Road trips have changed a lot over the past ten years. Many of us remember the hours of traveling in which our trips were planned out days before we left. A wrong turn meant at least a few hours of pouring through a map by the ceiling light in the car or stopping at a gas station to ask a stranger for directions. Trying to get from one city to another was sometimes a tricky task especially if your destination wasn’t a major city. The age of technology has drastically altered the traditional road trip. In fact, we all know an individual or a group of people in our city who just barely know how to get around without the help of technology. Knowing directions or landmarks by memory is not only no longer necessary, but almost irrelevant. We rely on our global positioning systems so much that they’ve practically taken the wheel. Is there any legal recourse then, when a GPS leads us astray?
Back in 2013, a group of young kids were on a tour bus leaving Harvard University. The bus was taking the kids home from their trip to Harvard for a program with the Destined for A Dream Foundation. A Calvary Coach Bus Company driver named Samuel J. Jackson was driving the group through Massachusetts. The driver was following the directions of a GPS, which routed them onto Soldier Field Road in Boston. During the trip, the bus crashed into an overpass. It is unclear whether the driver simply did not see the sign or if he was not able to stop the bus in time to avoid the overpass. Many of the bus’s passengers were injured and a teenager named Matthew Cruz was left paralyzed. In January of this year, Cruz’s attorneys filed what has been referred to as a “landmark” case against the manufacturers of the GPS. The complaint alleges that the GPS improperly routed the bus through a route that it was entirely too tall for. The manufacturer of the GPS was the well-known company Garmin.
Although this exact lawsuit has not been seen in court before there are certainly legal grounds for this sort of case. The suit is being brought in civil court as a products liability claim. These claims state that the product is either dangerously defective or that it comes with inadequate warnings. One month after this accident, The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration created and issued visor cards to warn the drivers of commercial vehicles that there are specific dangers associated with low bridges that the GPS does not account for. The lawsuit claims that the company acted with “disregard of a foreseeable and foreseen risk of serious injury to passengers in vehicles who were sent on roadways with height restrictions at the direction” of the GPS devices. The GPS used in this incident was not equipped to be used for commercial vehicles and did not come with warning about height restrictions, and Garmin did not warn against its use in commercial vehicles.