A Montreal-based law-firm has begun the process of filing a class-action lawsuit against video game publisher Epic Games on behalf of a group of Canadian parents who believe that playing Fortnite has an addictive quality similar to illicit drug use.
As reported by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), the lawsuit “likens the effect of the game to cocaine, saying it releases the chemical dopamine to the brain of vulnerable young people who can become dependent on playing.” The case is being filed by law firm Calex Légal, who “dug into it and we realized there was a strong case for it” according to Calex Légal attorney Alessandra Esposito Chartrand.
According to Chartrand, Epic Games “hired psychologists” and “really made the effort to make it as addictive as possible.”
“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. They knowingly put on the market a very, very addictive game which was also geared toward youth. In our case, the two parents that came forward and told, ‘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.'”
The lawsuit against Epic Games is based on an element of the decision in the CQTS-Blais and Létourneau class action suits filed against large tobacco companies. In the court’s decision on these suits, the court found that tobacco companies had not adequately warned customers of the health risks and dangers posed by smoking. To this end, Chartrand stated that “It’s basically the same legal basis. It’s very centred on the duty to inform.”
However, in Epic Games’ terms of service, the company includes a “class-action waiver provision,” which states that:
“To the maximum extent permitted by applicable law, You and Epic agree to only bring Disputes in an individual capacity and shall not:
seek to bring, join, or participate in any class or representative action, collective or class-wide arbitration, or any other action where another individual or entity acts in a representative capacity (e.g., private attorney general actions); or
consolidate or combine individual proceedings or permit an arbitrator to do so without the express consent of all parties to these Terms and all other actions or arbitrations.”
Chartrand has argued that this agreement would not stand up in court under Quebec’s Consumer Protection Act, which states that a “merchant” must provide “instructions necessary for the protection of the user against a risk or danger of which he would otherwise be unaware.”
As of writing, Epic Games has not publicly commented on the lawsuit.