A teen driver with passengers in her car and a Snapchat filter that tells you how fast you are traveling. What could possibly go wrong?
18-year-old Christal McGee was driving home from work with several friends in the car in an Atlanta suburb last year. One of the passengers was pregnant. McGee opened up her cell phone and Snapchat app as she was driving and then accelerated to speeds as high as 113 miles per hour in a 55 mph zone as she watched the app. McGee was trying to post her photo on the Snapchat app as she crashed into an Uber driver’s vehicle, landing both of them in the hospital.
Uber driver Maynard Wentworth was hospitalized for months and emerged with permanent brain damage according to the lawsuit filed against McGee and Snapchat. McGee posted another photo of herself to Snapchat as she was being loaded into the ambulance with a neck brace, blood dripping down her face, and a twinkle in her eye.
You would think that someone at Snapchat would have said, “Hold on a minute, this may be a really bad idea…” before releasing this speed filter for their app. Apparently not. Even worse, Wentworth’s lawsuit alleges that Snapchat knew that car wrecks were happening while people were driving and using their filter at high speeds, and they did not remove the filter or make any effort to restrict its use while driving.
A “Distracted Driving” Perfect Storm
Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of auto accidents. Common behaviors that contribute to crashes include using cell phones while driving (check), using social media while driving (check), and driving with passengers in the vehicle (check). What else went wrong? Teen drivers are significantly more likely to be involved in an auto accident than adults because of inexperience and immaturity. The accident happened at night when crashes are more likely to occur, and McGee was traveling almost 60 miles per hour over the speed limit.
The Claims Against Snapchat Were Dismissed by the Court
As shocking as the teen’s behavior was, I am floored that Snapchat would release such an app in the first place, much less not fix it as soon as they realized the extremely dangerous situation created by their app filter. Earlier this year, however, the court dismissed the claims against Snapchat, stating that Snapchat has immunity under the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which 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.”
The speed filter has nothing to do with information published by another information content provider. Snapchat released an app that had no apparent purpose other than to encourage people to drive as fast as they could while simultaneously using their app. If that wasn’t clear to them in the beginning, it surely became clear to them once people started crashing their cars. The court’s reasoning to apply immunity through the Communications Decency Act for this kind of negligence is unfathomable. Snapchat’s failure to take responsibility and correct the dangerous situation they have created is equally unfathomable.
If you or someone you know has been injured in an auto accident, schedule a free consultation with a Myrtle Beach personal injury lawyer on the Axelrod team. Call us at (843) 916-9300 or fill out our contact form today.