Woman Sues Google, Claiming Map Gave “Dangerous Directions”

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This is an example of why contingency fees do more damage than good to our legal system. A Utah woman has sued Google (click here to read the complaint) for giving her what she claims were dangerous directions, alleging that Google was reckless, negligent and careless. The woman was a pedestrian on a road where she says she was injured by a motorist while following an online walking route that she had downloaded through Google maps. The route that Google maps told the woman to follow was a rural road without sidewalks. She also claims in the lawsuit that Google was negligent because it should have known that the road was unsuited to pedestrian traffic and because it failed to warn her of the dangers of the walking path.

While I certainly don’t want to belittle this woman’s injuries, I don’t think that Google is the proper defendant and should be brought into the lawsuit. Sure, they have deep pockets (deeper than the motorist who struck her, who is also a defendant) but that isn’t reason enough to sue someone. You can’t claim that an online provider of maps should have warned you of the dangers of walking on a rural road without sidewalks…that danger should be evident to you the moment you step foot on the road! That is like saying the manufacturer of a knife is negligent because someone got cut while chopping vegetables. There are some dangers so evident that you don’t need to warn, and walking on a road without sidewalks is one of those. The fact that she got struck and injured is unfortunate, but doesn’t diminish her own negligence.

You also can’t expect an online provider of maps to verify the accuracy of each map provided. With the plaintiff’s logic, Rand McNally would also be negligent because a road was torn up and someone drove that route anyway since it wasn’t indicated on the map and was injured in some way…maybe in an accident caused by the rough road conditions. The map maker can’t be negligent for the information provided and the plaintiff’s negligence in not verifying the route supersedes any negligence that Google might have.

Although contingency fees open up the court system to people who would otherwise be without access to justice, they are also ripe for abuse, as is the case here. I think the attorneys should be ashamed for filing the claim against Google, and should also  be sanctioned for filing a frivolous claim.

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Discussion

  1. Layne Jeffery  June 16, 2010

    Very good points, but I think you stated the obvious solution best in your final sentence, “…should also be sanctioned for filing a frivolous claim.” That should include both the plaintiff and the attorney. The lack of common sense seems to be growing in our ranks, both in terms of those of us who advocate for clients and with those that sit on the bench. Perhaps we need to refocus on what we are being subjected to in our law schools? If memory serves me, the adjunct professors seemed to have a good grasp of reality and taught based upon practical principles and logical, real world experience. Whereas, those that were tenured, seemed all too often grounded in a utopian reality based strictly on their inability to practice law. After all, the ends justify the means…or do the means justify the ends?

    Interesting post Karen.

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    • Karen Lundquist  June 16, 2010

      Yes, Layne I agree that there is a disconnect between what is taught in the real world and what is taught in law school. However, I don’t think that law school has anything to do with the abuse of the legal system as in this case. We are subjected all the time to this idea that you can sue to get some easy money from the defendant…they will probably want to settle is the thinking. The plaintiffs have no risk in that they have no expenses and no costs. Why not file a claim? The judge who filed a $7 million dollar lawsuit against the dry cleaners, the burglars who sue after getting injured while trying to break into someone’s house…on some level these cases sink in and make some attorneys and their clients think that it is a way to make an easy buck.

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