Should Stupid in Public be the responsibility of App providers.

I don’t think we’ll see class action lawsuits based upon the theory of societal harm as we did with cigarette manufacturers.  I’m also not at all sure that we should have had those tobacco lawsuits, as they turned out to be just another way to tax poor people for the support of wealthy folks after the so called “settlements.”

Here’s the key difference between this issue and tobacco (at least as our fraudulent legal system goes). Cellphones and the apps they use aren’t inherently dangerous on any level. There are billions of people who’ve used them reasonably for decades and experience zero problems. I’m one of those billions. I do smoke but it’s a good bit less than a pack a day… which increases my risk of cancer from 7% to 9%.  I also don’t text or yap on the phone when I need to be paying attention to other things because I value my tender hide remaining in one piece. This isn’t a problem with the product.

This brings up a trend in US society which I find really disturbing: The idea that if I do something Stoopid in Public and kill or maim myself as a result I should be able to blame the predictable results of my act of stupidity on someone else. We saw this in the Mc Donalds hot coffee lawsuit where a woman driving a stick shift car put a flimsy foam cup of coffee which she knew to be very hot between her legs and burned the crap out of her genitals. Now, on one level I agree with the verdict but on a completely different theory… it wasn’t the hotness of the coffee that was the proximate cause: Coffee is supposed to be F’ing hot. If it isn’t I’m coming back for a refund.

The core problem was that McDonald’s had, in an attempt to cut costs, with a blyth disregard for the safety of their customers, recently redesigned the cups to be inherently flimsy and insufficient for the use of holding really hot coffee. Put simply those new cups were dangerous in light of the use which the company knew the customer was putting them to. The were so flimsy that you couldn’t even pick them up out of a cup holder without special attention. So… we got the right results based on the wrong reasons.

Here’s some examples of what’s being talked about in the Question:

Now, is this something to be concerned about? Yes. But I frankly don’t see any sane legal* theory where these examples of Stupid in Public could reasonably be held to be the fault of app creators, or phone manufacturers, or service providers.

*oxymoron alert

It’s simply more of the increasing Stupid in Public we’ve been seeing over the last 50 years in all walks of life.

To put a finer point on it, and injuries sustained as a result of walking and texting are the fault of the folks doing it, in much the same way that it would be their fault if they burned themselves by putting their hand in a hot fry pan.  There’s no way you could hold the fry pan manufacturer liable for such an injury because the pan wasn’t the proximate cause.  The proximate cause of the injury was an individual being stupid.

Sadly there’s no objective legal standard for Stupid in Public. Perhaps we should create one.