Two Lyft passengers are suing the ride-hailing company, alleging they were taken on a harrowing ride by a driver who ignored their demands to stop and let them out before colliding with another vehicle in Burbank in 2019.
Ryan Larson and Matt Hinerfeld filed the lawsuit Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging reckless endangerment, negligence and both intentional and negligent misrepresentation. They seek unspecified damages.
A Lyft representative did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Larson and Hinerfeld used the Lyft app about 6:40 p.m. Dec. 19 to obtain a ride to Hinerfeld’s work-sponsored Christmas party, the suit states. Upon entering the vehicle, the plaintiffs smelled tobacco and another odor they could not identify, according to the suit.
Larson and Hinerfeld were worried the Lyft driver could be drunk because he slurred his words, the suit states. But because Lyft touts a zero tolerance policy for consumption of drugs and alcohol while driving, the passengers thought the driver’s speech may have been related to a medical condition.
During the ride, the driver asked Hinerfeld, “Hey dude, where are you guys going?,” the suit states.
When Hinerfeld replied they were going to a bar, the driver said, “Cool, cool,” looked away from the street, turned his head around while the car was in motion and gave a slow fist pump, the suit states.
As the driver made a left turn onto West Verdugo Avenue from Cordova Street, he again turned around and gave Hinerfeld “an awkward, slow fist pump,” the suit states.
Larson, once again concerned the man at the wheel could be drunk, began thinking about where and when she and her passenger could ask the driver to release them “given his weird behavior,” the suit states.
Seconds later, while moving into the left lane on West Verdugo toward Hollywood Way, the driver asked, “What are you doing at this party? Are there going to be rock stars at the party?,” according to the suit.
The driver then fully turned around and tried to fist bump Hinerfeld while the car was in motion as he moved to the left lane, the suit states. The driver then made a left turn onto North Hollywood Way from West Verdugo, but instead of yielding to oncoming traffic, he “peeled out” and made an unsafe left turn, the suit states.
Larson told Hinerfeld they needed to get out of the car as soon as possible, but before they could do so, the driver crashed into a car in front of him, the suit states.
Larson yelled “stop” before the crash, but the driver did not react in time, according to the suit.
The crash was so hard that Larson’s phone “flew from her hand” and became wedged between the passenger seat and console, the suit states.
The Lyft driver appeared unaware of the crash, and instead “obsessed over retrieving Larson’s phone,” which was damaged in the incident, the suit states.
Larson and Hinerfeld tried to leave the car, but the driver engaged the child-proof door locks and said, “You are my passengers. You are my passengers. It’s gonna be fine,” the suit states.
Larson allegedly told the driver, “Let us out. Let us out right now.”
The driver ignored her demands and started to drive away, but about 100 feet later he pulled over after narrowly missing hitting two parked cars, the suit states.
The driver ultimately relented and unlocked the doors, prompting Larson and Hinerfeld to get out and reach a sidewalk, where Hinerfeld called Lyft to report the incident via the in-app safety and accident notification system, the suit states.
While Hinerfeld was on hold with Lyft’s customer service team, the Lyft driver screamed at the driver of the other vehicle involved in the crash, the suit states.
The Lyft driver eventually got into his car and sped away, leaving the scene without waiting for police to arrive, the suit states.
The driver of the second vehicle later told the plaintiffs that the Lyft driver was spitting on him and had the smell of alcohol on his breath, according to the suit.
Nick Trahair, CLM,CHA serves as General Manager of the GrandStay Hotel & Suites of Traverse City, MI.
Prior to joining the staff at the GrandStay, he served as the Regional Operations Manager for a large hospitality management company based in the Midwest and also has worked in the food and beverage management field.