Pokémon Go with Caution: Liability Lawsuits Related to the Game

Posted By Caputo & Van Der Walde || 19-Aug-2016

The popular smartphone app game Pokémon Go has been hit with serious flak after its US release in early July 2016. Stories from the California coastline to the street of New York City have emerged about players getting injured while seeking the next pocket-monster. Other than a few incidents involving tech-savvy thieves using the app to set up robbery chokepoints, the majority of the accidents are caused by a player not paying attention to their surroundings and wandering into traffic, down stairs, or sometimes right off a cliff.

With so much apparent danger to be had while Pokémon Going, why aren’t stories of lawsuits filed against Niantic, the game’s developer, cropping up left and right? Liability laws and how they protect the company could be the answer.

Do Pokémon Go Players Assume Risk?

The first question that needs to be addressed in determining liability for Pokémon Go injury cases is whether or not players have an assumption of risk, which has successfully defended product manufacturers and similar companies in the past. Pokémon Go is the first augmented reality (AR) game to gain worldwide and momentous popularity. Before it was released, gamers never really had a reason to stare continually at their phones while simultaneously walking around city streets. Due to Pokémon Go offering a brand new experience, it might be possible to argue that players reasonably do not understand the risks of playing the game with inattention.

How Niantic Defends Itself

Niantic seemingly anticipated the trouble an AR could cause, especially when it was put into the hands of millions of players, for they set up a system of safety checks that watch their own backs more than the gamers’.

  • Right when Pokémon Go is launched, a colorful image takes up the entire screen that warns players to always pay attention to their surroundings.
  • The vast majority of critters a player can catch or items they can collect appear in suburban and urban environments and during the day; venture too far off the beaten path or go out at night and players see significantly less game interaction and objectives.
  • The game will shut itself off if it detects, through your phone’s GPS, that you are traveling too quickly, which could mean you were playing the game while driving.
  • Creatures and items can be collected while roughly 150 air-feet away, meaning stepping into someone’s property to catch a Pikachu is likely unnecessary.
  • A complete list of the game’s Terms and Conditions must be read at least once before players are allowed to venture out into the augmented Pokémon world.

Even if injured players had no reason to assume they were at risk while playing the game, Niantic has set up protocols and barriers between themselves and potential lawsuits. But it is important to realize that AR gaming is new. The rules and laws are less set-in-stone and more in a legal gray area. It is entirely possible that a court order could declare that Niantic is liable for all or some of the costs related to injuries players sustain while playing the game.

With this in mind, if you were hurt playing Pokémon Go in the Bay Area, contact Caputo & Van Der Walde. With our award-winning San Jose personal injury attorneys at your side, it may be possible to collect fair compensation for your injuries and damages. You can start with a free case evaluation today – tell us everything about what happened and we will figure out if you have grounds for a lawsuit!

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