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Nipomo Lyft passenger speaks out about an alleged assault while using the service

Posted at 9:01 PM, Jul 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-27 00:01:28-04

New details are emerging for a former Lompoc Lyft driver accused of sexual assault and sexual battery.

The class action lawsuit, which names not only Jason Lemont Fenwick, 52, as a defendant, but also Lyft, was filed in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court on Thursday.

The women, identified only as Jane Does 1, 2, and 3, claim that they were each sexually assaulted by their Lyft drivers on their ride home.

The victims are claiming damage for:

  1. Negligent Supervision and Retention of Lyft Drivers
  2. Trespass upon Lyft Passengers’ Property
  3. Fraud upon Lyft Passengers’ Expectation of Safety
  4. Intentional Misrepresentations re Lyft Rideshare Safety
  5. Negligent Misrepresentations re Lyft Rideshare Safety
  6. Assaults upon Lyft Passengers
  7. Sexual Battery upon Lyft Passengers

To be clear, Jane Doe 2 and Jane Doe 3 are not accusing Fenwick for assaulting them. They claim other Lyft drivers in the Los Angeles and San Diego areas assaulted them.

James McKiernan, the attorney representing the victims, said he filed the lawsuit because discussions with Lyft failed and he and his legal team wanted to avoid Fifth Amendment problems down the line.

He said he also started getting more traction from other alleged victims and wanted to empower others to speak out.

Investigators said Fenwick drove a woman to her Nipomo home after she requested a Lyft because she was too drunk to drive. The victim reportedly told San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s officials that Fenwick helped her inside where she then passed out and Fenwick sexually assaulted her.

The woman in that alleged assault is mentioned in the latest lawsuit along with two other women – one reportedly living in San Diego County and another in Los Angeles County.

The lawsuit states all three women were “sexually assaulted by their Lyft driver… during their ride home. No reason for any further sexual details, because each sexual assault upon Jane Doe 2 and Jane Doe 3 is too gruesome and tragic to recount.” The lawsuit claims the names of the other two drivers are not known.

In an interview with KSBY News, the alleged Nipomo victim said, “I got the app on my phone and I was drinking and they advertise as a safe ride home. I am one of those college students who wanted to take advantage of that instead of risking getting a DUI or killing somebody. So I, ordered a Lyft.”

She said she remembered Fenwick helping her out of the car and into her home.

“My back slider was open and I kind of slid my back slider open and I remember stumbling to my bed and immediately crashed out. Fully clothed, I still had my boots on and everything,” the woman said.

She said she woke up the next morning feeling unsettled.

“I was severely sore, I had bruises in multiple places, I was bleeding out of multiple places, both of my private areas and I was throwing up blood. I remember waking up and my hair and the side of my face was covered in puke and blood.”

She said she had installed security cameras outside and inside her home after recent break-ins in her neighborhood.

“I reviewed the security cameras and I saw some of the events that were happening and I had to stop watching when he started taking my clothes off,” she told KSBY News.

She said the surveillance footage captures Fenwick taking pictures of her while she was unconscious.

McKeirnan said the video shows the Lyft car arriving to the victim’s house and the driver walking her in.

“The camera switches to the living room, the hallways and then finally shows the Lyft driver placing her in the bedroom and then from there rest of the tragedy unfolds,” McKiernan said.

The alleged victim said she called police immediately after reviewing the footage and a rape kit was completed.

“Their ‘safe ride home’ I don’t feel like should be their logo. There needs to be more than that, more safety, more background checks,” the alleged victim said. “Something where there is a panic button or they call the driver and ask ‘is everything okay?’ and if nobody answers something needs to happen.”

To make matters worse, the woman said Fenwick had access to her phone and gave himself a tip for the ride using the Lyft app.

“After he did what he did, he added a $20 tip onto the $10 ride. And the whole time he was at my house and this was happening, he forgot to click the off button, so the time was still running,” said the woman. “That bothers me because this whole time he was getting paid or on the clock according to Lyft.”

In recent discussions, McKiernan said Lyft is claiming their drivers to be independent contractors.

“As we got closer to what I thought could be a resolution, [Lyft] dug their heels in that Lyft is not an employer, it’s not a taxi service, it’s not a transportation service, all it provides the public is what they quote, unquote say is a ‘software platform’ that’s available for the public to use or for people who want to be drivers to use,” McKiernan said.

Fenwick was arrested last November and remains in custody in San Luis Obispo County Jail in lieu of $500,000 bail, according to jail logs.

He is set to appear in court for a plea hearing July 31.

According to McKiernan, if Fenwick enters a plea deal he will be sentenced to 28 years in prison, but if he pleads not guilty and loses the trial he could spend life behind bars.

KSBY reached out to Fenwick’s attorney and Lyft and have not heard back.