Apps and Gadgets

Pokémon No-Go: Personal Injuries & Liability

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Pokemon go app has become an instant craze all around the world and it made billions for Niantic, software development company which created it and other augmented reality games. But the game was not without its problems from the start (and we’re not talking just about server glitches). Some PokeStops could be found on graves, on private property and even in Auschwitz, holocaust memorial. Beside this, there were several reports about injuries that occur while players were too immersed in the game to watch their surroundings.

Watch your step

There are numerous reports of people fenders benders caused by Pokemons appearing on the dashboards of moving cars. Tennessee Highway Department even issued a Pokemon themed warning poster to remind drivers to put down their phones while in car.

Woman from New York called the fire department to help her get down from a tree, where she was stuck because of the rare Pokemon she found.

Three armed robbers from Missouri used beacons (designed to help players find Pokestop) to lure their victims to the empty parking lot, where they robbed them at gun point.

Two men from California fell of the cliff edge (100 ft tall) while trying to catch Pokemon (somehow both of them are fine, with a couple of bruises). Dangerous area was properly marked and secured by a fence, but they jumped over once they’ve learn about possible rare findings on the other side.

Nineteen year old man from Melbourne was charged with dangerous driving, after he crashed in a school because he was distracted by his Pokemon Go app.

Who’s to blame?

Because game-play design requires players to keep their eyes on the phone – maybe all of these people could benefit from obtaining a qualified personal injury lawyer? Naturally when it comes to the law things can get complicated and there are different interpretations of liability.

The game starts with a warning screen telling the players to be alert at all times and stay aware of their surroundings.  Recently (after the accidents) game added numerous popup windows warning the players about dangerous areas they might find nearby (the player is required to press OK button acknowledging the danger).

Other limitation no Niantic’s liability comes from Terms and Conditions you’re supposed to read (nobody does) before you start the game. It includes Safe play” section and it states: “You agree that your use of the App and play of the game is at your own risk, and it is your responsibility to maintain such health, liability, hazard, personal injury, medical, life, and other insurance policies as you deem reasonably necessary for any injuries that you may incur while using the Services.”

When it comes to class action law suits Niantic will try to argue that the players were aware of the dangers that come with playing of the game. It’s not quite clear what understanding of risk must a player poses (and the definition of this term can vary from state to state).

The games own trailer promises mass hysteria when a rare Pokemon appears in Times Square. This can be interpreted as Niantic encouraging this sort of behavior (especially because people have actually started organizing mass Pokemon chases. This can be used for a negligence claim (especially because Pokemon from the trailer still doesn’t exist and is a cause of great anticipation)

There are safety warnings inside the game, augmented reality has never been put to a test in a similar way before- therefore neither have the laws regarding Terms and conditions and adequate player safety. It’s quite possible that Pokemon Go will be responsible for setting new standards in these areas of the law.

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