Man Sues Bethesda Over Seizures Caused by Oblivion

A former U.S. Navy pilot says that a video game gave him a grand mal seizure that caused him to lose his flight status. John Ryan McLaughlin says he was playing the game Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion when "strobe lights" within the game (we assume he means bright multi-colored, flashing lights) gave him "a grand mal seizure for the first time in his life," causing excruciating pain and breaking a bone. The former F-18 pilot, says the seizures caused him to permanently lose his flying status.

He is suing Bethesda Softworks and its corporate parent, Zenimax Media, and Sony Computer Entertainment, which makes the Playstation 3. He apparently suffered the inuries on March 28, 2010. McLaughlin claims that the seizures were caused by the "defective product."

"The product was so designed that it exceeded the upper acceptable limit of more than 3 flashes over a 1 second period, as well as acceptable spatial pattern and luminance flash limits. These risks were not made known to the plaintiff and/or an ordinary consumer prior to the time of purchase," according to the defendant’s lawyer. The defective and dangerous condition of the product, and that it was unsafe for the use and purpose for which it was intended when used by certain consumers as recommended, was expected and reasonably anticipated by the defendants, and each of them, or in the exercise of ordinary and reasonable care should have been known and discovered by defendants, and each of them."

McLaughlin is seeking "punitive and damages for negligence, breach of warranty, and product liability. He is being represented by Dennis Minna of Santa Ana.

Source: Court House News

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  1. 0
    Espio_Idsavant says:

    I just dug out my copy of Oblivion to check… on the very first page of the manual, inside cover, it has a "Important Health Warning About Playing Video Games" about photosensitive seizures. Its a 360 manual, but I’d think the PS3 manual is the same just with names and button images changed.

    As for "These risks were not made known to the plaintiff and/or an ordinary consumer prior to the time of purchase" … not true.  On the lower left hand corner of the case there is a Warning box photosenstive seizures.  Again this is a 360 box, but I’m assuming the PS3 box has the same design.

    Its not Bethseda’s fault if he didnt read thier notice.

  2. 0
    Grif says:

    Well, if he had bothered to read the instruction book and/or the game box, he would have gotten his warning. He has no case.


    "Power means nothing without honor and pride." My video game review site.

    Atlanta Video Games Examiner for

  3. 0
    DorthLous says:

    In my case, it’s """simply""" bad coupling. Some people are epileptic due to damaged section of the brain, causing neurons to "short-circuit" or create close-loop feed. Then, pass a certain excitation level, and the buildup is inevitable until a discharge. Something similar is the cause for me, however, it’s more akin to bad wiring all over the place. I have lots of miniature shorts (spasms), but if the shorts cause a close-loop or over-feed one are, it’ll cause a seizure. As for the time that the doctor spent on your father, well, shame for you, but I don’t know why you’d assume everyone’s the same. I had many, many tests done, adjusted medication and constant follow-ups. If your father doesn’t receive proper cares, I suggest you go look elsewhere rather than accuse an entire profession of flying blind.

  4. 0
    dubh says:

    My father experienced a single episode in his 60s. He had never had a seizure before and was in perfect health.

    My dad had every test known to the medical community run on him, and spoke in-depth with "top" physicians and "top" neurologists, despite their unwillingness to investigate or stick around for longer than 10 minutes. The medical community doesn’t know what causes epileptic seizures or epilepsy. They’ve determined the effects and how to prevent future episodes with continuous medication, but that’s it.

    Ask your "top" neurologist, "Why do epileptic seizures occur?" Press him/her. Calling something "hereditary" is just a cop out. S/he might as well call it "magic." Also note that you’re still experiencing episodes and considered an "epileptic" because the medical community doesn’t know how to fix the problem. Not exactly praise for your "top" neurologist.

  5. 0
    DorthLous says:

    No, that the game triggered an attack that he was not expecting. He’s saying that if the game had warned him about the possibility, he might not have played that game (like other do).

  6. 0
    DorthLous says:

    And as an epileptic followed by one of the top neurologist in the field, I call bullshit on you sir.

    You can scan the brain of a sleeping patient to discover nearly every epileptic condition. The one I have is called "hereditary", even though it requires a specific set of circumstances to occur. Medication does help, but it does not remove the pain of certain stimuli. Worst, each seizure inflict more damage than the previous ones, making you lose memories and lessening your learning ability. I was treated after my first known seizure, I had a second since, but by my doctor estimate, I’m closer to five events.

    Do not think your lack of knowledge in a subject applies to the top of the field in said field.

  7. 0
    dubh says:

    For those of you who don’t know anything about epileptic seizures, the medical community has no idea what causes them, but they do know that anyone and everyone is susceptible to epileptic seizures at any point in their lives.

    Many people go through life having experienced only one episode and/or never knowing they had experienced a seizure. You would be determined to have "epilepsy" if you’ve experienced seizures three or more times.

    There is medication that prevents future episodes; however, again, the medical community is clueless. They don’t know why the medication works. They just know that it does.

    McLaughlin’s claim is baseless.

  8. 0
    GrimCW says:

    on the paper trail thing, not really.

    one seizure and its game over for pilots, especially military ones.

    one guy in my command had a seizure, first of his life, they dropped him to LLD (Light Limited Duty) for a few weeks and looked into it, couldn’t find anything so they let’em go back into the wild.

    suddenly he had another one, this time aboard ship in his rack, and he was booted almost instantly from service, and given a very high disability rating for it (something around 80% or better) by the VA.

    it only takes 1 or 2 little things for the military to pull the plug, and in the case of a pilot it takes even less.

  9. 0
    Vake Xeacons says:

    True. Especially if there’s something in his past that may have incited the seizures (i.e. concussion), and it happened, coincidently, during a game.

    I, myself, experienced a similar incident. A concussion as a child, only to begin having grand mal seizures out of nowhere as an adult. Not during games, but point being: you never know when things like this might strike.

    I had one behind the wheel. A telephone pole was nice enough to stop me from hitting an innocent driver. This guy’s lucky he wasn’t at 30,000 feet.

  10. 0
    Kincyr says:

    on the topic of frivilous lawsuits, can I file a suit for "winning" seizures from those "congratulations, you won" ads?

    岩「if Phyllis Schlafly wants to undo Women’s Rights, she should lead by example and get back in the kitchen」

  11. 0
    Daelda says:

    Okay – he was playing it on his PS3, according to what I found on the court documents. Otherwise I was going to wonder if he had done any modding to the game.

  12. 0
    Snowgrog says:

    Yeah, I know, the first link may never work again. 

    I’m pretty sure that every console and game I have (well maybe not the TI) includes "photosensitivity warnings". Note that the verbiage in the warnings identify the condition as the cause of the photosensitive seisures, not that the stimuli as the cause.  The visual effects may have triggered his condition, but i doubt they caused this condition to exist within his brain.  He’d be better off looking for the cause in his medical history.


  13. 0
    Austin from Oregon says:

    As much as it sucks, the fact is that he had to be somewhat predisposed and if the game hadn’t given him a seizure then something else eventually would have. All of my console manuals have seizure warnings, and since Oblivion didn’t give everyone a seizure then I don’t think it should be called negligence on the game’s part. Any other game circumstances might have provoked a seizure in this man.

  14. 0
    Neeneko says:

    The frequency (no pun intended) of a defective product causing a problem is not relevant in an individual suit.  That being said, when something is this rare it is a little odd.

    Though I imagine if he was pulled off flight duty for it, the doctor probably has a pretty good paper trail.

    Keep in mind, if the story is true, we are not talking ‘minor inconvenience’, we are talking ‘life altering accident’

  15. 0
    Zerodash says:

    Considering the age of the game and the success it has had, one would expect that significant numbers of people would have also had seizures from the game.  Sounds like a cash-grab to me. 

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