Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What's My Liability for Errors in My App?

Dear Rich: I've created an app that uses mass transit timetables. Since people rely on these to get to work and things like that I'm a little concerned about whether I will run into problems if there are errors in my app? What's the story on that? If an app provides incorrect information the developer is not likely to be liable to the consumer --- at least not under typical product liability theories. Although there haven't been any cases involving apps, we can analogize to the publishing industry, For example in one case, a book identified poisonous mushrooms as being safe to eat; in another case a map provided incorrect directions; in another case, a person was injured as a result of incorrect published information about enema procedures; and in another case, a woman became pregnant despite following published contraception procedures. In all of these cases, the producers of the information were not liable to the consumer. That's because published information is not considered a "product" for liability purposes. In addition, Apple's Terms of Service make it difficult for a disgruntled commuter to seek redress ("YOU EXPRESSLY AGREE THAT YOUR USE OF, OR INABILITY TO USE, THE SERVICE IS AT YOUR SOLE RISK.") That is not to say you can't be sued over these issues. It just means that you're unlikely to be liable for damages. Of course having incorrect information will torpedo your App Store ratings and your company's credibility (and check out our new app developer's guide).

Apps We Love Dept. The Dear Rich Staff hasn't located any incorrect information in our favorite mass transit app -- iBart -- which lets us know whether we should sprint from the Ferry Building to Embarcadero station. Well ... it used to let us know. One of our New Year's Resolutions is to never again (no,no) run for a bus (or Bay Area Rapid Transit).