Pokemon Sued by Couple Claiming Neighborhood Unsafe With Gamers

Are Pokémon Go Privacy Concerns Overblown?
  • Residents say hundreds of players have taken over local park
  • Niantic has yet to reply to residents seeking Pokestop removal

Wahby Park in St. Clair Shores, Michigan, used to be a quiet spot for a dozen or so residents to go for a stroll around sunset. Then came hundreds of smartphone-wielding, garden-stomping Pokemon players.

Now a couple in the lakeside neighborhood is suing Niantic Inc. and Nintendo Co. for allegedly turning the park into a nuisance and a safety threat.

“We don’t feel safe sitting on our porch,” Scott Dodich and Jayme Gotts-Dodich said in their lawsuit.

They said they have been threatened by Pokemon Go players who hide in the bushes at dusk and return to the chase after police close the park and leave. The couple are seeking monetary damages and a ban on Pokemon in the park, according to their complaint filed Wednesday in San Francisco federal court.

After the game was launched in early July, “plaintiffs’ once quiet street degenerated into a nightmare," according to the complaint. The couple alleges that visitors to the park fail to respect the rules of the private neighborhood, parking in front of driveways, trespassing on well-manicured gardens and peering into windows. 

‘Shut Up’

In one instance, when Gotts-Dodich asked a player to leave her property, she was told to shut up “or else,” according to the complaint. The filing accuses Niantic and Nintendo of creating a nuisance that the companies have used for their own profit. The couple seeks class-action status to all represent property owners in the U.S.who have faced similar difficulties with Pokemon players.

Niantic, based in San Francisco, didn’t immediately reply to an e-mail seeking comment on the complaint. Nintendo officials weren’t available in Japan during a public holiday. The company didn’t respond immediately after regular business hours to a request for comment made through its website in the U.S.

Pokemon Go was developed by San Francisco-based Niantic with some input from Nintendo. The suit is the second to be filed since Aug. 1 by the Los Angeles-based law firm Pomerantz LLP. The earlier case, the first in the nation, was brought on behalf of a New Jersey resident who alleged that a so-called pocket monster in his backyard brought a steady stream of unwelcome visitors to his home.

While excitement over the game’s popularity at one point more than doubled Nintendo’s market value, shares have since corrected as the company pared back expectations, saying financial impact will be “limited.” Shares have increased almost 6 percent in August to 22,780 yen at the close of trading on Wednesday.

The Michigan plaintiffs said they have submitted multiple requests for the removal of the Pokestops and Pokemon Gyms placed near their homes since July using Niantic’s request form on its website and e-mails to the company’s legal department and its Chief Executive Officer John Hanke. They received a generic reply in return thanking them for their report, according to their complaint.

The case is Dodich v. Niantic Inc., 16-cv-04556, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco). The earlier case is Marder v. Niantic Inc., 16-cv-04300, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (Oakland).

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