Injured Pedestrian vs. Google Maps

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It's a simple plot: A woman gets walking directions on Google Maps. Google directs her toward a rural highway with no sidewalk. Woman walks down highway and is struck by vehicle. She turns around and sues Google for $100,000 plus punitive damages. Poor form on her part? The court of public opinion seems to think so

The woman's name is Laura Rosenberg. She's a California native who accessed Google Maps on her Blackberry while in Utah. In her defense, normally Google warns users that "this route maybe missing sidewalks" in a message like this:

But the message doesn't appear on PDAs or cell phones, which is what Rosenberg was using. Regardless, commentators aren't cutting her any slack:

  • Unbelievable, writes Dean Wilson at TechEye: "Rosenberg is an adult. If there was no footpath to walk on, she should have had the common sense not to walk in the middle of the road. Even if Google Maps provides inaccurate directions that may lead to a more dangerous route, it's up the person themselves to actually walk it. If someone was to ask a passerby how to get from A to B and then got knocked down following those directions, would that helpful person be prosecuted? Google didn't exactly lead her into quicksand."
  • How Could She Not Obey Almighty Google? quips Chris Matyszczyk at CNET: "In our world of increasingly diminished responsibility, might someone actually be in a position to prove that we are all now subjects of the Googleplex? Those Googlies have filmed our streets, made records of our Wi-Fi data, followed us around the Web until they could offer us ads that are "good" for us. Shouldn't we admit whose the supreme power truly is?"
  • Shame on You, Rosenburg, grimaces John Cadogan at Car Advice: "Let's just hope the lawsuit is defeated. Otherwise a tsunami of crackpot claims will ensue. I mean, while I'm all for protecting pedestrians, doesn't anyone who is an adult bear some responsibility for judging the risk you face when you do something as basic as walk down the street? Isn't proceeding into a dangerous situation a choice one can elect not to make? Would it be reasonable to sue Google for the burns you suffer if a web page tells you to put your damn head in a furnace?"

[hat tip: Danny Sullivan, who first broke the story]

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.