edm-cab-driver

Edmonton cab driver Soner Yasa has filed a civil lawsuit against four young women who were passengers in his taxi in 2006. ((CBC))

A veteran Edmonton taxi driver is speaking publicly about a civil lawsuit he filed last year against four young women who falsely accused him of sexual assault after travelling in his car three years ago.

"I just want to give those girls [a] lesson," Soner Yasa told CBC News.  "We're so vulnerable as a cab driver."

The lawsuit, filed by Yasa in Edmonton's Court of Queen's Bench in April 2008, seeks about $240,000 in damages from the four women ($60,000 each) to cover emotional and mental distress. His allegations have not been proven in court. One of the four young women filed a statement of defence last month in which she admits to getting into Yasa's taxi but denies the rest of his allegations.

In April 2006, Yasa picked up the young women, all 19, along Whyte Avenue, a well-known strip of bars and restaurants in Edmonton. The girls were intoxicated, and trouble began when one of them tried to light up a cigarette, Yasa said. It is illegal to smoke in an Edmonton taxi cab, and Yasa told her to put out the cigarette or risk a $500 fine.

Just then, the girls demanded Yasa stop the cab, and they got out, refusing to pay the $13 fare. Then they accused Yasa of sexually molesting them, Yasa said. They called their friends, and Yasa soon was surrounded by what he calls a "mob." Both Yasa and friends of the four girls called police.

However, what happened in the taxi was caught on a video camera Yasa had installed inside his car after a passenger tried to assault him a couple of years before. Based on the video evidence of what happened in his cab, Yasa was not charged.

But he worries about what might have happened to his job and his marriage without that evidence.

"What would she do?" Yasa said of his wife. "She would have probably told me, 'There's the door, and get out.'"

According to a police report filed on the incident, one of the young women contacted police the next morning to say they were very sorry for the trouble she and her friends caused and that they would not be pursuing any charges.

The constable collected the $13 fare from the girls to pass on to Yasa.  He took the money but gave it back the next day, because he wanted police to pursue charges against the girls. That didn't happen, so he filed the lawsuit.

While Yasa filed the lawsuit last year, he said he is going public with his story now to make people aware of how vulnerable taxi drivers are while they are on the job.

None of the young women named in the lawsuit responded to attempts by CBC News to contact them on Thursday. On Friday, one of the lawyers for the women said his client would not be speaking to the media about the lawsuit.

Corrections

  • The original story stated the lawsuit was seeking "nearly $250,000" in damages from the women. By way of clarification, the number is closer to $240,000, with $60,000 sought from each of the four defendants in the case.
    May 19, 2009 9:45 AM MT
With files from Scott Fralick and Janice Johnston