“Speed Filter” Car Wreck Lawsuit Against Snapchat Dismissed for a Second Time
Written by AskTheLawyers.com™
Snapchat recently faced a lawsuit over a car wreck allegedly caused by the use of their “speed filter” app; however, this case was tossed in the Georgia Court of Appeals for a second time.
When a teenage driver struck another vehicle going 107 miles per hour while using the speed filter app to track and snap her speed to friends, the driver of the other vehicle suffered permanent brain damage as a result of his injuries. When this case originally went to court in 2015, it alleged that both Snapchat Inc. and the teenage driver were responsible for the resulting damages. However, the claims against Snapchat were dismissed, only to be renewed and dismissed again with prejudice in October of 2020.
Snapchat’s “speed filter” is a content generation tool that visibly tracks the user’s speed at the time the video is recorded.
The driver responsible for the wreck was allegedly traveling at speeds of up to 113 miles per hour shortly before she collided with another vehicle pulling out of an apartment complex. Miraculously, the driver, her passengers, and the driver of the other vehicle all survived, but the other driver sustained a traumatic brain injury that is expected to affect the rest of his life. The big question of this lawsuit is whether or not Snapchat, the teenage driver, or both should be held responsible for the resulting wreck and the man’s lasting injuries.
Snapchat is a popular content creation tool, particularly for young people.
It is no secret that Snapchat’s primary audience and users are young people. With fun filters and content creation tools, users can send short videos or messages to each other with the knowledge that those videos and messages will disappear shortly after, unlike other video messaging applications.
However, while Snapchat can certainly be credited with attracting young people, can they be credited with encouraging young drivers to break the law or drive recklessly? Foreseeable misuse is often lumped in with product defects and occurs when a company fails to predict a risk that they reasonably should have predicted and accounted for. Considering that Snapchat issues a warning against “snapping and driving”, it seems evident that they did indeed foresee a risk but took basic measures to mitigate it.
When using the speed filter, a warning that reads “Please, DO NOT Snap and drive” pops up automatically, and again if the user exceeds 15 miles per hour.
While an application that is only useful while moving may foreseeably give drivers the idea of using it while driving at high speeds, the first direction offered by the filter advises directly against that kind of action. The main trouble with placing liability with Snapchat over use of the speed filter while driving is that the same concept would have to be applied to all other applications on a mobile device. While some tools might be particularly “fun” to use while driving, this does not mean they are safe to use, which is why hands-free cell phone use is the new legal requirement pretty much across the board.
The court concluded that Snapchat wasn’t liable; the filter was a tool, and like any tool, could be used for proper or improper purposes.
This decision to dismiss liability for the content creator application makes sense, especially when considering that the opposite decision would set a dangerous and complicated precedent. If Snapchat were held liable for any criminal act recorded using their application, where would the lawsuits end?
Providing a direct warning against using the filter while driving seems to be the best method of discouragement that Snapchat could reasonably provide without deleting the filter entirely. However, it has been suggested that eliminating the filter entirely might not be a bad idea. Regardless of the existence of the filter, holding an application liable for the actions of a user is a difficult argument to make, and even harder to win. Claims are still pending against the driver responsible for this devastating accident.