Victim Of Domestic Abuse Sues GPS Company For Helping Her Assailant

from the it's-the-tool dept

Michael Scott points us to the news of a new lawsuit that hopefully doesn't get very far, but which does highlight the frequency with which third parties are sued these days, not because they have any actual liability, but because they have money. In this case, a woman is suing a GPS vehicle tracking service, Foxtrax Vehicle Tracking, because her domestic partner used the service to figure out where she was and to attack her. It sounds as though the guy put the tracking device on the woman's car in order to stalk her. It's difficult to think that anyone could find the company liable here for the actions of the guy. I'm sure it's upsetting that the guy was able to track her, and she has every right to press all sorts of charges against the guy. But the GPS tracking company was merely the technology provider.

However, this is yet another example of what I've called "Steve Dallas lawsuits," after a Bloom County cartoon strip, I remembered from decades ago, where the character Steve Dallas (a lawyer, who gets beaten up by Sean Penn when he tried to take his photograph -- some things never change), explains why after going through all the options on who to sue, he chooses to sue the camera manufacturer, the made-up Nikolta, because it's "a major corporation with gobs of liquid cash...."

Filed Under: domestic abuse, gps, liability, third party liability
Companies: foxtrax vehicle tracking

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  1. identicon
    Peter, 7 May 2010 @ 11:28am


    (and I'm not being sarcastic) - A story about a GPS device and a company's extent of responsibility for an abuse of the service they provide has evolved into a philosophical discussion regarding the nature and meaning of rights. While it could be regarded as just a question of semantics, the definition of "rights" leads into a fascinating debate about ethics, power, morality, and politics, even religion.
    I have my own view about the original story, but it's good to see a (mostly) reasonable discussion without the illiterate and tiresome "Your [SIC] a moron! No, YOU are!" Youtube style insults.
    There was a series of lectures on PBS a while ago about ethics, where the presenter would pose a question with a seemingly obvious answer, which most of the audience would agree with, but then would describe a situation where suddenly this answer was thrown into doubt. Sometimes as a reductio ad absurdum, sometimes just by altering the circumstances or context. For example -- I'm not saying this was one he used and this is overly simple -- he might ask "Would you say it is wrong to kidnap someone who is not a criminal, drug him and tie him up, completely against his will? Yes? What if he was suffering from a mental disorder and suicidal or threatening to kill someone. Does he then still have a right to be left alone?" I wish I could remember the name of the series, as it is fascinating viewing.

    Anyway, to add my own view on the situation here, if I were the GPS tracking company representative, and pretty sure about why the guy wanted to track the vehicle, my personal ethics would tell me not to comply. To the person who said they would require a court order, that would imply she knew she was being tracked, and it doesn't seem that was the case otherwise she could have contacted the company. If she DID know, and could bring the vehicle in to prove herself as a driver, I would also be unwilling to track it without her approval.
    It's not clear that they did know, and without proof, I would not find them guilty of anything. It would be like finding a knife vendor culpable for a murder. Then again, if I were that vendor and someone asked me "what's the best knife I can use to stab my girlfriend with?" I would do more than just refuse to make the sale if I thought he was serious.

    p.s. There's an interesting article on natural vs legal rights at

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