the front seat, he figures, might make for a happier experience.


My Voice Nation Help
30 comments
gbgoble
gbgoble

Actually common sense (and the law in every state) is that commercial vehicles must have commercial plates. For customer safety, limos (or taxis) must be inspected and carry commercial insurance, in case of accident or any criminal actions of a driver under commercial contract.


"Arrests in 2 SF Crashes That Killed Pedestrians" - SFGate
"However, officials at Uber said in a statement Thursday that although ... with gross negligence and failure to stop at a stop sign... we are not liable...." 

The city of San Francisco will likely be named in the lawsuits for allowing uninsured commercial vehicles to operate. Do you really want this? 

Uber made $250 MILLION last year. Commercial insurance bond required for coverage of their fleet could be that high, due to the huge risks involved . Instead of covering their liability (limiting their risk) they have exposed themselves to gross negligence and illegal business practice lawsuits and may see all their profits disappear. Lack of business savvy on their part. 

It's just common sense, have all the Uber you want, just let the police ensure that they are insured. 

Just google Uber lawsuits - About 1,890,000 results

clark_dean
clark_dean

This statement is not true, when I filed a complaint with the SFMTA for being assaulted being a gay cab driver by another cab driver. My complaint was ignored by the SFMTA. In fact they reached out to the cab company just to help the cab company say that I am the problem for being gay!


aliasetc
aliasetc topcommenter

Can't we all just get along like Israel and Iran?

hsimon
hsimon

There is no excuse for treating a person in such a manner. Uber has positioned itself as a company the public may rely on and turn to for a service. This holds them accountable to certain responsibilities. They can not pick and choose when to be a reputable company and when not to. They can not promote being a company that brings the community more opportunities and a city closer together  when they hold themselves apart from those they serve. Assault should NEVER be tolerated. Hate should NEVER be excused away. No one deserves to be violated nor asks to be. Please keep in mind Uber is not denying the incident, simply not taking it seriously enough to do anything real about it. The message Uber is sending the community it's trying to service is that the customer and the community is dispensable and irrelevant. Bottom line... Uber does NOT care about customer safety. I would not recommend Uber to anyone.

DaveBobSutton
DaveBobSutton

The taxi business is dangerous. Stuff happens. Long ago, cities realized it should be monitored (regulated).

Ridesharing companies seek to fundamentally undo this monitoring.

UberX PLACED this driver with this passenger. But Uber’s attitude is: We are not responsible for ANYTHING that happens on the ride.

So, UberX is a taxi company that simultaneously refuses to adhere to any oversight AND to assume responsibility in an arena—specifically, the taxi industry—where long ago communities realized there was a genuine need for oversight.

jkalil
jkalil

It amazes me in this day and age that we can still have the lack of awareness shown by this particular driver. I'm not gay and I'm not of Mexican decent, but I see no difference in the rights or respects that either of these would present. The old Golden Rule should come into play here. With that said, what does this mean for Uber? Maybe they need to walk a mile in the  shoes of any customer that is spoken to in this way, and even physically assaulted. I would think the punishment should fit the crime. A temporary suspension pending and investigation sounds like a much better way to handle this situation. Ulber it would behoove you to treat this as a potentially significant event in a your business present and future. 

Jim Yu
Jim Yu

First of all, the app shows all uber x cars to be silver priuses. It is merely an icon, uber x cars come in all shapes, colors, and sizes. I drive a Ford Escape hybrid for uber x, sidecar, and tickengo. I also drive a black Lexus for uber black. Obviously I don't drive the Ford as much as I get paid more for the uber black car. But it's funny how customers perception of these two levels differ so vastly. When I drive uberx on the days my black car needs to be serviced I noticed that I do get customers who give me turn by turn directions. So I can see why this would annoy the driver. We as drivers on all platforms especially love it when you guys take forever to get into our car, try to smoke or better yet bring your red plastic cups full of alcohol into our cars. Yes, uberx, lyft, and sidecar all use our personal cars so I don't think it's legal to have an open alcoholic beverage in the car. I think that goes for cabbies too. Sorry for that rant but some of you passengers need to learn some manners and common sense which tend to go out th door between 11pm to 3am. Yes, I don't work those hours anymore and I'd gladly give that business to the taxis. Contrary to popular belief, those hours are the least profitable and full of drama. So when you get in a car those hours keep that in mind. When I drive for uber black, people usually just give me an address or cross streets. Believe it or not most of us know sf streets very well. Another annoying behavior I've noticed is the uberx customers who get in the back seat with their waze nav on with the volume up because they believe we are trying to pad the fare or they are being condescending a holes. And oh yeah, this driver may have been working on the last hour of a 10 to 12 hour shift.

Rebelos
Rebelos

It's worth mentioning that all San Francisco medallion taxis have cameras and GPS tracking. If you ride in a real taxi in San Francisco and you have any problem, all you need is call 311 and the taxi number which is displayed on the left and right sides as well as on the rear. My understanding is that there is a 24 hour turnaround on the typical taxi complaint to SFMTA. They will request the in taxi video/audio and the vehicle's electronic trip data.

anoyes
anoyes

Uber Blog: What To Expect When You Ride.... Over the weekend, a report emerged about alleged misconduct by a driver who utilizes the uberX platform in San Francisco. We take accusations of this nature very seriously and expect both riders and drivers to behave in a respectful manner. Given questions that have arisen over the past 24 hours, we felt it was important to provide some information about what you should expect when you request a ride with our app. Read more: http://blog.uber.com/sfsafety


Karlyn Neel
Karlyn Neel

This is the second time I've heard about Uber drivers not being gay friendly. Boo Uber!

Paul Varga
Paul Varga

"Hey, that's false advertising, man! Your plate said the fare was only 7 bucks!"

Dario Leventini
Dario Leventini

I agree with Michelle and Ryan. Alva was in the mission, at 2am, he was most likely intoxicated and can't remeber a thing

Jim Piechota
Jim Piechota

Be careful out there. Just because an app is new and helpful doesn't mean it's immune to abuse by its users.

Ryan Summers
Ryan Summers

I bet Alva was HAMMERED and said some things that his driver didn't like. And after a few minutes of listening to this tech bro's bullshit, he pulled over. Alva got all huffy and puffy and the driver was forced to remove him from his vehicle. Alva is buttheart, so he decided to drum up some bad press for Uber. I drive for Lyft and I've heard a few horror stories like this where someone is extremely intoxicated then decides to start a bunch of shit with their driver. One in particular is that some guy got picked up from the Bill Graham after Swedish House Mafia... Had the driver drive him 45 minutes to the East Bay... started a fight about not being able to smoke in his car... proceeded to throw up in his car... then tried to fight the driver... and finally when they arrived at his destination, donated the bare minimum. He "claims" that the car on the app was blue when it was silver. Sounds like he was wasted to me.

Michelle Echaniz Demetriades
Michelle Echaniz Demetriades

Why is everyone so ready to believe this? The guy came out of a bar at 2am probably drunk. He could also be lying about the slurs as a way to retaliate. I use Uber all the time and find the drivers to be very nice and professional. People use social media now as a way to be very vindictive.

King O. Freedom
King O. Freedom

Think they should be held to same standard as cab companies & limo service, for competitive & safety reasons.

Sam Sky
Sam Sky

The Uber driver was probably pissed off because none of their drivers can find the actual uber building... They always come to my building "is this uber?"

Jodie Tag Heuer-Place
Jodie Tag Heuer-Place

I knew it would be a matter of time, before someone made an allegation. Hope they are bonded and have cameras, installed in their UBER personal vechiles.

a.sandore
a.sandore

He should use Lyft! Much better service. 

dramyon
dramyon

@anoyes why did the driver not match the info on the app?

rjohnsenwsop
rjohnsenwsop

@Dario Leventini Perhaps we don't all black out like you from consuming alcohol. Also, the fact that this "most likely intoxicated" individual was able to correctly determine that the license plate numbers did not match (on the spot, which is why he inquired about the mismatched driver info to begin with) does not indicate to me that he "can't remeber a thing." 

dramyon
dramyon

@Daniel Galarza Vega yes you can certainly count on a cab,  lol

rjohnsenwsop
rjohnsenwsop

@Ryan Summers Interesting points. Maybe you're right. Maybe Alva was "HAMMERED" and misidentified the silver Prius as a blue Prius. But, he correctly determined, on the spot, that the license plate numbers did not match. That's a valuable fact if you're going to speculate that Alva was "HAMMERED."

dramyon
dramyon

@Rock Belt Muni?  You get shot or set on fire, no thanks.

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

©2014 SF Weekly, LP, All rights reserved.
Loading...