It was a cold, dark night. Well, actually, it was a cold, dark morning.
This, it seems, will form a part of the claim that Lauren Rosenberg is offering against a the driver of a car that hit her while she walked along a highway and Google, whose walking directions she was following.
Should you not yet have cast your minds toward offering a verdict in this lovely case, Rosenberg is claiming that Google's walking directions should have been rather better than to send her along a highway that had no path--and that she is thus entitled to at least $100,000 of Google's extremely hard-earned money.
Search Engine Land, which originally unearthed this soon-to-be-a-movie gem, decided to talk to Rosenberg's attorney, perhaps to check whether he was compos mentis, rather than compost mentis.
Allen K. Young of the fine Utah law firm Young, Kester, & Petro, offered Search Engine Lands some meat for the world to chew: "It was 6 in the morning. It was not a busy street (then). She believed there was a sidewalk on the other side."
Perhaps you, like I, might have already leaped to the question: Why did she think there was a sidewalk on the other side of Highway 224, aka Deer Valley Drive, Park City, Utah?
"She was in an area that she'd never been to before. It was pitch-black. There were no streetlights. She relied on Google that she'd cross there and go down to a sidewalk," Young explained.
So here was someone from LA walking along a highway at 6 in the morning and trusting the Google Map on her BlackBerry to get her where she wanted to go. My understanding is that her destination was 1710 Prospector Avenue, Park City, an apartment building called the Park Regency.
One might admire Rosenberg's optimism, while simultaneously having concerns about her judgment.
"We look at it and say, if they're (Google) going to tell people where to go, they need to have some responsibility to warn them that that might not be the way to go," Young told Search Engine Land. Yet Google does put a warning on the laptop version of Google Maps that this is mere beta and that you should "Use caution--This route may be missing sidewalks or pedestrian paths."
A Google representative told Search Engine Land that people using Google Maps on cell phones are also duly warned: "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."
Young claims that his client got no warning and that her incident took place in January of 2009.
Utah law also has its pleasant quirks. Perhaps this quirkiness stems from its matrimonial laws. But the judge has the discretion to offer a relative verdict. He might decide that Google is liable for, say, 13 percent of the damages, the man who hit Rosenberg might be on the hook for 57 percent, and the remaining 30 percent might rest on Rosenberg's troubled--and, one hopes, fully functioning--shoulders.
Perhaps you might still be troubled as to why it has taken the best part of 18 months for this case to suddenly materialize. One can only hope that the court proceedings, should there ultimately be any, might be just a tad swifter.
One also hopes that any judgment will offer better directions as to how much one should really use one's own gray matter when crossing a highway, rather than the approximate calculations of engineers who, given that they spend so much time glued to their machines, may never have walked the streets of Park City, Utah--even in the dark.