The intersection of social media, GPS-enabled devices, and sport has raised a lot of interesting legal questions over the last decade. Virtual racing apps let runners and cyclists compete for best times on specific routes or over set distances. Competition on the leader boards can be intense. The drive to win can push participants to go fast—so fast they can lose control. But do the makers of these apps bear any legal responsibility for injuries sustained by users?
The case of Kim Flint
In 2010 a cyclist was killed in Berkeley, California, while trying to regain his status as the fastest rider on a steep downhill section of road. The rider, William “Kim” Flint, had recently lost the position of “King of the Mountain” for that stretch of road on Strava, a cycling app and social media website. Strava uses GPS data from riders to track speed on user-created “segments” and posts the best times on its website. Mr. Flint was racing against the current top time on the segment when he braked to avoid an oncoming car, flipping his bicycle and resulting in fatal injuries.
Mr. Flint’s family sued Strava on grounds of negligence, arguing that the website should have taken responsibility for the safety of riders on dangerous segments of road by taking down especially risky segments. But in 2013 a San Francisco court granted summary judgment in Strava’s favor. The judge cited Mr. Flint’s implied assumption of the risk of bicycling as the reason Strava could not be held liable for his death.
Assumption of risk in Nevada
The assumption of risk is a legal defense used in cases where an injured plaintiff seeks damages for personal injury. When the plaintiff knew about the dangers involved in an activity and voluntarily exposed himself or herself to those dangers, the defendant can escape liability. See Sierra Pac. Power Co. v. Anderson, 77 Nev. 68, 71 (1961). It seems likely that if a case like Mr. Flint’s were to come before a Nevada court, the assumption of risk rule would lead to a similar result as what was seen in San Francisco.
However, the result in any case will depend upon the facts of the injury and the interpretation of the judge who considers them. In Mr. Flint’s case, the judge concluded that bicyclists assume the risk of accidental injury. That conclusion suggests that bicyclists in particular could face a difficult challenge seeking redress for injuries suffered in an accident. In a case involving other facts, perhaps the conclusion that Mr. Flint had assumed the risk of injury would have been less clear. For example, if Strava had taken steps to limit the dangers on steep downhill segments, perhaps it would have assumed some degree of responsibility for those segments. Cf. Wright v. Schum, 105 Nev. 611 (1989).
GGRM can answer your questions about sports injuries
If you are a runner or cyclist who has been injured while competing in a virtual race the attorneys at Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez can help you understand your legal options. For over 45 years we have helped injured clients in the Las Vegas area recover the compensation they deserve. For a free attorney consultation call us today at 702-388-4476 or send us a request on our contact page.