Last year, Snapchat – the live social media sharing app that promotes itself with the tagline, “Life’s more fun when you live in the moment!” – joined the ranks of technology companies being sued for distracted driving accidents. Last month, it also joined the ranks of technology companies found not liable for distracted drivers’ mistakes.
The case involved a two-car accident allegedly caused by the 19-year-old driver of a white Mercedes. According to news reports and court records, the driver, Christal McGee, was traveling at 107 mph when she struck a Mitsubishi Outlander merging onto the highway. The impact caused the Outlander’s driver, Wentworth Maynard, to lose control. His vehicle spun across all four lanes of the highway and crashed into an embankment. CBS News reports that Maynard suffered traumatic brain injuries in the accident and is now unable to walk unassisted.
“Lucky to Be Alive”
What makes this case noteworthy is not just the speed at which McGee was traveling, but the fact that she was allegedly using Snapchat and its “speed filter” at the time of the accident. As its name suggests, the speed filter overlays the speed at which a person is traveling on top of a posted image or video (here is a Google Images search for reference). McGee was allegedly trying to break 100 mph just to post it on Snapchat. After surviving the crash with only minor injuries, McGee posted a “snap” from the ambulance with the caption, “Lucky to be alive.”
Crash Victim Files Lawsuit Against Snapchat
In addition to filing a personal injury lawsuit against McGee to recover his inordinate medical bills and other losses stemming from the crash, Maynard also sued Snapchat. In the words of Maynard’s attorney, the lawsuit alleged that the app maker was liable under the theory of product liability, “because Snapchat put something very dangerous in the marketplace without any warnings or safeguards.” Snapchat countered that its app has always admonished users not to “snap” behind the wheel, and that a verdict against Snapchat would open the floodgates for lawsuits against companies ranging from “billboard advertisers to makeup brands” – essentially, any company that provided the means for someone to become distracted while driving.
In January, a state court judge dismissed Maynard’s suit against Snapchat. In doing so, he cited the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which states:
“No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
According to the judge, this “immunity clause” protects Snapchat (and, by extension, other app developers) against liability stemming from users’ conduct, even where there are reports of similar dangerous user activity in the past.
At last report, Maynard’s attorneys were considering an appeal of the Snapchat ruling. The suit against McGee remains pending.
Lawyers in Palm Beach County, FL
At Brian D. Guralnick Injury Lawyers, we aggressively pursue just compensation on behalf of drivers and passengers injured in distracted driving accidents. If you have been injured in an accident and believe someone else may be to blame, our car accident attorneys can help. Call me, Brian D. Guralnick, personally at 561.202.MORE(6673) For a free and confidential consultation.
Disclaimer: The information in this blog is not intended, and must not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. If you need advice on specific legal issues, please consult with a licensed Personal Injury attorney.