“Internet of Things” Raises Questions about Liability

July 14, 2017 | Crandall & Pera Law
“Internet of Things” Raises Questions about Liability

How many times do you utilize the Internet each day? To answer that question, you might be thinking about each time you log on to complete your work, order a pizza, or check out your favorite social media site. But, you probably utilize the Internet far more often than you realize. Your home’s security system, your GPS system, and even your fitness monitor use the Internet to provide the services you want and need. It is called the Internet of Things (IoT), and this state of the art technology is turning up in every corner of our lives.

As with all forward movement, these technical advances bring up questions about legal issues and liability for injuries related to these products. The tech website IoTForAll.com offers an example of this type of injury:

An individual is driving down the road in the rain, relying on a phone GPS app and electronic road signs to provide information about roadway conditions. The devices communicate that the street temperature is above freezing, even though the surface is frozen. The vehicle tires begin to spin out and the car veers off into a ditch, causing substantial injuries to the driver and the passenger. When the driver talks to an attorney, the question arises—who should be held accountable?

Identifying liability for IoT injuries

Determining liability in an IoT case is a challenging task. In the scenario above, there may be numerous liable parties, including:

  • The creator of the driving app. If the driving app malfunctioned and provided incorrect information that the driver relied upon to his detriment, the company that created the app may be liable.

  • The company that manufactures and operates the sensors. If the signs and GPS app worked correctly but transmitted inaccurate information based on the malfunction of the sensors, the manufacturers and operators of the sensors may hold some responsibility for the injuries.

  • The road sign operator.  Perhaps the road sign operator read the sensors incorrectly and programmed incorrect information into the signs. He and the company he works for may be liable.

  • The third-party that provided the software. Each of these devices likely relies on some type of software that is provided to them by a third-party company. If the software caused incorrect information to be communicated, the third-party company may be deemed responsible.

Each of these theories of liability could be plausible under this scenario, yet they do not include all of the possibilities. Even the telecom company that transmitted the data to your phone may have some liability for your injuries in a car crash.

Unfortunately, there are no concrete answers to these questions. Traditionally, product liability cases rely on the establishment of a relationship between an event and a resulting injury. IoT cases raise questions about causation and how transmission of information fits into the equation. There are even questions about whether IoT apps and software actually fall under the classification of products. Time will likely provide answers to these questions, as the courts take on an increasing number of IoT related matters.

Crandall & Pera Law is a premier personal injury law firm serving clients throughout Ohio and Kentucky. If you sustained an injury after using a defective product, because of another person’s negligence, or in a crash of any kind, we may be able to help. Please call our Ohio car crash lawyers at 877.686.8879, our Kentucky auto accident attorneys at 877.651.7764, or fill out our contact form to make an appointment.