Canadian court decides class-action lawsuit against Fortnite can proceed

A Canadian court has approved a class-action lawsuit against the creators of Fortnite, Epic Games.

We first reported that the Canadian legal firm was preparing a class-action lawsuit against Epic Games back in 2019. It accused the developer of “knowingly” creating the “very, very addictive game”, Fortnite, but had been in limbo ever since as the court assessed whether or not the case could proceed.

Now, however, it seems the court agrees with the plaintiff that the claim “does not appear to be frivolous or manifestly ill-founded” and, according to CTV News, just because there’s “no certainty” that Epic created an “addictive” game it “does not preclude the possibility that the game is in fact addictive and that its creator and distributor are presumed to know this”.

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“Epic Games, when they created Fortnite, for years and years, hired psychologists – they really dug into the human brain and they really made the effort to make it as addictive as possible,” Alessandra Esposito Chartrand, an attorney with Calex Légal, said at the time. “They knowingly put on the market a very, very addictive game which was also geared toward youth.”

Likening the case to the 2015 class-action suit against tobacco companies that saw the Quebec Superior Court ruling determine tobacco companies didn’t do enough to warn their customers about the dangers of smoking, Chartrand believes Epic knew Fortnite was “as addictive as possible” and failed in their duty to warn players of the risk of addiction. Consequently, the legal challenge is “very centered on the duty to inform”.

The legal notice – which was initially filed on behalf of the parents of two minors, who had been aged 10 and 15 at the time, although other parents have since joined the lawsuit – also drew on the decision of the World Health Organization to list gaming disorder as a disease.

“In our case, the two parents that came forward and told [us]’If we knew it was so addictive it would ruin our child’s life, we would never have let them start playing Fortnite or we would have monitored it a lot more closely’,” Chartrand added.

To play the game, users must surrender their right to sue the company as part of its terms of use and instead go through individual arbitration, but Chartrand believes the terms of service “don’t stand up in court in Quebec because the province’s Consumer Protection Act requires companies to clearly disclose risks associated with products or services”.

“The Court is of the opinion that the facts alleged with respect to the plaintiffs’ children make it possible to claim, if we put them in relation to the statements of certain experts with respect to the creation of an addiction to video games, and more particularly to Fortnite, that the plaintiffs have a valid product liability claim against the defendants,” the recent ruling states. “The claim does not appear to be frivolous or manifestly ill-founded.”

“There’s something about Fortnite that is completely unique. There are no other games that have therapy centers dedicated to players of that game,” Chartrand says.

Epic has 30 days to appeal the judgment.

“We have industry-leading Parental Controls that empower parents to supervise their child’s digital experience,” Epic spokesperson Natalie Munoz told PC Gamer. “Parents can receive playtime reports that track the amount of time their child plays each week, and require parental permission before purchases are made, so that they can make the decisions that are right for their family. We have also recently added a daily spending limit by default for players under the age of 13.

“We plan to fight this in court. This recent decision only allows the case to proceed. We believe the evidence will show that this case is meritless.”

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