Woman sues Google after being hit by a car while using walking directions

route4-500x489.pngA woman named Lauren Rosenberg is suing Google for $100,000 after she walked onto a highway and got hit by a car while following Google Maps directions on her Blackberry. She disregarded, or didn't see, the warning that says: "Walking directions are in beta. Use caution - This route may be missing sidewalks or pedestrian paths." She also apparently didn't use common sense.

From Fortune:

Defendant Google, through its "Google Maps" service provided Plaintiff Lauren Rosenberg with walking directions that led her out onto Deer valley Drive, a.k.a. State Route 224, a rural highway with no sidewalks, and a roadway that exhibits motor vehicles traveling at high speeds, that is not reasonably safe for pedestrians.

The Defendant Google expects uses of the walking map site to rely on the accuracy of the walking directions given....

As a direct and proximate cause of Defendant Google's careless, reckless, and negligent providing of unsafe directions, Plaintiff Laren Rosenberg was led onto a dangerous highway, and was thereby stricken by a motor vehicle...

Woman Follows Google Maps "Walking" Directions, Gets Hit, Sues [SearchEngineLand via Fortune]

Update: Danny Sullivan, who discovered and covered the story, has an interesting follow-up about how mainstream news outlets avoided mentioning his scoop in its own rewritten coverage. I've replaced our link to Fortune with a link to his original item. -- Rob


  1. “These directions are for planning purposes only. You may find that construction projects, traffic, weather, or other events may cause conditions to differ from the map results, and you should plan your route accordingly. You must obey all signs or notices regarding your route.”

    1. Well that’s what american litigation is all about. How do you think all those strange warning notices get placed on products? For instance a lawnmower warning ‘Do not use as a hedge trimmer’. Someone else did something stupid and sued.

    2. Hi friend and welcome to the United States. Our customs may seem strange but I assure you they are well established.

    3. That’s an everyday occurrence in U.S. courts. Someone owes you money because of your stupidity.

  2. Are you kidding me? This is like saying that the road map you were using did not have speed limits listed on them. Thus you got pulled over by the cops and lost your license for doing 100mph. So your suing the map maker because the information was not listed on the map. USE COMMONSENSE!!! This lady should get nothing and pay GOOGLE’s lawyers costs.

  3. “I drove my f**king car into a lake. Why, you may ask, did I do this? Well, because of a machine. A machine told me to drive into a lake. And I did it. I did it because I trusted Ryan’s precious technology. And look where it got me?… I tell you one thing, those gift baskets never endangered anybody else’s life.”

    – Michael Scott

  4. Shame. She should be suing Google for not giving worse instructions. As it is they’ve denied her a Darwin Award.

  5. I wonder if she decided to sue Google before or after she was hit by the car.

    Can someone with a legal background explain if Google have any liability at all over things they’ve said (illustrated, even) on a website for the public. What is the principle (if any) behind allowing people to be sued for damages caused by following general advice?

  6. Instead of calling her an idiot, why not address the real problem of why there are SO MANY pedestrian-unfriendly places in our country? Who was the maniac that decided sidewalks were an unnecessary frill, that just got in the way of “motor vehicles traveling at high speeds”???

    1. Are you kidding me!? If you find a place unsafe to walk, then don’t use the walk way, paved or not. It is called using your commonsense! Let’s stop playing victim here.

    2. REALLY? How about finding a road with a sidewalk!!! Or better yet…… NOT walk in the street. EPIC FAIL!!

    3. .. the woman is called an idiot because she IS. What happened to personal responsibility in this country, or world!?

      I cannot wait to see how MUCH Google gets from her (blood from a turnip and all that .. )in frivilous lawsuit filing.

    4. “Anon • #8 • 10:49 AM Monday, May 31, 2010 • Reply Instead of calling her an idiot, why not address the real problem of why there are SO MANY pedestrian-unfriendly places in our country? Who was the maniac that decided sidewalks were an unnecessary frill, that just got in the way of “motor vehicles traveling at high speeds”???”

      A sidewalk for a rural highway? First, when did we start to put a sidewalk along highway? If a car accident and car went out highway hit a pedestrian, another law suit?

      Second, putting sidewalk on rural roads using public money when it is seldomly used doesn’t make any common sense and best use of tax payers’ money!

  7. when you ask for directions between north america and europe, didnt they use to have joke directions that said swim from NYC to France?

  8. She should have also named Blackberry/RIM in her suit, because they maliciously did not display the warning message displayed on the Google map.

    Walking directions are in beta. Use caution – This route may be missing sidewalks or pedestrian paths.

    And the state for failing to provide sidewalks. And the manufacturer of her shoes for not making them faster. And the bumper manufacturer for not adding padding. And God for making her stupid.

  9. Car clearly didn’t hit her hard enough.

    #6 Currently in getting directions from San Francisco to Tokyo it says that I should kayak 11,000km across the Pacific. (But I get to stop for coffee in Hawaii.) Wonder if I can sue for the cost of a kayak.

    1. That is awesome, I just got directions from Sydney to Tokto Station, and it included instructions to Kayak across the Pacific.

      Time to get a Kayak and a good lawyer!

  10. Litigation is way out of hand when someone’s lawyer thinks this will fly in a courtroom. It should be thrown out in pre-trial hearings.

  11. What a waste of everyones time!
    For a second I thought it was Orly Taitz as the woman who is suing.

  12. Don’t bet against her, though…remember that woman who won a settlement after she set her RV on cruise control, went back to cook lunch, and – duh? – veered off the road?

  13. oh boy!! lets see, in 1978 whilst using my sony walkman, i was struck by a car and broke both my legs, i was inna wheelchair for 6 months! then, going down a hill in san francisco whilst in the wheelchair, the chair sped out of control unexpectly, and i was hit by a car again! the car tryed to stop, but the breaks on the ford pinto failed, as a result, the pinto blew up scorching my legs to a well done crispy texture. Can I sue Sony, the City of San Francisco, the wheelchair manufacturer, and Ford motor company for negligence? after all, im crippled, and have been trying to get disability for years, but the social security administration keeps denying me benefits! can i sue the federal gubbermint for that also? oh boy!

  14. Stupid is as stupid does. Unfortunately with our courts tendancy to not hold individuals’ stupidity responsible for their own stupidity Google will be dishing out lots of money.

  15. It’s too bad she didn’t die. I’m not saying she needs to. I’m just saying that if she had no one could have known to try and blame Google AND we wouldn’t all know how dimwitted this person is.

  16. Here’s hoping this idiot’s suit gets tossed for triviality, and then Google gives here a good spankin’ of a countersuit.

  17. News of this ridiculous lawsuit is causing me stress. I think I’ll sue her for the duress she caused me. ;-)

    I wish this was a new low, but unfortunately this level of stupid has been around awhile.

  18. Since everyone here is taking one side, I will provide the other side.
    If a huge multi-national corporation making billions of dollars a month sent out instructions to hundreds of millions of people to walk into traffic, would you be surprised if at least %.000001 of them made a mistake and did so? Should a corporation instruct you to do something that can kill you? And then in fine print say, “warning these instructions might kill you”.
    Humans make errors. If you tell 100 million people to do something, a certain percentage of them will mess it up. You, reading this, make mistakes too. It is just natural. So with that knowledge, giant corporations should not instruct people to do dangerous things, because a small percentage of people will either not think it through, or not pay attention, or make a mistake. And then they will die.

    And regarding that McDonald’s coffee thing, the woman received third degree burns over 6% of her body. She had to have skin grafts and was hospitalized for 8 days. She had to receive treatment for the next two years. She was not driving. She was in the passenger seat and parked. That coffee was insanely hot. It was like holding a cup of acid. Which normally you would wear protective gear for, but no one expects an old lady to have to put on protective gear to drink coffee! Who would expect that you are holding in your hand a cup of acid that can burn through your skin and bankrupt you and destroy your life. So next time you cite the McDonald’s coffee lady as an example of personal irresponsibility, just try to educate yourself first.

    1. not everything in life should require a warning. there are certain things that are just “basic” knowledge, i dont care how inept a person might be. walking along the side of a rural highway, which i’m sure most people have not done in there lives, while has been required on myself before, is ill advised, ALWAYS. blind corners, high speeds, narrow shoulders, and almost all of them are never in a straight line. anyone living in an area as such knows the dangers, and more then likely has killed a few animals on those same roads. her story is shotty, and does not require anyone to defend ignorance. defending the ignorant is as intelligent as building a neighborhood in a flood plane, eventually, your going to hate yourself for it.

    2. Most things are harmful if used improperly. Warnings can only be carried so far; ultimately you must rely on the judgment of users to be reasonable.

      We are taught how to safely cross a street at a young age. Only cross at crosswalks. Obey signs and signals. Look both ways. That sort of thing. If a gas station attendant gave you directions and you found the street was barricaded, would you just walk on through? Would you blame the attendant if you did, but fell into a giant sinkhole? Some roads are not suitable for crossing. Google knows this, and knows that sometimes their algorithms for finding paths are based on incomplete information, so they warn you to use this for planning only. Maps have errors, roads change, things break and get repaired. When she saw on the map that there was a big road, she should have used the satellite photos (or street view, if available) to see if the route was walkable.

      And about the hot coffee lawsuit- the coffee was not too hot. It could not have been. Ok, maybe it was too hot for taste purposes, but as far as causing burns being “too hot” wouldn’t matter. The optimal way to brew coffee is to have the water at 195-205 degrees Farenheit. It should enjoyed immediately, and not be allowed to cool. If it will be awhile before you drink it, it should be kept at 180-185 degrees, and never reheated. So says the National Coffee Association (http://www.ncausa.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=71). Since 205 degrees is therefore an appropriate temperature at which to serve coffee, and since the hottest temperature coffee can possibly be is 212 degrees, coffee simply cannot be “too hot” in any meaningful sense.

      If a customer does not know that coffee is hot, or that most people make coffee at home by boiling water and serve it without waiting too long, I fail to see how that is anyone’s fault but their own. Yes, what happened to her sucks. Still her fault.

    3. If they die, natural selection at work. I am sorry but one must always take personal responsibility for their actions. When I follow another’s direction, if I feel it is unsafe, I return the way I came.

  19. Does technology allow for stupid people or do stupid people warrant the need for new technology?

    The answer is both but I don’t think it is ethical to make technology for stupid people.

  20. Does technology allow for stupid people or do stupid people warrant the need for new technology?

    The answer is both but I don’t think it is ethical to make technology for stupid people.

  21. I suppose there is no precedence set for suing map makers such as following routes via Thomas Guides, AAA maps, or GPS systems in cars, pda’s, cellphones, or online internet directional maps. This may very well be the first case of texting-while-walking, a distraction if done in an automobile considered just as dangerous are drunk driving and will land the offender in court for most states.

  22. Being sued is not a consequense of doing something wrong.
    Being sued is a consequense of having money.

  23. Wouldn’t it be great if we could sue the government for all its stupid advice.
    We would all be rich!

  24. I live in Park City. There’s a beautiful walking path along Deer Valley Drive directly across the street from that street view shot. In fact she would have had to physically cross over it to get to the other side of that street. Which makes her a special brand of stupid.

    1. I missed the part where they said which side of the street she started from. I was trying to find enough details about where she was and what instructions she received so I could put myself in that position and try to imagine whether I would be tempted to do something risky rather than turn around and go home.

      1. I was referring to the angle in the street view picture from the article. And that may or may not be exactly where it happened. So you’re right, there’s not quite enough detail. However, anyone crossing onto that stretch of Deer Valley Drive from Old Town Park City (which is the most likely scenario for a tourist using Google Maps) would have had to walk across a small overpass that crosses over the Rail Trail, which for those who don’t know is a beautiful walking path along a stream through the middle of Park City.

        To make it even more obvious, this stretch of Deer Valley Drive is 4 lanes across with a “suicide lane” in the middle. The speed limit is 45mph (i think) and of course most Utahns are doing well over that. There are no sidewalks, no street-level pedestrian access points and not much shoulder. She really should have looked around and said… “Hmmm… maybe I’m in the wrong place!”

        I’m hoping the court rules it a common sense fail.

  25. It is disgusting that a case like this even makes it to a court. The lawyer that took the case should be disbarred for wasting everyone’s time.

    1. Why should a lawyer be punished for this? She could have gone to court without a lawyer altogether. The lawyer just took the client and is doing his job to make a quick buck. The client is the one wasting people’s time.

  26. Common sense and CYA will lose her the case. Plain and simple.

    The first item in my “Walking directions” on my phone contains:

    “Walking directions (beta): use caution.”

    Google has always given various warnings on their directions provided by the maps service (from web):

    “Walking directions are in beta.
    Use caution – This route may be missing sidewalks or pedestrian paths.”

    “These directions are for planning purposes only. You may find that construction projects, traffic, weather, or other events may cause conditions to differ from the map results, and you should plan your route accordingly. You must obey all signs or notices regarding your route.”

    In fact, for a while, Google did not even allow using their map data and services on GPS based applications for providing directions, probably so they could make sure they had all the CYA they needed.

    If she chose to ignore the warnings and throw common sense out the window, or perhaps just be too lazy to find a safe route, then the burden is on her to bear the responsibility.

    1. @rrh: Beta means the software is still in the process of testing, which means it is not perfect.

  27. So, here’s a serious question: How much negligence can you get away with by labeling your software service “beta”?

    There’s a longstanding principle in the US and other first-world nations that by offering a service or product, you are stating that the good or service is fit for use. In other words, if you’re running a restaurant, you’re implying that the food you serve is edible; if you sell cars, you’re implying that the cars will run.

    It seems to me that, according to this principle, if you offer walking directions, there’s an implicit guarantee that those directions are usable for walking, and if they turn out not to be, there’s grounds for a negligence suit. So, how much of Google’s ass is covered by that “in beta” warning?

    Another couple of things to keep in mind: We don’t know how far Ms Rosenberg would have had to walk to avoid walking on that highway. It’s possible that Google’s directions caused her to commit to a particular route, and that walking back and taking a different route would have taken a long time and a great deal of walking. Which she would have had to do without the benefit of directions, because Google’s directions had just been shown to be useless.

    Also, we’re getting this story from Fortune Magazine, which is an organ of the corporate business community, which has long had a policy of trying to convince Americans that there’s an epidemic of frivolous lawsuits.

    1. “How much negligence can you get away with by labeling your software service “beta”? ”

      It varies by the severity of the outcome and complexity of the task.

      I guess you need a chart plotting “common sense” versus “negligence” and ask the jury to vote with their individual inputs.

      The route given by Google came with no stated performance standard or warranty. Google has as much liability in this case as any random stranger asked for walking directions to the same destination.

      If this was medical diagnoses software that gave incorrect outputs yeah, labeling it beta would be a hard pass to get by a jury. A free service for walking routes that contributed to a chain of events leading to an injury must be weighed with the lack of common sense the plaintiff exhibited. If my margarita recipe compels you to stick your hand into the operating blender I say tough love “Fingers.”

    2. “There’s a longstanding principle in the US and other first-world nations that by offering a service or product, you are stating that the good or service is fit for use.”

      This doesn’t apply to a free service like Google Maps.

      Also, the use of Google Maps was clearly defined by Google when they wrote the disclaimer about walking directions.

    3. It seems to me that, according to this principle, if you offer walking directions, there’s an implicit guarantee that those directions are usable for walking, and if they turn out not to be, there’s grounds for a negligence suit.

      I think a good comparison would be if you publish a cookbook, and someone gets food poisoning after preparing a recipe from it because they didn’t wash their hands before cooking, is it grounds for a negligence suit?

      I’m a technical writer. I write instructions on a daily basis. My team also reviews support requests from users of our software product to see where we need to improve the instructions. In addition to people who obviously haven’t read the manual, we see people who have read it and blatantly disregarded warnings. We even got feedback from a user who said they read everything except paragraphs marked Note! and Caution! because he considered those optional. There is only so much we can do to ensure that users read and follow the instructions. I think the person following the instructions has to assume at least some responsibility for following them sensibly.

      1. Funny that you mention it. The stuff labeled ‘Note’, ‘Caution’ or ‘Danger’ is the content i also frequently skip in manuals, as it mostly contains common sense precautions.

        For laughs, i looked at a manual for my portable phone again. First page: (Labeled: Danger!) – Don’t phone and drive, don’t recharge unrechargeable batteries, don’t burn, don’t use in the showers and put in the batteries with the correct polarity. Next pages contain information on how to navigate the menu, which, the phone being by Siemens, is totally unusable without the manual. In between: ‘Danger! – do not insert anything into phone, do not put into water’. More pages of menu-drudgery (seriously, Siemens must have hired former maze creators). ‘Attention!: If number is input incorrectly, no connection or an unwanted connection will be made’. More pages of valuable information follow. ‘Attention!: Do not loose your PIN, otherwise you will have to contact customer care to re-access your phone’.

        Literally anything except the Stuff preceded by Attention!/Danger! was worthy of my attention…

    4. I imagine the “beta” thing is less important than the fact that the service is free and clearly marked as “for planning only.” If Miss Cleo can tell you your future and give advice based on nothing just by saying “for entertainment purposes only,” I think Google’s (much more useful) service should be in the clear. The law may or may not agree, I have no idea.

      Also, Google’s maps and directions come with other useful features that may have prevented this. Satellite photos (and street view, when available) can show you how big and busy a road is. Frankly, I always check them before walking in an unfamiliar neighborhood, just to see if it’s the kind of place I’d feel safe walking in. What if she’d been robbed because Google told her to walk through a high-crime area? If she committed to a certain route, with no back-up plan, based on a single internet search, then so what? She still had a choice: turn back, and reschedule whatever she was going to. She chose instead to make walk on a highway.

    5. You’re actually defending this person? I burned myself on my oven baking potatoes, but the internet said to cook at 350 degrees, I didn’t realize that could be dangerous grabbing them with my bare hands. This ability to sue for your own stupidity must cost companies millions of dollar annually those costs are then passed down to the consumer. People need to take a little bit of responsibility for their own actions, before we turn into one big “Idiocracy”

  28. There is plenty of precedent in suing map makers for incorrect maps, as so much of mapping is a legal issue, particularly in relation to property and marine navigation. If you forget to put that reef on the map, you can’t fob it off on the navigator in a court of law.

    However, companies that produce street maps usually can insulate themselves from these kind of lawsuits by disclaiming responsibility for the accuracy of the data, which is almost always derived from government sources.

  29. Probably the person has been pretty seriously injured and has a case against a driver who veered off the road and the lawyer is just trying to cast a wider net. The road seems to have shoulder and grass to the side or more. She was probably not on the road or that close to it.

    Keep in mind what you see on a Blackberry or I-phone is less than what you see on a laptop or full computer.

    I see the distance was some miles. Not many would walk that far, but joggers go that far.

  30. The question is whether it will get thrown out in court or if Google doesn’t want to spend the money to hire a lawyer to bring the case to court long enough for it to get thrown out. Cases like these aren’t supposed to go to court. People bring them in the hopes of a quick and easy “go away” settlement. And, well, it works.

  31. I saw Sex and the City 2, because BET.com gave it I good review. Now I am suing BET.com for emotional damage, because my soul is dead.

  32. What makes me sad is thinking that this type of thing might prevent Google or other companies from offering potentially useful services before they are 100% foolproof (which may turn out to be never in the case of some services).

    Sure, Google Maps has sometimes told me to take a U-turn in the middle of busy downtown multi-lane streets. This is obviously a bad idea. Does that mean that I and everyone else should be prevented from using Google Maps for fear of litigation? Let’s hope the judge/jury also see the potential damage to innovation if the plaintiff wins.

  33. My friends are on tour, walking across Massachusetts, right now, with Google directions. ( walkingtour2010.blogspot.com ). They mentioned that disclaimer in the first post on the blog. It made them chuckle; They’re clearly not the litigious type.

  34. Makes me wonder what would have happened if someone had followed Google Earth’s old directions for London to Washington.

    1. Drive here/there
    2. Swim 3000 miles
    3. Drive to finish.

  35. These are the best comments ever. She had a big FAIL and we get the big WIN. I love stupid people.

  36. My GPS never advises me when traffic signals turn red or green. Could I then just ignore them, and upon my first accident from running a red light just sue the GPS manufacturer?

    I hope this woman doesn’t get a nickel and has to cover Google’s court costs.

  37. The money-makes-big-target factor is what has kept a lot of technology developed by big companies from being applied in medicine.

  38. Down here in Wellington NZ people got told to walk through a bus tunnel. Enough idiots do that as it is.

    Protests seem to have fixed that, but now the route seems to avoid the main tunnel, which while being an unpleasant walk does I think have a walkway.

  39. My take? If the woman is “smart enough” to use Google Maps AND figure out the rather complex process of obtaining a lawyer, completing the required paperwork, and coming up with the idea of actually SUING GOOGLE….then she should flipping know how to cross the road.

    One of my favorite quotes of all time: “The only difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits.”


  40. Well I once walked across a highway after following Google Map instructions, and I’m here OK, as you can tell. Then again. I looked both ways before crossing, to make sure that there was nothing coming, and there was an area in the middle of the highway where I could stop and wait for cars to pass! My eyes, they’re wonders of the world!
    Seriously, did she just keep walking across the road, looking at her phone? Didn’t the sound of cars warn her to the presence of cars? Arrgh, it boggles the mind.

  41. In suburban NYC, there is a highway exit that goes over train tracks. For some reason, GPS devices get a little wonky around there and tell people to turn onto train tracks. There have been three car vs. train accidents in the last couple of years (fortunately no injuries or fatalities).

    just goes to show that you can’t cure stupid.

  42. We europeans just laugh at it. The case just points out how incredibly stupid a human being can be. I do hope, this ridiculous “american type” cases will not become a part of the european law -suit system.

    There are dozens of jokes about cases like this, for instance, if you buy a household thing, (let’s say a knife), there should be 2 pages of a disclaimer just for an american buyer. You’ll never know, an american can cut his throat trying to swallow it for example and if there is no disclaimer for that spesific case, he would obviously sue the retailer or the knife’ manufacturer.

    There should be a practice of countersueing in such cases because of disturbing court’s work without any background

  43. People like this woman are why my big-screen TV arrived with a big sticker on the screen that read, “NOT TO BE TAKEN INTERNALLY”.

  44. Google maps once directed me to turn left onto a freeway and then do a u-turn. This would have been fatal – I didn’t do it.

    Some of their directions are bad but they provide the best directions they possibly can, the only alternative is shutting down the service until they can be sure the automatic system will never make a mistake – ie indefinitely. Do you really want something that’s insanely useful to get shut down because one idiot thought her GPS was infallible and tried to cover six lanes of high speed traffic on foot?

    Use some common sense. Nothing is perfect and if you can see with your own eyes you’ll die doing something, don’t do it because it appears on a GPS screen. F**K!

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