Woman Argues Google Maps Was Her Personal Advisor

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According to On Point News, the woman who alleged she was hit by a car after following walking directions provided by Google Maps is now arguing that Google can be held liable because it provided her with "individual advice."

Possible Dart Route As you may recall from this post, or even actual news reporting, the woman sued Google last year, alleging its directions were defective or negligently provided because they led her to a rural highway that she then tried to cross in the dark, with painful results. Google moved to dismiss, mainly on First Amendment grounds that it said precluded a cause of action for "negligent publication." Interestingly, it also asked the court to take judicial notice of the relevant police report, which it said showed that Plaintiff had been drinking for some time that night and had (quoting the report) "darted" into the path of the oncoming car.

In response, Plaintiff conceded that the First Amendment would normally preclude liability but argued that Google was not a "publisher" with respect to this information. "To publish is to provide information to the public at large," Plaintiff argued. "Google provided individual advice to Plaintiff." (Plaintiff didn't mention the police report.)

Nice try, Google responded (I'm paraphrasing), but just because Plaintiff selected certain specific information from what Google makes available to everybody does not mean it was providing expert advice to her personally. "Just because a user views only a single webpage of an online atlas or library," it pointed out, "does not mean the atlas [or library] publisher . . . communicated the information only to her." Nor could Plaintiff win under state law anyway, Google argued. "As to foreseeability of injury, it is not reasonably foreseeable that someone who obtains a suggested walking route from Google Maps will abandon common sense and walk in front of oncoming traffic while inebriated."

People do abandon common sense every day, so that's certainly foreseeable, but overall I think Google has the better of this argument.