The family of a five-year-old girl killed by a distracted driver in 2014 is now suing Apple for negligence. The essence of their claim is that the company’s FaceTime app, which the driver who caused the crash was using at the time, was not made safer despite known risks and that Apple also failed to warn users that using the app could be unsafe in some situations.
FaceTime is a video-calling application available on Apple devices. It’s used by millions worldwide every day to communicate, but like so many smartphone apps, there’s nothing to stop someone from using it in inappropriate circumstances, such as when they’re behind the wheel of a car moving at highway speed. Some controversial apps, including Pokémon Go—which has been blamed for numerous accidents and cited as a dangerous distracted driving risk—have implemented speedlock features for safety reasons.
A twist in this lawsuit is that it alleges that Apple has already developed and patented speedlock technology for FaceTime, but that it hasn’t implemented it.
The crash in question happened on Christmas Eve, 2014, on I-35 outside of Dallas. The Modisette family had slowed in traffic because of police action ahead but a following driver failed to react and crashed into their car at a speed estimated to be around 65 mph. The crash injured all four members of the family, leaving the father in critical condition for a time. The youngest daughter, five-year-old Moriah, was seriously injured in the crash and later died of her injuries at an area hospital.
The driver who crashed into the Modisette’s car, who was also injured, reportedly admitted to police that he had been using FaceTime at the time of the crash.
More and more crashes are being blamed on distracted driving, with smartphones and other mobile devices a large part of the problem. According to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2013 more than 3,000 people were killed in crashes involving distracted drivers. Close to one in five injury crashes that year involved distracted driving.
Different apps have been blamed for specific crashes. SnapChat, for instance, has come under heavy fire. The Texas crash isn’t the only one that’s been blamed on FaceTime, although this case might be the first with a fatality. The driver in a rollover in Washington State last year admitted to using the app, but she was the only one injured in the crash, and not seriously.
The driver in the Texas crash has been indicted on manslaughter charges and the trial is scheduled to begin in February. The action filed against Apple is a civil suit, alleging general negligence and that Apple’s “failure to exercise reasonable care” in the design and implementation of FaceTime was responsible for the crash and for Moriah’s death.
The circumstances of this case are unusual, but auto accidents come in many forms. Hundreds of times every day someone is injured in a motor vehicle crash, and unfortunately every year many thousands of those crashes result in a fatality. If you or someone close to you has been involved in a serious crash that’s led to an injury or death, it’s important to have an experienced legal team on your side to help you pursue your case against those responsible for the accident.
Denena Points, PC understands all aspects of automobile accident law. Call us today at 713-352-0526 or contact us online through the form on this page to schedule a free consultation to discuss the details of your case.