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Court on Rosenberg v. Harwood: Injured Pedestrian Can’t Sue Google for Providing Faulty Map Information

Remember, Lauren Rosenberg, who sued Google in May 2010 — claiming that after following Google’s walking directions for a trip in Park City, Utah, she was led onto a busy highway, where she was struck by a vehicle, as reported by diTii.

“Lauren Rosenberg, was walking from 96 Daly Street to and 1710 Prospector Avenue in Park City, Utah. Google Maps sent her via route 224, a highway without sidewalks. She was hit on Route 224 by driver-defendant Patrick Harwood.”

However for legal and “policy” reasons the court granted Google’s motion to dismiss her claims. The court said that the Google didn’t owe Rosenberg a duty becuasue Rosenberg didn’t have a special legal relationship with Google. “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 doesn’t owe a duty.”

Among other reasons, the court found that Google’s mapping services offer considerable value to the public and that allowing the litigation to go forward could open the door to “nearly unlimited liability” for Google. Indeed, a finding against Google might turn the company into an insurance carrier in effect, with all sorts of aggrieved drivers and accident victims suing the company for faulty information or routing.

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 is clear that Google wasn’t required to anticipate that a user of the Google Maps service would cross the road without looking for cars . . . and that, absent negligence on the user’s part, an injury while crossing the road would be unlikely.

Google’s duty doesn’t extend to preventing or warning against harm that is likely to occur through a plaintiff’s breach of her own duty.

This is a nice win for Google as well as an endorsement of the social utility of its services.

[Via: Eric Goldman? Technology and Law Blog]

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