Google Liable for 'Unsafe Directions'? I Think Not

Lora Bentley

Leave it to Google to provide interesting news after a long weekend. Or to the modern human propensity toward litigation. Take this headline from CNET's Technically Incorrect blog:

Woman, hit by car, sues Google for faulty directions.


Seriously? I know our society has become highly litigious, but does no one take responsibility for his or her own actions anymore?


Here's what happened: The plaintiff wanted to take a walk in Park City, Utah, so she consulted her BlackBerry and Google Maps for a walking route between point A and point B. Google Maps suggested a particular road, which according to court filings quoted by CNET is, "a rural highway with no sidewalks, and a roadway that exhibits motor vehicles traveling at high speeds, that is not reasonably safe for pedestrians."


Because she was hit by a car while walking on said road, the plaintiff is suing not only the driver, but also Google, for "careless, reckless, and negligent providing of unsafe directions."


Even failing common sense, which should tell you to check out a route before walking it no matter who or what suggests it, anyone who's used Google Maps before for driving directions gets the following disclaimer:

These directions are for planning purposes only. You may find that construction projects, traffic, weather, or other events may cause conditions to differ from the map results, and you should plan your route accordingly...

When you're looking specifically for walking directions, you get a yellowish banner across the top of your window - in addition to the disclaimer above. The banner reads:

Walking directions are in beta. Use caution. This route may be missing sidewalks or pedestrian paths.

Granted, as CNET blogger Chris Matyszczyk points out, those who use smartphones to access Google Maps might not have the benefit of the same warnings or disclaimers because they might not all display properly. But if you're using Google Maps on your phone, doesn't it go without saying that you've also used it at least once from a computer? So, in theory at least, you have read the disclaimer and are responsible for its contents.


In my opinion, the claim against Google here is the epitome of frivolous litigation. I'm all for making sure those responsible for injury own up to their part. But unless the law specifically says otherwise, the plaintiff's responsibility should also be considered, whether the plaintiff is an individual injured in a car accident or a company alleging fraudulent misrepresentation or other business torts.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Jun 1, 2010 4:33 AM Cassidy Moss Cassidy Moss  says:

Watch out for those crazy Park City drivers!



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