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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Michigan Residents File Pokemon Go Class Action Lawsuit

The attorneys at Pomerantz Law are at it again, and are attorneys of record in a Michigan class action lawsuit against Niantic and Nintendo. The allegations in the Michigan complaint overlap significantly with those in a Massachusetts class action lawsuit that I blogged about at the beginning of August filed by a Massachusetts resident. Both complaints were filed in the District Court for the Northern District of California.

Click On Detroit reports about the new class action -- which also alleges causes of action for nuisance and unjust enrichment -- filed by a Michigan couple living in St. Claire Shores, a suburban town located near Detroit that will be holding a Fence Arbitration meeting today for those who may have forgotten to mark their calendars. Reporting by Bloomberg Markets (on the lawsuit, not the Fence Arbitration meeting) can be found here.

A copy of the Complaint can be found attached to the Click on Detroit article. Its substance significantly overlaps with the Massachusetts Complaint, and it too includes multiple bold, italicized mentions of how "Niantic even placed three Pokéstops within the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum." That part never gets old.

One improvement in the Michigan Complaint is that it has more facts regarding how Pokémon Go affected the plaintiffs' lives. As you may recall, the Massachusetts Plaintiff's allegations were little more than a complaint about several people walking near his house and knocking on his door on a few occasions. The Michigan Complaint is more detailed. The factual allegations are largely copied from letters the Plaintiffs wrote to Niantic, and here is an example of some of that quoted language. Trigger warning: bold italics:

At any given moment there are at least a couple of hundred people in the park play[ing] this game, compared to the average of at least 15-20 in the park. The [Pokéstops and Pokémon gyms] . . . [are] an open invitation for the players to utilize our street, our lawns, looking in our windows . . . and so forth. There are at least 30 homes . . . that are affected by this. These players are loud, make threats, [are] intrusive, and I do not feel safe. My husband and I moved to our home almost two years ago because it was peaceful, quite, and safe. When I see people driving slow, looking into our home, walking on our property, looking into our vehicles, we do not feel safe. Neither do the neighbors. . . .

. . .

With all the traffic it is hard to tell who is playing the game, or casing out our street/park, someone who is looking to rob, rape or any other harm. . . . They park along our street that borders Wahby Park, we ask them to move and get threats and attitudes. I was threatened by a man who refused to leave. He was parked in front of my home. I had hardly any room to back out of my driveway. Mind you, he was also parked the wrong way on the street. . . . I truly hope you will take this into consideration, the news has already been in the park twice, and have interviewed neighbors on this issue.
To paraphrase, the plaintiffs live near Wahby Park which, in addition to being a great place for weddings, allegedly has six PokéStops, where players can collect items and place "lures" that attract Pokémon. This has led to a crisis of numerous people going to the park, and wreaking havoc in the surrounding neighborhood. Plaintiffs allege that players are walking on their yards, blocking driveways, and even include a picture of a potential hipster giving side-eye to the camera.


Plaintiffs seek to establish a class and use the same definition as the Massachusetts Plaintiff, which is:
All persons in the United States who own property (i) the GPS coordinates of which were designated by Defendants, without authorization, as Pokéstops or Pokémon gyms in the Pokémon Go mobile application or (ii) abutting property the GPS coordinates of which were designated by Defendants, without authorization, as Pokéstops or Pokémon gyms in the Pokémon Go mobile application.
For reasons I explain at length in this prior post, I think this class definition is likely to fail.

For a reason specific to this lawsuit, though, I think this Complaint has faces an additional, serious problem because the named plaintiffs do not appear to fall into the class. The plaintiffs include an illustration of the neighborhood as it appears in the app:

From this illustration, it appears that all of the PokéStops and Gyms are in the park, which is public property. The park is separated from all surrounding homes by a road. Accordingly, there appear to be no areas of private property that "abut" PokéStops or Gyms. This is a problem for the Complaint as a whole because the lead plaintiffs need to be members of that class. Plaintiffs might argue that their property falls within the 70-meter radius where people can interact with the stop or the gym, but this does not appear to fit the fairly specific, GPS-coordinate-based class definition.

I will continue to monitor both Pokémon Go class action lawsuits, and I will do my best to post updates as they proceed. I suspect that the plaintiffs in both will face some significant obstacles, but the law firm spearheading this effort doesn't appear to be slowing down at this point.

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