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Pokemon Go Accidents, Injuries & Lawsuits

Pokémon Go is a smartphone game app released this summer by Niantic, Inc., in partnership with Nintendo, Ltd and The Pokémon Company with players competing to hunt virtual Pokémon pocket monster characters. It has become the most popular mobile game ever. While meant for fun, the App has raised numerous safety issues.

Some are questioning whether the game’s location and mapping features are luring players into danger. This could mean walking into non-public areas, dark alleys, closed businesses, crime areas, and even possibly near registered sexual offenders. It has been reported that some players have been robbed, assaulted, stabbed and shot. One teen stumbled upon a dead body. Pokémon players also have been known for falling down stairs, falling on train tracks, walking into traffic, getting hit by cars, and worse, playing Pokémon while driving.

Some players are resorting to vandalism. The Broward Palm Beach New Times has reported that some Pokémon players recently vandalized the Morikami Museum, a well-known, local Japanese garden. Other players, often kids, are staying out late, wandering around past curfew, and are disturbing the peace.

Are Pokémon Go’s Creators Potentially Liable for Injuries?

Legal Experts believe that it is just a matter of time before augmented reality App companies start facing personal injury lawsuits, but time will tell if they will be held liable.

According to GeekWire, the Pokémon Go game uses two mechanisms to limit its liability. The first is familiar to every player — a warning screen at the opening of the app. The second limitation on liability is a more complete set of Terms and Conditions (T&C’s) that most players only swipe through in a rush to gain access to the game. But can the T&C’s fully limit liability? It may limit liability to the player who agrees to the terms, but what about the innocent 3rd party. For instance, if someone is struck and severely injured by a person driving and playing Pokémon Go, can that person sue the creators? If the creators know that injuries are occurring as a result of drivers playing the game while driving, do they now have a duty to protect those 3rd persons as a result of a foreseeable “zone of risk” that Pokémon Go has created, globally?

In addition to potential future personal injury lawsuits, there is now a lawsuit by a land owner against Pokemon trespassers. Players have been going on his private property in order to play the game. The lawsuit says the defendants “have shown a flagrant disregard for the foreseeable consequences of populating the real world with virtual Pokémon without seeking the permission of property owners.”

There is still so much unknown – see the article published by the Ohio State Bar Association. These issues will remain until legislators and courts are forced to continue addressing the grey areas in that our laws have not yet caught up to cyberspace, or in this case, augmented reality. We’ll have to wait and see what happens next.