What follows is the most bizarre Google story to crawl out of the woods in months. It's a tale of stupidity, chutzpah, and mistaken identity. It's the tale of what happens when we rely on Google nearly as much as our lawyers.
On January 19, 2009, a woman named Lauren Rosenberg had a hankerin' to get from Point A to Point B in the small ski town of Park City, Utah. So she flipped open her BlackBerry, called up Google Maps, and got herself walking directions from the ever-helpful search giant. There was just one small problem. As Search Engine Land's Danny Sullivan reports, Google recommended that she breezily jaunt along bucolic Deer Valley Drive on the way. Except that Deer Valley Drive isn't so bucolic. In fact, it usually goes by the name of State Route 224, a four-lane highway with no sidewalks, where the cars tend to achieve a decidedly unhealthy velocity. Sure enough, Miss Rosenberg got plastered by a car while crossing the road. Now, she's suing the driver—and Google for suggesting that she take the road in the first place.
So how, exactly, is Google culpable? After all, any fool can see that traipsing along a busy road with no pedestrian walkway isn't exactly the safest endeavor conceivable. But Rosenberg's lawyer claims that by the time she got to the unlit road, it was too dark to perceive the lack of sidewalks, and Rosenberg assumed that she'd find one as soon as she got to the other side. (Sadly, the car made its appearance in this story right when she was on the verge of discovering that said sidewalk didn't exist.)
Rosenberg is seeking damages in excess of $100,000. But, of course, Google has a disclaimer. The company explicitly stated in its directions that the walking feature was still in beta mode, and users should exercise caution.
So while we wait for the legal system to settle the case, on to the real question: How can this story get any weirder? It turns out that there's another Lauren Rosenberg, a publicist in Santa Monica, who has nothing to do with Utah or nighttime hikes along busy state highways. But that didn't stop the Internet's busybodies from calling her up and giving her a piece of their minds. According to the Los Angeles Times, random people have been flooding Rosenberg's voice mail and e-mail inbox, calling her a litigious jerk and hectoring her to take responsibility for her own stupid actions.
Poor Miss Rosenberg II had no idea what they were talking about. And now that she's figured it out, she's posted an item on her blog—yes, she has one—and wants everyone to know that she is not, repeat not, the Lauren Rosenberg that everyone seems to think she is. "Though this woman with the same name also resides in Los Angeles County, we are NOT one and the same person," Rosenberg wrote. So can everyone please stop calling her?