Snap will face lawsuit stemming from a deadly crash after all
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The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that Snap Inc (NYSE:SNAP) must face a lawsuit in connection with a car accident that resulted in the deaths of three teenagers. The court ruled that Snapchat encouraged unsafe driving through a feature that allows users to share videos or photos that show their speed.
Snap to face lawsuit in deadly crash
The court ruled unanimously that the Communications Decency Act did not protect Snap because of how the lawsuit handled the matter. The rule protects social networks from being held liable as publishers of information from third parties on their platforms. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision of a lower court, which had dismissed the case brought by the parents of two of the teenagers.
An attorney for the plaintiffs told Reuters that they appreciate the careful attention the court paid to the case and that they "look forward to returning to the district court and having this case move forward with a discovery and a fair determination of the merits by a jury."
Snap declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Background of the case
The lawsuit resulted from a crash in 2017 in Wisconsin that killed Jason Davis, Landen Brown and Hunter Morby. Their vehicle slammed into a tree after going off the road at 113 miles per hour, according to the court's opinion.
Not long before the accident, Brown used the Snapchat app to record the car's speed using a filter that places the speed over a short video or photo. Carly Lemmon and Michael Morby and Samantha and Marlo Brown sued Snap in California in May 2016, accusing the social network firm of negligently designing its app because it encouraged users to drive at unsafe speeds.
The lawsuit alleged that the Snapchat app rewarded users when they post certain snaps, but it doesn't say which snaps will earn them rewards. Many users believed that posting a snap while their car was traveling at over 100 miles per hour would earn them a reward. The teenagers' parents cited a number of news articles about the matter that were published before the crash.
Developments in the case against Snap
According to Reuters, U.S. District Judge Michael Fitzgerald granted Snap's motion to dismiss the lawsuit, saying that the plaintiffs were wrong to hold the company liable as a publisher of third-party content. The law protects social networks from being sued as publishers.
However, Circuit Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw wrote this week that it was "apparent" that the lawsuit wasn't trying to treat Snap like a publisher. She explained that the lawsuit "treats Snap as a products manufacturer, accusing it of negligently designing a product (Snapchat) with a defect (the interplay between Snapchat's reward system and the Speed Filter."