A woman from Tarentum, Pennsylvania has cautioned parents to not allow their children to play the popular mobile phone game Pokemon GO. This was after her daughter, 15 year-old Autumn Diesroth, was struck by a motor vehicle in a busy intersection while playing the game in her smartphone. Diesroth, a high school student at Highlands High School, was attempting to cross the intersection of Ross Street and East Ninth Avenue at around 5:20 in the afternoon when the accident occurred. The mother, Tracy Nolan, blamed the popular game for the mishap her daughter went through.
“The Pokemon game took her across a major highway a 5 o’clock in the evening, which is rush hour. No game is worth a child’s life,” according to Nolan. “Parents, don’t let your kids play this game because you don’t want to go through what I went through last night. I really thought I was losing my daughter,” she added.
Pokemon GO is a game that can be highly-addictive, due to its nature of using real surroundings via the GPS and clock of your smartphone. The game then synchronizes its data with your current data (location and time) and makes “Pokemon” or digital monsters appear on the screen. You as a player would then have to catch these Pokemon in order to progress further in the game.
Aside from being addictive, it can also be very dangerous. Legal issues and questions now surround this game, with even Nolan wanting to sue Nintendo, the owner of Pokemon rights. The question is, are Nintendo and the game developers legally liable for crimes or offenses committed by those playing the game?
In the case of Diesroth, she claimed that the game forced her to cross the busy intersection where she was ultimately hit. However, since she was crossing the street with on her own liberty, in spite of a well-marked and visible pedestrian crosswalk, she and her mother are not likely to have a very strong case. Perhaps a very good and highly experienced personal injury attorney would be helpful, but it would be very difficult to prove that the car driver was at fault. Incidentally, the car driver stopped after the accident and helped Diesroth until she was able to be brought to the hospital.
However, there is already a lawsuit leveled against Nintendo and Niantic Labs, which is the developer of the game. This was after a man from New Jersey claimed that several people trespassed on his private property. According to the suit, at least five people knocked on the door of the complainant and wanted to go inside the property into the backyard in order to catch Pokemon, without permission of the owner. The plaintiff claimed that the game developer placed virtual Pokemon Gyms and “Pokestops” on his property without seeking for his consent first, thereby interfering with his quality of life and making profit by using his personal property.
Niantic has issues terms of service prior to users playing the game by placing warnings and cautions regarding public safety and basically saying they are not liable for any accidents or offenses committed while playing the game. This disclaimer, which players must agree to, says that no one can enter private property without permission.
What are lawyers’ advice regarding this game? Be aware of your surroundings while playing the game, in order to avoid accidents, nuisances, and even incidents such as the New Jersey lawsuit above. At the end of the day, Pokemon GO is still a game to be enjoyed, as long as users play it properly.
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