What to Know
- A woman allegedly attacked by an Uber driver blames company policies for what she called a delay in an arrest
- Uber policies require a subpoena to be issued before disclosing basing information about a driver; it also wants a search warrant
- The woman's attorney says livery cabs, many of which are affiliated with Uber, should implement the same tracking system yellow cab use
A woman visiting from California who was allegedly attacked by her Uber driver is furious that it took more than a month for him to be arrested and she blames Uber's policies.
Abbey Thomas, who is from Los Angeles, was in New York City on business over the summer. On July 28, she went out with a co-worker near Gramercy Park and ordered an Uber car to take her back to her hotel, six blocks away.
"For whatever reason, he didn't want to take me and he was getting agitated and upset," Thomas told the I-Team.
Thomas says the driver was yelling and cursing at her, demanding she leave the car, but she wouldn't budge. She says he even got out of the car and tried to pull her out. He left her half hanging out of the cab and jumped back into the driver seat, she says.
"He just took right off. Didn't stop, ran a red light and just left me on the street," Thomas said. "I rolled out, and I was bleeding out of the back of my head where I hit the ground. I had bruises and lacerations up and down my leg."
Thomas says the driver also took her phone. And that caused problems when she filed a police report. Without her phone, and no Uber app, Thomas had no confirmed information on her driver. She said she remembered at least part of his name, what he looked like and that he was driving a Toyota sedan.
Thomas claims the NYPD detectives handling her case tried and failed to get the driver's information.
"The guys at the 13th precinct did everything they could do to support this," Thomas said. "They told me from day one they would have to get a subpoena from Uber. 'It's a long process. We're not going to be able to get this guy's information without it.'"
The NYPD confirms there is an issue with Uber not providing information to police without a subpoena, which Thomas claimed led to a delayed arrest of the driver, Abul Hassan. Hassan was arrested in early September, more than a month after the alleged attack, on a charge of leaving the scene of an accident with an injury.
Thomas' lawyer, Brad Gerstman, has filed a lawsuit against the driver for the alleged attack and against Uber because, according to the lawsuit, the company "refused to cooperate with the police in providing information."
An Uber spokesperson said the company can’t comment on pending litigation and referred the I-Team to its guidelines for law enforcement which spells out procedure for releasing information on drivers.
"Typically, we require a subpoena issued in connection with an official criminal investigation to compel the disclosure of basic information," the guidelines say.
The guidelines also say a search warrant is necessary to compel the company to hand over "communications between people using Uber and GPS location information."
The spokesperson also said Hassan no longer works for Uber.
Thirty nine thousand of the more than 51,000 black livery cabs in the city are affiliated with Uber, and Gerstman argues that the TPEP system required in the city's 13,000 yellow cabs to track driver information and location should be installed in all its livery cabs as well.
If it were implemented that way, Gerstman says, in the case of a problem like his client's, "They could just circle back to TLC. Who is the driver? Where's the location? What other cars were in the area at the time? They know every single thing when it comes to the yellow cab, but if it's an Uber driver, they know absolutely 0."
Thomas' story doesn't sit well with Democratic councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, who represents Manhattan's 10th district and has been critical of Uber.
"Any company looking to provide services in our city should be cooperating with law enforcement, especially in cases where an assault has occurred," Rodriguez said.
Hassan declined NBC 4 New York's request for comment on the matter. He is awaiting arraignment on the charge of leaving the scene of an accident with injury, according to the district attorney's office.
The TLC says it is the only entity that can suspend or revoke a driver's license, so it is says riders should reach out to 311, in addition to the proper law enforcement authorities, if they have a problem with a driver.
If not, when a driver is suspended from one car service like Uber, he or she could easily work at another.