'I thought he was going to kill me.' Wilton man among 17 drivers, passengers suing Lyft after assaults
A Wilton man is among 17 plaintiffs who recently filed lawsuits and arbitrations against the ride-sharing app Lyft, claiming the company failed to protect passengers and drivers from physical and sexual assault.
At a virtual news conference Wednesday, Stuart Berman, who's in his 70s, relived the brutal attack he suffered while driving for Lyft. Berman was one of five plaintiffs who shared their stories publicly after their attorneys announced the legal filings.
"Lyft has a responsibility to protect its passengers and drivers. Period," said attorney Tracey Cowan, a partner at Peiffer Wolf Carr Kane Conway & Wise who is representing the plaintiffs. "Its refusal to do so has resulted in acts of violence that have left our clients with disabilities, permanent deformities and lifelong trauma."
For Berman, that violence happened the night of Sept. 17, 2021, after picking up a man from an apartment complex in Stamford. He said the passenger was on his phone in a heated conversation most of the trip. Then just before they got to his destination, the man allegedly screamed at Berman to pull over and assaulted him.
"Totally unprepared, he started punching me in the face and head repeatedly over and over and over," Berman said at the news conference. "I thought he was going to kill me."
Eventually the attacker stopped and ran off. Berman called 911 and was rushed to the emergency room with a broken nose and a brain bleed. He said he needed to have brain surgery twice and also got a blood clot in his abdomen after being taken off blood thinners due to the brain bleed. Berman had to undergo physical therapy for walking and balance and said he still can't walk or climb stairs at a normal speed. He was also left with a large scar on his head from the surgery which he called "a constant reminder" of the attack.
Along with physical injuries, Berman said he has severe anxiety and fears another attack. He admitted he tries to keep his back against the wall when out in public .
"I do the same in elevators. If I can't get into the rear of the elevator, I wait for the next car. If I see a man walking towards me, I step aside letting him pass me and watching him very closely," Berman explained.
He said when he reported the attack to Lyft, the company's response was an offer of $750. His court filing asks to be compensated for financial, physical and emotional damages.
In response to the news conference, a Lyft spokesperson released a statement saying, "We're committed to helping keep drivers and riders safe. While safety incidents on our platform are incredibly rare, we realize that even one is too many. Our goal is to make every Lyft ride as safe as possible, and we will continue to take action and invest in technology, policies and partnerships to do so."