Marina Griggs says that, apart from driving into trees and strolling onto minefields, there are also numerous legal bear traps waiting for those chasing the cartoon critters of Pokémon Go.
It is inescapable. The 90’s classic playground game, Pokémon, has resurfaced. This new, 21st Century augmented reality version, Pokémon Go, encourages users to chase and capture cartoon characters living around the city, using their phones to do so.
Critics and commentators are divided: on the one hand young people are being encouraged to leave their houses and venture outside for a change. On the other hand, parks and public places are becoming somewhat akin to a zombie apocalypse, with groups of teenagers gathered around a single phone, desperately trying to capture that wily Snorlax but not exactly stopping to smell the roses or spot the (real) squirrels.
Furthermore, with people’s concentration fixed on their phones, the accidents are starting to pile up. A 28 year old was injured in the US recently after his car crashed into a tree whilst he was playing the game. Several gamers in Bosnia were caught wandering through a minefield in pursuit of imaginary characters. And in Jakarta, a man suddenly found himself in the middle of a military base whilst chasing the cartoon critters.
Indeed, the police are now having to issue guidelines about playing the game, including: ‘Concentrate on the road when walking and crossing, never play while driving, and don't trespass to catch Pokémon.’
These guidelines go to show that, physical accidents aside, there are a whole host of legal troubles that enthusiastic gamers might unwittingly be wading into. Don’t forget that if you cross into private gardens, pass through private land, or hop a fence into private property without the owner’s consent, you will be trespassing unless you have a lawful excuse. Pokémon Go is obviously a recent phenomenon, however it seems unlikely that the thrill of the virtual chase would qualify as such…
A particularly litigious individual can sue you even if you do not cause any damage to their property whilst trespassing. However, if you run over some (hopefully not Chelsea Flower Show) prize-winning begonias in the process of your pursuit, you could find yourself liable to reimburse the owner for their loss and be the subject of a criminal damage suit.
If you and your group of like-minded Pokémon Go-playing friends are out playing together, you may also want to think about keeping the excitement levels down before risking a nuisance suit.
Despite the number of physical accidents that have been reported thus far, as long as you look out for those ‘Private Land – Keep Out’ signs, and keep your voices down, all is far from doom and gloom and trespass. Who knows, now that Pokémon are back; can we expect a Power Rangers revival?
Marina Griggs works at boutique private wealth law firm Maurice Turnor Gardner LLP.