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Lawsuit: Lyft Driver Attack in Brooklyn Ends Musician’s Career

Musician Jonathan Melville Pratt says his one-time promising career is over – all because of an alleged 2017 attack he suffered at the hands of a disgruntled Lyft driver in New York City who beat him after he canceled his ride

What to Know

  • Musician Jonathan Pratt says his one-time promising career is over because of a 2017 attack he suffered at the hands of a Lyft driver
  • A lawsuit was filed by Pratt Wednesday in NY Superior Court Kings County against Lyft and a man who worked as a driver for the company
  • Pratt alleges he suffered broken bones, two concussions and a traumatic brain injury after he canceled a Lyft ride

Musician Jonathan Melville Pratt claims his one-time promising career is over – all because of an alleged 2017 attack he suffered at the hands of a disgruntled Lyft driver in New York City.

A lawsuit filed by Pratt Wednesday in New York Superior Court Kings County -- against Lyft and a man who worked as a driver for the company -- alleges that the composer and musician suffered broken bones, two concussions and a traumatic brain injury after he canceled a Lyft ride.

The alleged incident, which was captured on video by a nearby surveillence cmera, took place May 24, 2017, when Pratt, who was accompanied by a female companion, requested a Lyft ride, via the ride-hailing app, from a restaurant in Brooklyn and a Lyft driver accepted. However, the driver, identified as Kouame Nguessan, got lost on his way to pick Pratt because of GPS issues.

Pratt alleges he tried to guide the driver to his location, but after waiting for 10 minutes he decided to cancel the Lyft ride and hail a taxi – something the driver refused to accept.

The lawsuit goes on to say that before Pratt hailed the taxi, Nguessan located him and his friend “and began screaming profanities from his vehicle, including sexually demeaning and assaultive profanities” to them.

After demanding they get in his car, according to the lawsuit, Nguessan then ran toward Pratt, who was filming the interaction, and slammed him headfirst on the ground, “smashing Mr. Pratt’s head so hard he lost consciousness.”

“The Lyft Driver stomped on and kicked Mr. Pratt’s head, hands, arms, legs and genitals. He finally succeeded in ripping the phone out of Mr. Pratt’s hand. He then smashed the phone on the sidewalk so violently that it broke, bouncing 15 feet onto the street,” the lawsuit says, adding that the driver then tried to punch Pratt’s female companion in the face.

According to the complaint, Lyft did not terminate the driver from its platform until six months after the assault. Even worse, Lyft allegedly let the driver provide 698 rides to Lyft customers after the company learned of the attack.

According to the suit, the attack stripped Pratt of wrist stamina, dexterity, memory and concentration to perform.

Pratt’s complaint also alleges that Lyft is operating illegally in New York City by allowing many of its drivers — including the one who allegedly assaulted Pratt — to drive for Lyft without a license from the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (“TLC”).

Pratt’s complaint also alleges that the particular Lyft driver who apparently attacked him also has at least 28 violations, suspensions, or revocations of his New York City TLC license.

“Lyft desperately wants the public to believe that it is the ‘safe’ ridesharing choice, but that public relations effort is at odds with how we allege the company is operating illegally in New York City,” said Matt Metzger of The Wolterman Law Office, an attorney for Pratt. “Our complaint alleges that at Lyft, safety takes a backseat to the company’s unrelenting pursuit of revenues and growth.”

The complaint also alleges that Lyft’s actions in New York City — or lack thereof — lead to the driver’s assault of Mr. Pratt. The complaint alleges that Lyft is operating illegally in New York City by not ensuring that each of its drivers there holds valid licenses issued by the New York City TLC.

Specifically, the complaint alleges that Lyft puts its New York City-area riders in danger and flouts New York City law by: failing to conduct a criminal background check on the Lyft driver who allegedly assaulted Pratt; hiring the driver despite him not having a valid TLC license, in violation of city law; allowing the driver to drive for Lyft on the day of the assault without a valid TLC license; allowing the driver to drive at least 841 Lyft customers to their destinations without a valid license; disregarding complaints that the driver’s previous passengers had lodged with the TLC against him for, among other things, “threatening, harassing and abusing”; ignoring the driver’s 28 previous TLC violations, suspensions, or revocations of his license; and allowing thousands of other Lyft drivers to drive unlicensed, in violation of New York City law.

Pratt’s claims against Lyft and the driver include negligence, liability for not including a panic button within Lyft’s app, liability for Lyft’s failure to cross-check its roster of drivers against the TLC’s public list of licensed drivers, violating New York’s Transportation Law, negligent hiring and training, fraud and negligent misrepresentation, violating New York’s General Business Law, assault and battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Pratt is seeking punitive damages, court costs, attorney fees and other relief.

It is unclear if Nguessan has an attorney to comment on his behalf.

In a statement to News 4, A Lyft spokeswoman said: "Safety is fundamental to Lyft. The incident described is terrifying, and the driver was permanently banned from the Lyft community.”

The TLC declined to comment citing the pending litigation of which they are not a party.

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