Premises Liability And Pokémon Go

Over the summer, the country exploded in a wave of gaming enthusiasm as the mobile game Pokémon Go was released to the public. Based on the collectible card games and Nintendo video games, the idea behind it is simple – users utilize their mobile device to chase and catch imaginary creatures around their neighborhoods, then have those creatures battle one another for control of hotspots known as gyms.

The game uses the cameras and video screens on a phone in a system known as augmented reality. And while it’s brought big business to Niantic, the creator of the game, and while the augmented reality system is exciting thanks to the potential the future holds, it’s also brought about a new, and surprising issue within the country.

Specifically, players aren’t playing safe. Distracted as they watch their phone’s screen, there are numerous issues that have arisen as a result of the game including:

  • Auto accidents brought on by people driving and playing the game

  • People walking into traffic or off of ledges due to ignoring the world around them

  • Robberies – thieves have set up at Pokémon Go hotspots and robbed players

In short, the game is quite literally changing the world in a sense. While there are positives to it including more physical activity and even a growing sense of community among players, there are injuries that are occurring as a result of misuse of the game. And while it’s easy to dismiss all of this as people acting foolishly, the reality is that the game has brought some concerns to property owners around Florida.

For example, what happens if a Pokémon appears on your property, and someone attempts to catch it but is accidentally injured due to their lack of perception about walking hazards around them? A slip off the curb and a twisted ankle, for instance. Can property owners be sued by the players who have been injured? It’s a growing concern, and one that many are beginning to realize.

Luckily for property owners, it’s not as easy as some might think to sue after being injured playing this game. Florida law already requires extensive steps be taken in order to show that a case of premises liability is valid at all, and the addition of a game of this nature will make it even more difficult to prove that a case is legitimate. There are two primary things that help property owners stay protected where this issue is concerned.

  • First, under Florida law it must be proven that a property owner was negligent and that their negligence led to the accident. For example, if you have a stairwell with a broken handrail and choose not to fix the handrail, that is negligence. Someone not watching where they’re walking and walking off a ledge or into a bush isn’t negligence on the part of the property owner – it’s their own fault.

  • Second, and less importantly – Pokémon Go actually has legal documentation right into the user agreement. When someone agrees to play the game, they’re agreeing to waive all legal ability to sue for compensation for injuries they sustain while playing the game. This is obviously aimed at protecting the developer of the game, but it can help to some degree when it comes to defending property owners.

The key is to keep properties free from unnecessary risks. As long as a property has no unsafe conditions and the injuries occur as a result of negligence or risky behavior on the part of the player, it’s very difficult for them to seek any kind of compensation from the property owner..