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“Take a Long Walk Off a Short Pier!”

Lauren Rosenberg is suing Google after being struck by a car. Why? Because the company’s walking map suggested a less than relaxing constitutional across a busy state road with no sidewalk. This case seems silly — who wouldn’t simply decide for themselves whether a suggested road was the best way to travel? I mean, couldn’t she just have ignored the advice?

Legal issues are rarely that simple, though. Note that the complaint states that Goggle issued a warning about the unreliability of the recommendations, but you only received the full warning if on a computer — not on a mobile phone, and that’s what the plaintiff alleges she used. So in a sense Google might have been better off not warning at all; if it thought a warning was necessary, then it should be provided across platforms. (A¬†Google spokesperson says there was a warning on the phone version, but that it was shorter.) One might even argue that it’s more necessary on a mobile app, because walkers would presumably be likelier than others to use a cell phone, and less able to “check their work” on a phone.

Read the linked article for some of the interesting facts about the case, including that it was dark at the time she was “advised” to cross the street. Does this make her negligent for crossing an unfamiliar street in the early morning hours, or does it strengthen the argument that Google should have made clearer that one shouldn’t rely on its advice? Perhaps both, and, if so, the law recognizes that possibility through the doctrine of comparative negligence — if a jury found that both were negligent (assuming the court first holds that Google owed Ms. Rosenberg a legal duty in the first place), then her recovery would be reduced by the percentage of negligence attributed to her conduct.

Rosenberg’s attorney, whose legal writing makes me shudder (she was “stricken” by a car, for example), has also sued the driver of the auto. Good move. That’s likely to be the only party (besides Rosenberg her very own self) found substantially at fault by the jury.

By the way, the research conducted for this post was done by Googling the topic, so please don’t rely on the facts presented.

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