Court Says No, You Can’t Sue Google For Bad Walking Directions

Remember the woman in Utah who used Google Maps’ walking directions, was hit by a car and sued? The case is Rosenberg v. Harwood and Google was successful in getting almost all the claims against the company dismissed last week.

When last we left our story the plaintiff, 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.

Here’s a relevant excerpt from the original complaint:

The plaintiff was apparently walking at night and it was dark. However Google Maps does warn about the unreliability of walking directions. This is also true on the mobile version of Google Maps. Rosenberg accessed the directions on her BlackBerry.

One can certainly understand Rosenberg’s indignation at Google: “I relied on Google Maps and it almost got me killed.” (She had more than $100,000 in medical bills according to the complaint.) However for legal and “policy” reasons the court granted Google’s motion to dismiss her claims.

The court said that the company didn’t owe Rosenberg any duty because it didn’t have a direct legal relationship with her. 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.

A “negligent misrepresentation” claim still exists in the case, though it will probably later be the subject of a similar motion to dismiss. Eric Goldman’s Technology and Law Blog offers more detail and insight the court’s rationale for dismissing the plaintiff’s claims.

For additional background, see our original story: Woman Follows Google Maps “Walking” Directions, Gets Hit, Sues.

Related Topics: Channel: Mobile | Google: Legal | Google: Maps & Local | Google: Mobile | Top News


About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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  • C.C.

    Yes it’s annoying, and I’d like to sue Google for the gas I wasted when it sent me in the wrong direction the other day, but now I just check Mapquest as well. And neither of them is as bad as my GPS!

  • Chad

    “One can certainly understand Rosenberg’s indignation at Google: ‘I relied on Google Maps and it almost got me killed.’” Seriously? I can’t. Whatever happened to personal accountability? If it directed her to walk across a bridge that had been washed out since the last time Google updated would she? And would THAT somehow be the company’s fault too?

    Google provides a valuable, FREE service with Maps, and also an obvious disclaimer regarding walkability. Just because an algorithm told her the shortest distance between two points doesn’t excuse her from making a judgement call when the shortest distance is obviously unsafe.

    By the way, I’d also recommend still looking both ways before stepping into a crosswalk, even when you have the light.

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