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Sunday, February 12, 2017

Texas Family Sues Apple in FaceTime "Distracted Driving" Death

Two parents from Texas whose five-year old daughter was killed in a tragic car crash have sued Apple, Inc. The family believes that the FaceTime app, made by Apple led to the "distracted driving" death and that the company could have made the app safer.

The driver who struck their car was traveling at 65 miles per hour and using FaceTime at the time of the collision. The victim's family had slowed down because of police activity on the highway. All were wearing seatbelts. FaceTime was still live on the driver's phone when rescuers arrived.

Family Claims Apple Had the Technology to Prevent the Accident

In their lawsuit, the family claims Apple should have added safeguards to disable video chatting by anyone operating a motor vehicle. They allege that the company had the capability to do this and had sought a patent for a "lock out" in 2008, which was issued in 2014.

They also accuse Apple of “failure to warn" users of the risks of using FaceTime while driving and of failure to provide instructions on using FaceTime and other apps safely. Apple's mistakes and omissions, they say, made the iPhone 6 a defective product.

Apple Seeks Dismissal, Warns of Wider Impact of Holding It Liable

Apple has filed a Motion to Dismiss, arguing that the lawsuit unfairly blames makers of products rather than the drivers who use them irresponsibly. According to Apple, allowing the FaceTime distracted-driving case to go forward would make it possible to sue fast food restaurants for accidents caused by eating and driving; coffee bars that sell hot drinks to drivers who spill them while driving; cosmetics manufacturers who sell makeup that drivers apply while driving; and others. The company argues that cellphone makers and cellular service providers have usually not been held liable for the many deaths connected to texting while driving.

Family Seeks Extensive Damages from Several Defendants

The family's lawsuit names a number of parties, and includes claims for personal injury and wrongful death. The two parents have made claims of "loss of consortium" because of their inability to perform their duties at home. They have also brought causes of action for negligence, products liability, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. They are seeking damages for past and future loss of income, non-economic damages for past and future pain and suffering, punitive damages, and more.

It is common in personal injury and wrongful death cases for plaintiffs to cast a wide net for defendants, and it is tempting to sue large corporations when possible. Whether the existence of "lock out" technology that Apple could have installed makes this case viable remains to be seen. If you have been harmed by the negligence of others, an experienced personal injury attorney can advise you on whom to target in litigation and what strategy is most likely to succeed.

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