A case of stalking that led to two murders has resulted in a products liability lawsuit for the GPS company whose device was allegedly used to facilitate the stalking.
As reported by Legaltech® News (GPS Company Hit with Products Liability Lawsuit Over Alleged Role in Stalking, Murders, written by Emily Saul and available here), a products liability lawsuit for GPS company New York-based company Spytech GPS was filed over claims that their device facilitated the murders of two people last year.
Plaintiffs Melanie Williamson, John Michael Williamson Sr., and Desmond Theel are surviving family members and estate administrators for Sara Beck and John Michael Williamson. Beck, 22, and Williamson, 20, were fatally shot in Kansas last year by Beck’s ex-boyfriend, Dustin Johnson.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Manhattan Supreme Court, alleges Johnson would not have been able to stalk Beck across state lines and to Williamson’s home without the use of a Spytec GPS tracker Johnson had affixed under Beck’s car.
Beck was aware Johnson was following her after she’d broken up with him, and took steps to try and determine how he was “stalking” her, the lawsuit says—searching her car, her phone, installing security cameras, and even going to the police, the complaint says.
“Unbeknownst to Sara Beck or her family, the stalker had purchased several Spytec GL300 Trackers to track Sara’s whereabouts,” the lawsuit claims. “These Spytec GL300 Trackers were sold with a weatherproof black magnetic case which allowed them to be covertly placed on Sara Beck’s vehicle. The weatherproof case is smaller than a typical cell phone, and designed to be easily hidden and undetectable. The Spytec GL300 Trackers are battery operated which allowed them to be placed covertly on Sara Beck’s vehicle—without accessing the interior of the vehicle, or under the hood.”
The tracker worked in tandem with an app that provided real-time location information, updating every 60 seconds.
“Defendant’s device and app allowed the stalker to track Sara Beck across state lines to a home over half an hour away from Belton, Missouri,” the complaint says, noting Johnson had never met Williamson and had no idea who he was or where he lived.
“There is no utility to covert tracking for private individuals without special certification and safety training. Indeed, such activity requires a private investigator’s license in New York,” the lawsuit reads. “No reasonable person would conclude that the utility of the Spytec GL300 outweighs the risk of marketing a device specifically designed for the purpose of covertly tracking people in real-time.”
After fatally shooting Beck and Williamson, Johnson killed himself.
This isn’t the only example of a GPS device being used to commit a crime. In July 2021, a man, who police said was tracking a woman with a GPS device on her van, was charged with first degree murder after she was found shot and stabbed. And in June 2022, an Indianapolis woman was accused of using an Apple AirTag to track down her boyfriend and running him over multiple times with her car because she believed he was being unfaithful.
It will be interesting to see how this case progresses. GPS tracking devices have been useful in keeping track of loved ones, recovering stolen items and more. But, like any technology, they can cause issues or even lead to tragedy in the wrong hands.
So, what do you think? Do you think this products liability lawsuit for the GPS company will succeed? Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.
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