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Looking a bit more at that Snapchat distracted driving case

Previously, we began discussing a recent case in which a court dismissed a claim against the developer of the app Snapchat for its alleged role in an accident caused by a teen driver using the app’s “speed filter” feature. The teen driver, according to sources, had been using that feature while travelling at a high rate of speed.

The accident victims in this case attempted to argue that Snapchat had a legal duty to remove  or restrict access to the speed filter feature because its contribution to injuries and fatalities was predictable, especially given that various accidents involving the speed filter have been reported. 

As it turns out, the lawsuit was dismissed on the basis of the Communications Decency Act, which grants immunity to providers and users of interactive computer services for the statements of other content providers. The law has been used to keep businesses out of trouble for the content they publish online, and was applied in this case to keep Snapchat out of trouble for the reckless actions of one of its users.

One of the reasons for the decision was apparently that holding Snapchat liable in this case would have opened up the possibility that it would set a precedent for any party who could in some way contribute to distracted driving to be held liable to those who are harmed by distracted drivers. Whether that argument would be accepted by other courts is debatable.

At some level, the question of causation must have been in mind in this case, and particularly whether the defendant’s actions were too far removed from the plaintiff’s harm to constitute proximate cause.

We’ll say more about this issue in a future post. 

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