As social media platforms go, Snapchat has long been in the fast lane to millennials’ hearts. Now, however, a lawsuit out of Atlanta, Georgia, claims that one of the app’s most popular filters encourages users to be on their phones while in the actual fast lane.
According to the suit, at 11 p.m. on September 10, 2015, Wentworth Maynard was merging onto a four lane highway outside Atlanta, when his Mitsubishi Outlander was struck by a Mercedes C230 barreling down the highway at 107 mph. The impact was reportedly so intense that Maynard’s vehicle was rocketed across all four lanes and into the embankment.
The other driver, 18-year-old Christal McGee, was allegedly using Snapchat’s speed filter to boast about how fast she was driving at the time of the crash. She was transporting three of her coworkers home from a shift at a local restaurant in her father’s white Mercedes. And according to a statement by the victim’s lawyers, she was “just trying to get the car to 100 miles per hour to post it on Snapchat.”
The snapping didn’t stop there. McGee posted a photo from the ambulance after the crash, showing herself bloodied and bound in a neck brace, with the caption, “Lucky to be alive.”
McGee was lucky. Despite crashing her father’s Mercedes into the embankment, she and her three passengers — one of them reportedly pregnant at the time — walked away with only minor injuries.
The plaintiff, on the other hand, who was an Uber drive at the time of the accident, suffered severe traumatic brain injuries as a result of the crash, spending five weeks in the ICU. He now needs either a wheelchair or a walker to get around, and has been unable to work since the incident.
For that reason, Maynard is attempting to hold both McGee and Snapchat responsible for his ongoing medical bills. He is looking for compensation from McGee for obvious reasons — claiming she was driving distracted, going 107 mph on a stretch of highway where the speed limit was 55 mph — but his grievances with Snapchat are a bit different.
“This is a product liability case because Snapchat put something very dangerous in the marketplace without any warnings or safeguards,” said Maynard’s lead attorney, Michael L. Neff, in a statement. “[They] basically said, whatever happens, happens.”
This isn’t the first time Snapchat has taken heat for one of its filters. Just last week, the popular social media platform became the target of fiery criticism for unveiling a Bob Marley filter on 4/20 (an unofficial holiday, known to many as “Weed Day”), that allowed users to snap pictures of themselves in blackface with dreads.
The filter blamed in Maynard’s case has come under scrutiny before. In December 2015, some reports suggested that Snapchat’s speed filter may have played a role in the deaths of three Philadelphia women in their 20s, after the black Camaro the women were driving smashed into a parked tractor-trailer carrying herbicide and erupted into flames. A statement released by Maynard’s lawyers suggests that a handful of other recent crashes — at least one of them, deadly — may have been linked to the popular filter as well.
Snapchat’s miles per hour filter was introduced as part of a product update in 2013, but according to Maynard’s lawyers, the app’s user agreement was not updated to include a safety or security clause until March 29, 2016. For Wentworth Maynard and his family, that is far too little, too late.