A judge in Georgia has dismissed a personal injury lawsuit filed by a driver who was critically injured in a car accident against social media company Snapchat. Plaintiff had accused the company of responsibility for the crash, arguing the firm incentivized users to speed in motor vehicles while using its app, which awards points to people who use the app to record their speed.
The company, however, insists that it does not encourage users to utilize its smartphone application while driving, and further actively discourages people from using the speed filter while driving.
Ultimately, in what is potentially a precedent-setting ruling, the judge decided that Snapchat as a social media platform is afforded a broad degree of immunity per the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (also sometimes referred to as Title V of the Telecommunications Act of 1996). That statute primarily was in response to concerns about the ability of minors to access pornography on the internet, but it also afforded certain protections to companies that allow their platforms to be used for public communication. Section 230 of that law extended federal immunity to any internet service provider defendants for information that originated with a third-party user of that service.
Plaintiff, whose attorney has indicated he may appeal, disagrees with the order from the Georgia judge and argued that the law, now two decades’ old, doesn’t offer Snapchat total immunity for negligent actions. Specifically, the filter in question tracks how fast users are moving and then awards them points if they upload images that document their speed. There have been numerous instances of drivers uploading pictures (or trying to upload pictures) of themselves while moving at dangerous speeds, sometimes topping 100 mph.
In this case, the 19-year-old at-fault driver was reportedly doing just that, traveling at more than 100 mph, when she smashed into plaintiff’s vehicle. Plaintiff suffered a traumatic brain injury, for which he spent more than a month in the intensive care unit recovering. He continues to suffer the disabling effects of that car accident injury to this day.
An attorney for the company later told the Associated Press that if Snapchat had lost this case, it would have had broad implications for many other businesses, in effect “opening the floodgate” to claims against a range of firms, including billboard advertisers, cell phone manufacturers and GPS device companies – almost any firm that may potentially cause a distraction.
One such case is pending against Apple following the death of a 5-year-old girl in Texas. At the time, the girl was riding in the back seat of her family vehicle when a motorist behind them was more engrossed in his FaceTime app than on the road in front of him. He slammed into the rear of the family’s car, injuring everyone and killing the little girl. Her family now alleges Apple is liable because the company has the technology and the capital to curtail use of the app (pre-loaded onto all iPhones) while motorists are driving, but has chosen not to do so, even knowing that users are taking advantage of the app behind the wheel.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
A win for Snapchat in crash lawsuit tied to speed filter, Jan. 23, 2017, CBS News
More Blog Entries:
Wallis v. Brainerd Baptist Church – Duty of Facility to Acquire or Use Defibrillator, Jan. 13, 2017, Spartanburg Injury Lawyer Blog