Snapchat, Inc. experienced a win in Georgia’s appellate court on November 7th with the dismissal of a suit alleging the social media company was responsible for causing a serious car accident in September 2015. A Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of a suit contending Snapchat’s “speed filter” feature, which has since been discontinued, caused a motorist to become distracted and hit another vehicle, causing the driver to suffer brain injuries. The court stated that the company itself did not owe a duty of care to the injured man.
The lawsuit, brought by Wentworth and Karen Maynard, alleged Snapchat knew that the speed filter was essentially a speedometer laid over pictures taken by the user, and would cause drivers to become distracted and break traffic laws.
According to court documents, Christal McGee, who was 18 at the time of the accident, was using the speed filter on Snapchat while she was driving. A witness said they saw the speed on the filter hit 113 miles per hour, and McGee rear-ended Maynard’s car shortly after. Although McGee and her passengers escaped with minor injuries, Wentworth Maynard suffered traumatic brain injury and permanent disability. McGee was later arrested and charged with a felony.
Because the Maynards brought this suit against Snapchat under product liability law, it was up to them to prove that the company acted negligently in its creation and distribution of the speed filter. In the first trial, the judge ruled that Snapchat “had no duty to alter the design of its mobile application to prevent McGee from driving recklessly or negligently.”
Upon the Maynards’ appeal, the Court upheld this opinion, stating, “Despite the inherent appeal and distracting nature of smartphone applications, Georgia thus far has not created a duty on the part of manufacturers to control third parties’ use of mobile phone applications while driving.”
Snapchatting and driving is deadly
With nearly 250 million users, Snapchat is one of the most popular smartphone apps among teens and young adults. This makes it likely the app could be a factor in distracted driving accidents, especially among young and inexperienced drivers. Just a quick Google search returns dozens of Snapchat-related accidents and fatalities, including:
- Videos of people joking around on social media moments before their death
- Drivers who are clearly distracted, causing serious accidents
- Passengers encouraging drivers to drive recklessly for “likes”
There’s even an academic paper about Snapchat and driving, which just reinforces what we probably already know. Researcher Verity Truelove, Ph.D., said regarding the study, “Looking across the survey and focus groups we conducted, a common theme was that the drivers who used Snapchat thought it was a relatively safe practice because they used it at times they perceived to be low risk, such as when they were stopped at traffic lights.”
If you were injured in an accident with a distracted driver in North Dakota, call Larson Law Firm, P.C. today. We will help you seek compensation and hold the negligent parties responsible. To arrange a free consultation, call us in Minot or Bismarck today at 701.484.HURT or complete our contact form.
Mark Larson is a Certified Civil Trial Specialist and Certified Civil Pre-Trial Specialist focusing on personal injury, motor vehicle, wrongful death, and oil field claims. Since 1979, Larson Law Firm has served the injured throughout North Dakota. Read more about Mark V. Larson