The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari to a husband and wife trying to revive their personal injury suit against social media company Snapchat Inc. over its smartphone application “speed filter,” which the couple says distracted a driver who hit them.
The court ordered appellants Wentworth and Karen Maynard to brief their arguments about why the Georgia Court of Appeals was purportedly wrong to affirm in October a trial court’s dismissal of their case. The Snapchat suit has been added to the state high court’s October oral argument calendar.
The Maynards, of Georgia, claimed Christal McGee was distracted by Snapchat’s speed filter on her cellphone while driving at 107 miles per hour, and that caused her to crash into their vehicle on a Georgia highway in September 2015. Wentworth Maynard, who was driving his car, was permanently brain-damaged in the crash. The Maynards sued Snapchat and McGee, also a Georgia resident, in April 2016.
Snapchat’s speed filter is essentially a working speedometer that users can superimpose over pictures to capture their driving or traveling speeds and share those images, case filings show. The Maynards claimed that Snapchat negligently designed the smartphone feature knowing it would distract drivers and cause them to break traffic laws while chasing high speeds.
McGee allegedly accelerated to just over 100 miles per hour so that she could capture the speed on her Snapchat account.
The Maynards’ amended complaint asserts a negligence claim against Snapchat and McGee, as well as derivative claims for loss of consortium, litigation expenses and punitive damages.
Snapchat, based in California, is specifically accused of negligently designing the speed filter, encouraging users to endanger themselves and others on the roadway.
The Georgia Court of Appeals held in its October ruling in the case that Georgia law does not impose a general duty to prevent people, like McGee, from committing torts while misusing a manufacturer’s product, like Snapchat’s speed filter. Georgia also passed in 2018 a “hands-free” law barring drivers from physically holding or supporting a smartphone while driving.