Crime and Courts

Lyft Driver Reinstated After Alleged Attack From Rider Who Refused to Wear a Mask

The driver said after canceling the ride, the irate passenger threw her beverage across the backseat, and later came back to curse and spit in his face

NBC Universal, Inc.

A driver arrested after refusing to give a ride to a woman who wasn't wearing a mask has had his license unsuspended by the Taxi and Limousine Commission. The woman, who the driver says spit and attacked him, has since been arrested herself.

The driver, who only wanted to be identified as Juan, said he was picking up a passenger at the TWA Hotel at Kennedy Airport Wednesday when the incident occurred. It was after Juan asked her if she had a mask that things got heated quickly.

"She said, "Are you f-ing serious bro?' And I said yea I'm serious and get out of my car. I don't want to take you because I don't feel safety," Juan told NBC New York on Thursday.

He canceled the ride, and the irate passenger threw juice across the backseat and stormed off. As he was cleaning up the mess, Juan said the woman returned and began attacking. She cursed and spit at Juan while holding her phone close to his face.

He said he acted in self-defense.

"She put the phone in my face and she spit in my face, and then when she did this, by accident I touch her face," Juan said.

He called the police shortly after — and was stunned when police arrested him. Juan said that the Taxi and Limousine Commission suspended his license, and Lyft won't allow him to pick up fares.

The TLC released a statement Monday saying the suspension on his license was lifted after they "received additional details that indicate possible guilt on the part of the passenger." Last week, the TLC said suspension was based on the arrest by the Port Authority.

Lyft, which says it was obligated to remove Juan's account after the TLC suspended his license, has since reactivated his account.

Juan said that he's taken passengers all across the city and has seen the devastation of COVID-19, and never expected that asking someone to wear a mask would turn his life upside down.

The New Yorker said he takes COVID-19 seriously, and has even installed a plexiglass partition in his car so that he, his family and the passengers remain safe. Several members of his family in Equador have the virus and he's seen it wreak havoc on NYC. Juan said he is planning on going to get a COVID test this week.

With a court date set for the fall, Juan is concerned about how he will provide for his wife and children.

"I don't do nothing wrong to ask a passenger to wear a mask," Juan said.

Contact Us