Released on July 6th in the US, Pokemon Go has grown into one of the leading video games of the year, encouraging young people to head out of their homes, chase after Pokemon in real-life environments, and take on a range of challenges.
Soon after the release of the game, however, there were waves of news reports, including right here in New York, regarding some of the dangers of this game as well as rules regarding trespassing and paying attention to your surroundings.
The game has since been updated, and adverse incidents are far from the norm. Nonetheless, one pervasive question has popped up: is Nintendo (the company behind Pokemon Go) liable for injuries that players sustain?
New York laws aren’t specifically clear, and in many cases of PokeGo injuries, there were other causes of the injury, such as a slip and fall or premises liability. For instance, if there’s an unmarked pothole or an unmaintained, and dangerous, piece of property, then the owner of the property may be liable. Nonetheless, if you were seriously injured, you may want to call the leading NYC personal injury attorneys at Hoffmaier & Hoffmaier.
Video Games and Liability
Pokemon Go is not the first video game to bring up the topic of video games and liability. Including seizures, torn ligaments, broken bones, and so on, injuries have occurred in the past, and video game companies such as Nintendo attempt to be as proactive as possible in terms of reducing injury (a classic example is the warning on the start screen for Wii games). One of the most famous lawsuits involving video games was Linda Sander’s lawsuit against Acclaim Entertainment, Capcom, Nintendo for America, and others. Sanders was the widow of a slain teacher in the Columbine massacre, and the lawsuit argued that violent video games were liable for the shooters’ actions.
Most lawsuits in the past have resulted in favor of video game companies, and in terms of Pokemon Go, you can find heaps of warnings (including in the Terms of Service) that seek to mitigate Nintendo’s liability for injuries that can occur during gameplay.
Furthermore, it may be important to look at whether or not an insurance company will cover injuries sustained during gameplay. In a health insurance claim, a major aspect of the claim will involve where and how the injury occurred, which leads to another question.
Lured to Dangerous Premises
If you’re playing Pokemon Go while skateboarding, and run into a parked car, then Pokemon Go’s warning, “Be alert at all times,” may be enough to absolve Nintendo from negligence and wrongdoing. However, remember that Pokemon Go invites players to search for Pokemon in real-life environments, and a particularly valuable Pokemon might be in some alleyway, within or around a building, and so on. As such, one common topic among NY personal injury attorneys is, “What is the game’s liability when individuals are injured after being lured to a dangerous premises?”
In the case, Kubert v. Best, a New Jersey court found Person A liable for sending texts to Person B, who Person A knew was driving. The New Jersey court stated that the text message sender was “electronically present” in aiding and abetting the driver’s unlawful use of a cell phone while driving. Using this case as an example, one could (potentially) argue that when Pokémon Go lures a player onto a dangerous premises, the game aids and abets the player to trespass. This is especially true if a premises owner gives Pokemon Go an explicit notice of danger, asking the game not to put Pokemon (and lure players) into the dangerous property.
Injured in an Accident? Call Hoffmaier & Hoffmaier Today
There are many unanswered legal questions regarding Pokemon Go as well as endless possibilities of mischievous action that could lead players to get hurt. For instance, imagine Pokestops at the home of a known sexual offender, or an important Pokemon sitting across the highway during rush hour. All in all, in terms of personal injury lawsuits, the game has created a new realm of legal questions, but one thing remains clear: it’s best to avoid injury and play the game in a smart manner, paying attention to your surroundings and understanding when you might be on public or private property.
If you would like to speak to one of our personal injury attorneys at NYC’s Hoffmaier & Hoffmaier, or if you were injured in an accident, call our Manhattan law office today at (212) 777-9400.