Lawsuit filed by slain man’s family against transportation company in Montgomery County court.
The family of a Beavercreek Lyft driver who was gunned down during a Dayton robbery earlier this year filed a lawsuit claiming the company’s negligence fails to protect drivers and resulted in his death.
Brandon Cooper, 35, was shot early Jan. 26 after a group of teenagers reportedly summoned the Lyft driver and tried to steal his car. Dayton police officers responded to Ferguson Avenue after the vehicle’s OnStar reported a possible crash. When they arrived they found Cooper shot dead inside the vehicle.
“Unfortunately, Brandon’s experience of being assaulted while driving for Lyft is tragically common,” the lawsuit read. “Rather than taking reasonable precautions in support of its drivers, Lyft has intentionally and systematically failed to protect its drivers.”
Investigators connected the juveniles to another carjacking earlier that morning. Another Lyft driver reported she was robbed at gunpoint and her car, cellphone and other items were stolen.
The suspects were arrested the same day following a SWAT standoff in Dayton.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court lists Lyft Inc., two juveniles accused of killing Cooper and five John and Jane Does who are Lyft employees responsible for developing protocols and policies. Cooper’s wife, Brittney Cooper, is the plaintiff and is represented by attorneys Michael Wright and Robert Gresham of Wright & Schulte.
The Dayton Daily News reached out to Lyft for comment.
The Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office has sought for the juveniles to be charged as adults in Cooper’s death. A Montgomery County Juvenile Court judge approved a motion to transfer one of teens to adult court. The case will go before a grand jury to consider murder, aggravated robbery and felonious assault, among other charges.
The second teen has a hearing scheduled for January in juvenile court. The Dayton Daily News is not identifying the juveniles pending indictment by a county grand jury.
The lawsuit accuses Lyft of failing to implement effective and available safety measures to protect drivers.
During a press conference Wednesday, Wright noted the Lyft account used to request the ride that led to Cooper’s death was an unverified account created the day before, which used an untraceable form of payment.
He argued Lyft had the responsibility to verify those accounts, as well as the ability and responsibility to warn Cooper when that account had a recent ride that was completed.
“Lyft knew the prior ride had not been completed but still allowed this unverified, untraceable account to call Brandon to this area,” Wright said. “Lyft failed Brandon and failed this family.”
The lawsuit claims Lyft created a system in 2021 requiring users with anonymous payment methods to verify their identity following a nationwide increase in carjacking and assaults on drivers.
“Despite the known effectiveness of this identity verification system in reducing attacks on its drivers, Lyft chose to put these measures in place in only a few select cities and areas,” the lawsuit read. “It appears that in some instances, Lyft choses to wait until after dozens of attacks on its drivers in a given area before turning on an already existing safety feature that would prevent or discourage dangerous criminal attacks on its drivers.”
Wright also noted Lyft does not allow drivers to arm themselves or record drives.
“Through discovery we’ll find out specifically what [Lyft’s] policies were and what they didn’t do that led to the death of Brandon,” Wright said. “We know that they have policies in place. Evidently they didn’t follow the policies that they had in place or if they did follow the policies that they had in place and it still led to his death then they need to enact new policies.”
Derrick Foward, president of the Dayton Unit of the NAACP, said the lawsuit aims to hold Lyft accountable for its inaction.
“The blood of my son is on Lyft’s hands,” Michelle Cooper said. “The only thing they didn’t do was pull the trigger. They failed to protect him and now we have to go on without him because of that.”
Brittney Cooper said her husband had expressed concerns before about the safety of Lyft and other rideshare companies, specifically about being sent to areas where he didn’t feel safe.
She described him as a kind man who wanted to provide for his family and take care of others.
“The world lost someone that truly cared about everyone else more than himself and would constantly be worried about what he was doing for his family, his community and the people he came across to make sure they were OK,” she said.