Woman sues Google over bad directions: It was dark

It was dark, she'd never been there before, and she didn't know how to look both ways before she crossed the street.

Search Engine Land, the news and information site that broke the story about how Lauren Rosenberg was struck by a vehicle and is now suing Google, has an update to the story: it was dark outside, and Google maps instructed her to walk across the street.

Search Engine Land's Danny Sullivan spoke with the lead attorney on Rosenberg's case on Tuesday. According to attorney Allen K. Young of Provo, Utah, law firm Young, Kester & Petro, "It was six in the morning. It was not a busy street [then]. She believed there was a sidewalk on the other side."

Apparently, Google Maps directed Rosenberg to cross the street, and she figured it was leading her to a sidewalk. Young says that it was dark outside, and there were no street lights, and Rosenberg had never been in the area before, so she was relying on Google to know where the sidewalks were at. She was, in fact, struck by Patrick Harwood's vehicle when she attempted to cross the street. There was no crosswalk.

Also, according to Young, had Rosenberg not been instructed to cross the street, she could have walked down the road facing traffic on a dirt pedestrian path. This is the reason the case finds Google partly at fault. According to Young, in Utah, a jury can find a party partially responsible--so, theoretically, a jury could find Google partially responsible and Google would then be responsible for that partial amount of the claim.

Young also points out that Rosenberg was hit on January 19, 2010, and that back then Google did not offer warnings about the Google Maps walking directions on its regular or mobile sites. Google PR has shut this possibility down, however, as it told Sullivan in an email:

"We have had warning text since launch – July 08 on desktop, November 08 on mobile. Due to screen real estate, the mobile beta warning is a bit shorter, but it says "Walking directions (beta): Use caution" and usually shows up with the first step in your directions list."

Okay, fine. So it was dark. There were no street lights. She was lost without her Blackberry. Google Maps may or may not have shown a warning. Does that make this case any more justified?

Not really.

If anything, if it was dark, in the middle of nowhere, and there were no street lights, I feel like she should've seen the car coming. Take a look at the intersection where she was hit trying to cross the road--it's a pretty straight, flat stretch of road. While it's possible that Harwood was whipping around the corner from Aerie drive, it's hard to believe that there isn't quite a bit of "lacking in common sense" going on in this story.

A lot of commenters wondered if Rosenberg had ever learned not to walk on a highway--I wonder if she ever learned to look both ways before crossing the street.

Despite all the bad press, her lawyer still thinks she has a case, "I have told everyone that I think a jury will find some culpability on her part." But Young also believes that a jury will find some fault in the driver who hit her, as well as Google.

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Sarah Jacobsson

PC World (US online)
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