While driving over 100 miles per hour, Christal McGee rear-ended a car driven by Wentworth Maynard, causing him to suffer severe injuries. When the collision occurred, McGee was using a “Speed Filter” feature within Snapchat, a mobile phone application, to record her real-life speed on a photo or video that she could then share with other Snapchat users. Wentworth sued McGee and Snap, alleging that Snap had negligently designed Snapchat’s Speed Filter. The trial court dismissed the design-defect claim against Snap, and a divided panel of the Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that Snap did not owe a legal duty to the Maynards because a manufacturer’s duty to design reasonably safe products does not extend to people injured by a third party’s intentional and tortious misuse of the manufacturer’s product.
The Georgia Supreme Court reversed:
“The Maynards alleged that Snap could reasonably foresee that its product design created this risk of harm based on, among other things, the fact that Snap knew that other drivers were using the Speed Filter while speeding at 100 miles per hour or more as part of a game, purposefully designed its products to encourage such behavior, knew of at least one other instance in which a driver who was using Snapchat while speeding caused a car crash, and warned users not to use the product while driving. The Maynards further alleged that, once downloaded, Snapchat’s software continues to download and install upgrades, updates, or other new features from Snap, meaning that the Maynards may be able to introduce evidence showing that Snap continued developing its product and released new versions of the software between the initial launch of the Speed Filter and the date of Wentworth’s accident, after obtaining real-world information about how the Speed Filter was in fact being used. Given these allegations, we cannot say as a matter of law at the motion-to-dismiss stage that the Maynards could not introduce evidence that, when designing the Speed Filter, Snap could reasonably foresee that the product’s design created a risk of car accidents like the one at issue here, triggering a duty for Snap to use reasonable care in designing the product in light of that risk….
“Our decisional law provides no basis for concluding that (1) intentional misuse, (2) third-party use of a product, or (3) third-party tortious use of a product necessarily negates a manufacturer’s duty to use reasonable care to reduce reasonably foreseeable risks from its products…. regardless of how a product was being used when an injury occurred – whether it was being used properly, improperly, intentionally, negligently, or not at all – a manufacturer may owe a design duty to an injured person….
“Second, the Court of Appeals majority erred to the extent that it concluded that a manufacturer cannot ever owe a design duty to an injured person if the person was injured by a third party’s use of its product. Under Georgia law, a manufacturer may owe a design duty to an injured person regardless of who – the injured person or a third party – was using the defectively designed product when the injury occurred.”
The Supreme Court did remand to the Georgia Court of Appeals to consider whether the trial court erred in dismissing the Maynards’ claims against Snap and in granting judgment on the pleadings to Snap for lack of proximate causation.
Maynard v. Snap, No.S21G0555, 2022 WL 779733 (Ga. March 15, 2022).
[See also Lemmon v. Snap, 995 F.3d 1085 (9th Cir. 2021)]