Editor’s Note: 27 News is not naming the rideshare company involved in the lawsuit to give them time to issue a response to our questions.
TOPEKA (KSNT) – A Topeka family is suing a rideshare company over allegations that it failed to protect a 13-year-old girl from being harmed by a registered sex offender in 2019.
Court documents obtained by 27 News from Kuhlman & Lucas, LLC and Dipasquale Moore, LLC show that a lawsuit was filed in 2019 against Nicholas Avery, a 34-year-old registered sex offender, for paying a rideshare to deliver a 13-year-old girl to his home. In January of last year, a civil lawsuit was filed against the rideshare company and its driver in the District Court of Shawnee County. The law firm representing the family of the Topeka girl accuses the company of human trafficking.
Court documents claim the Topeka girl, referred to as S.W. for her protection, was picked up by a rideshare driver who drove her from her home in Topeka to Bellevue, Nebraska. The 155 mile trip lasted three hours. It ended when the driver dropped the girl off at the home of Avery who pleaded no contest to sexually assaulting her over a period of 36 hours before she was found by law enforcement.
KETV in Omaha reported in March 2020 that Avery was sentenced by a judge to up to 60 years in prison.
The court documents state that S.W. suffered from “devastating and extreme physical, mental,. psychological and emotional injuries” due to the actions of the rideshare company and its driver. The famil says S.W. will require the necessary care for her physical, mental, psychological and emotional injuries.
The court documents allege that the rideshare company was independently negligent, careless and/or reckless for several reasons including not requiring proof of age to set up an account, not verifying the age of those who set up the account, not having more stringent account verification requirements, not training drivers to verify the age of riders at pickup and more. The court documents also allege that the app used by the rideshare company was “defective and unreasonably dangerous.”
On the amended petition of human trafficking alleged by the law firms representing S.W., the court documents state that Avery paid for the rideshare service which resulted in S.W. being forced to involuntary servitude, labor and/or the sexual gratification of Avery. Both the rideshare service and its driver benefitted financially from participating in bringing S.W. to Avery across state lines, resulting in a violation of K.S.A. 60-5003 on human trafficking.
The family of S.W. is seeking $75,000 in damages from the rideshare company to compensate S.W. for all her damages.