Last year, we had the bizarre story of a woman who sued Google
after she got hit by a car, while following Google's (beta) walking directions feature. The directions put her on a rural highway with no sidewalk or crosswalk, and as she crossed the street, she got hit. She sued both the driver and Google, but the Google part was what got the attention. The woman's lawyer tried to defend the lawsuit
in the face of a lot of mocking, by claiming that Google somehow had responsibility here. When this case got attention, Danny Sullivan did a bang up job pulling images of the intersection from Google Street View, which suggest that this intersection was pretty obviously not designed for pedestrian crossing:
Thankfully, it appears that the court agreed with most of the folks around here who were left shaking our heads that this woman couldn't take responsibility for her own actions of crossing a street
. The court
dismissed the lawsuit against Google
. While Google had raised some First Amendment issues, the court doesn't even get that far in the discussion. Instead it just looks at the simple question of whether or not Google owed a duty to the woman, and found the answer to be pretty clear: hell no, it didn't:
In order to assert a claim for negligence against Google Rosenberg had to show that Google owed her a duty. The court applies a four factor test to determine whether Google owes Rosenberg a duty and concludes that Google does not owe a duty. Rosenberg did not have a special relationship with Google. Rosenberg argued that in other cases courts have held service providers liable for negligently providing services to customers, but the court says that this duty is minimal or non-existent when a publisher or other information provider "publishes information to the general public."
The court also notes that the fact that an injury is unlikely to occur counsels against finding a duty. Although Rosenberg alleged that an accident is more likely to occur along a rural highway such as the one she was on, the court says that an accident involving a pedestrian likely involves the pedestrian's own breach of their duty to yield to cars on the road
It's always nice to see a court agree with what basic common sense tells you.