Snapchat Wins Speed Filter Personal Injury Lawsuit
The Georgia Court of Appeals dismissed a personal injury lawsuit claim by a family against Snapchat in the Maynard v. Snapchat, Inc and Christal McGee’s case. “The complaint alleges that the injury was caused by McGee’s conduct of misusing the “Speed Filter” while driving at an excessive rate of speed. Thus, any liability on the part of Snapchat is predicated on McGee’s conduct,” according to the complaint.
In April 2015, then 18-year-old, Christal McGee, was driving her dad’s white Mercedes C230 at over 100 mph when she rammed into Wentworth Maynard’s Mitsubishi Outlander while using Snapchat’s Speed Filter.
The intense impact of the 107 mph collision caused Maynard’s car to crash into the barrier. The accident left Maynard with a traumatic brain injury and months of hospital confinement.
In September 2015, Wentworth and his wife, Karen Maynard, sued the teen driver and Snapchat. The plaintiff alleged that the speed filter “drove” Miss McGee to commit a hazardous action.
The Maynards also cited a fault in the social media tool’s design that ultimately led to the injuries, thereby classifying the lawsuit as a personal injury case.
Georgia law states that manufacturers of products, in this case Snapchat, have “a duty to exercise reasonable care in manufacturing its products to make products that are reasonably safe for intended or foreseeable uses.” However, the law does not impose any duty to prevent users from committing any offense by misusing such products.
Snapchat countered the lawsuit with a defense based on the grounds of Section 230 – which is a part of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) of 1996 that offers “immunity from liability for providers and users of an ‘interactive computer service’ who publish information provided by third-party users.” Section 230 also states that, “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
Based on this citation, the lower court ruled in favor of Snapchat, stating that the social media platform does not possess the duty to prevent any tort, which was affirmed by the Georgia Appeals Court in a 2-1 decision.
The Maynard’s lawyer, Naveen Ramachandrappa, is considering an appeal, stating that, “We disagree with the Judge’s ruling that the Communications Decency Act provides Snapchat with complete immunity for its negligent actions.”
A Snapchat spokesperson issued a statement declaring the social media company’s stance, “Snapchat does not encourage the misuse or inappropriate use of the app’s speed filter. The Speed Filter tool comes with the disclaimer, ‘Do NOT Snap and Drive,’ as a warning message for its community.”
As per a CDC report, the highest percentage of fatal auto crashes, especially due to inattentive driving, is caused by drivers under 20 years of age. And Snapchat’s largest user-base – 60% – comes under this 18 – 24 age demographic.
The Georgia Court of Appeals dismissal of the Snapchat lawsuit by Wentworth and his wife Karen Maynard is already holding a course of precedent in other states by making “driving while using Snapchat” illegal under the Distracted Driving Law. Oregon started enforcing the law in October 2017. Driving in Oregon while using any handheld device will cost you to between $260 – $1000 as a first offense, and $435 – $2000 for a second offense. The third offense comes with a 6-month jail sentence.