Trouble at the Pokéstop: 3 Ways Using Pokémon GO Can Result in a Personal-Injury Lawsuit

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Pokémon GO has been praised for inspiring sedentary gamers to go out of their homes and get some exercise. But it has also caused some problems for players and the people they encounter as they try to collect the various Pokémon characters and defeat others at the local gyms. Some countries have delayed release of the game because of the legal problems it presents.

There are several types of personal-injury lawsuits that could result from playing Pokémon GO.

Lawsuit to collect damages for trespassing

The makers of Pokémon GO are using technology similar to that in the game Ingress, where play is happening in real time overlaid on the actual real-life scenes around the players. Game activity, according to the makers of the game, should be confined to public areas only, but that doesn't always work out as intended, since the elusive Pokémon characters can appear on private property as well. No matter which game people are playing, no one is allowed to trespass on private property, but it will be interesting to see who is found at fault in future cases.

One New Jersey man is suing Nintendo, Niantic Labs, and the Pokémon Company after players began knocking on his door asking for access to his backyard. Apparently his back garden held some valuable characters that players wanted to capture, and the man is claiming that the makers of the game did not obtain his consent to place them there. The lawsuit is styled to be a class-action lawsuit and seeks damages based on the fact that the companies sued are making big bucks encouraging people to trespass on private property.

Lawsuit to collect damages for physical harm

If a Pokémon GO player is hurt on public or private property, they may have cause to sue the negligent parties, even if the player didn't have express permission to be in the location. For example, if you are playing on a church playground informally open to the public, and you trip and fall in a hole their maintenance man dug, you may be able to sue for damages if there were no warning signs or barriers placed around the hole.

Another concern law enforcement has is whether the game is luring people to sex offenders' residences. If a player ends up being assaulted, will the gamemakers be sued? 

If another player hurts you during play, and you can prove it, you can also collect damages. If someone is driving and playing Pokémon GO at the same time and hits you with their vehicle as a result of their being distracted, you can definitely expect a civil suit or out-of-court settlement in your favor. In these cases you normally wouldn't sue the companies who make the games because the true fault can be proven to lie with an individual, business, or organization.

Property damage suit for trash, destruction, or graffiti

If your area has a lot of lures or a gym nearby, there could be heavy traffic in your yard or landscaping. Public parks and other spaces may be damaged by too much foot traffic in sensitive areas or be fouled by players littering or leaving graffiti on buildings and fixtures.

Depending on the dollar amount of the damages, it may be possible to sue for injuries based on a reduced quality of life due to the players' negative behaviors. You may also be able to sue to recover the cost of cleaning up graffiti and replacing shrubbery.

Gamers expect more of these "augmented reality" games to be introduced, meaning public spaces may become crowded with players all seeing different game moves and characters on the same sidewalks and courtyards. If the various groups clash or grow too large, there will be even more interesting personal-injury lawsuits on the horizon. 

If you've suffered any sort of personal injury while playing Pokémon GO or as a result of Pokémon GO players, consult with a personal-injury firm such as Vaughan & Vaughan that knows the laws in your state.