Niantic Inc., the San Francisco-based company behind the game, has issued a statement with The Pokémon Company International encouraging users to be safe and alert at all times.8 However, this warning might not suffice in the face of motor vehicle and slip or trip and fall incidents that arise during use of the game. An injured individual could potentially sue Niantic Inc. as the developer of the game for causing their damages in these types of cases.
Other types of cases where liability might arise include trespassing and assault. Since Pokémon Go launched last week, there have been reports by home and business owners of users trespassing on their properties to capture rare Pokémon.9 There have even been reports of a robbery and a stabbing facilitated by Pokémon Go. In Wyoming, a group of teenagers used the app to lure users to a location and rob them at gunpoint.10 In Oregon, a user was stabbed after attempting to engage a bystander in a Pokémon battle.11 These are just some of the tortious incidents that have and could easily arise in the future.
...a user was stabbed after attempting to engage a bystander in a Pokémon battle.
To a much lesser extent, users have also complained of sore legs from walking around to find Pokémon.12 The message here is that although people are increasing their risk of injury by engaging in distracted gaming practices, many are getting good exercise out of the process.
Currently, the app is available in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.13 Although not released in Canada, many users have found unofficial networks through which to download the app.14 As reports of incidents continue to surface and the app becomes available in more countries, both insurers and lawyers would be well-served to investigate the potential for liability against users and developers of augmented reality games such as Pokémon Go.
1Jonathan Ore, “Pokémon Go brings augmented reality to the mainstream” (12 July 2016), CBC News, online.
3 Associated Press, "Playing Pokémon Go is becoming dangerous" (9 July 2016), New York Post, online.
5 Craig Silverman, “That Story about Pokémon Go Causing a Major Highway Accident Is a Hoax” (11 July 2016), Buzzfeed News, online.
6 Supra note 3
8 Al Jones, “Police: Popular ‘Pokémon Go’ Poses Numerous Risks to Players Including Robberies, Accidents” (11 July 2016), CBS News New York, online.
9 Jessica Chia, “Virginia police see a rise in trespassing and suspicious activity after Pokémon Go is released” (11 July 2016), Daily Mail, online.
10 Alan Yuhas, “Pokémon Go: armed robbers use mobile game to lure players into trap” (11 July 2016), The Guardian, online.
11 Mega Sugianto, “Forest Grove man stabbed while playing Pokémon Go: ‘I basically risked my life’” (12 July 2016), Fox 12 News Oregon, online.
12 Robert Ferris, “Pokémon Go’s unintended consequences” (11 July 2016), CNBC, online.
13 Supra note 1