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Judge rules Snapchat immune from distracted-driver car crash lawsuit

Snapchat cannot be held responsible for causing a high-speed highway accident that left multiple people injured, ruled a Spalding County State Court judge on Friday. Dismissing the allegations, Judge Josh Thacker said the Communications Decency Act (CDA) renders the company immune from the complaint.

The lawsuit filed in April 2016 by Uber driver Wentworth Maynard — who suffered traumatic brain injuries as a result of the car crash — claims that the distracted driver of the car that struck his vehicle at 107 mph on a highway outside of Atlanta, Georgia was busy using Snapchat at the time of the crash.

According to Maynard’s lawyers, Christal McGee was caught up in Snapchat’s miles-per-hour filter, which overlays an image or video on the app with text stating the user’s approximate speed, as she attempted to reach 100 mph. While McGee was using the app, she allegedly hit Maynard’s car, sending it across the left lane and into an embankment. The accident itself occurred in September 2015.

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Maynard was hospitalized for several weeks, while McGee suffered only minor injuries. The lawsuit adds that shortly after the accident, McGee even posted an image to Snapchat which saw her strapped to her gurney with blood on her forehead. The caption read, “lucky to be alive.”

Maynard’s civil lawsuit sought to hold both Snapchat and McGee responsible for his medical bills and “lifelong care.” Back in April, lead attorney Michael L. Neff asserted that there was “clear evidence” linking use of the Snapchat miles-per-hour filter in the moments leading up to the crash. “It’s our hope that this case … will pressure Snapchat to stop putting the public at risk,” added Neff.

The immunity clause in the 1996 CDA that the judge based the decision on, states: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” However, the judge did add that a key question is whether Snapchat has a legal duty to remove or restrict the use of the speed filter in question, seeing as accidents have allegedly occurred due to its use by drivers in the past.

Maynard’s lawyer told Minnesota newspaper Star Tribune that his client is considering an appeal. The case now leaves, pending the claims against McGee.

Updated on 01-23-2017: Added news that Snapchat’s alleged responsibility for the accident has been dismissed.