Pokémon Go, a new app for Android and iOS users, has
captured the attention of smartphone users worldwide since its
release on July 6, 2016.1 The app uses the digital
camera and GPS technologies in smartphones to create an augmented
reality in which users can capture, train, and battle their
Pokémon in real life settings.2 Although a fun
and perhaps nostalgic activity for some, Pokémon Go will
soon become a real concern for liability insurers.
To date, numerous reports have surfaced of game-related slip or
trip and fall incidents. There have been reports of people falling
onto sidewalks, tripping over doorstops, and falling into holes
because they were trying to capture Pokémon and not paying
attention to their surroundings.3 Their injuries range
from minor cuts and bruises to ankle twists and
fractures.4 While stories of a motor vehicle accident
caused by the game were found to be false,5 claims of
pedestrian hits and other motor vehicle accidents are conceivable
and likely. Users of the game have reported that Pokémon
will appear on the dashboards of vehicles, such that drivers are
enticed to focus on capturing the digital monsters instead of
paying attention to road conditions.6 Several users have
already posted online photos of themselves playing Pokémon
Go while driving.7
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
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.
1 Jonathan Ore, "Pokémon Go brings
augmented reality to the mainstream" (12 July 2016), CBC
News, online. 2 Ibid 3 Associated Press, "Playing Pokémon Go is
becoming dangerous" (9 July 2016), New York Post,
online. 4Ibid 5 Craig Silverman,
"That Story about Pokémon Go Causing a Major Highway
Accident Is a Hoax" (11 July 2016), Buzzfeed News,
online. 6Supra note 3 7 Ibid 8Al 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. 12Robert Ferris, "Pokémon Go's
unintended consequences" (11 July 2016), CNBC,
online. 13 Supra note 1 14Ibid
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