Apple Inc. sued for FaceTime car crash

iphone 8 apple stockElisaRiva / Pixabay

It seems an issue that hit Pokemon Go not long after it was released is spilling over to strike Apple. A couple has sued the iPhone maker, alleging that the lack of a lockout feature on FaceTime resulted in a crash that killed their five-year-old daughter on Christmas Eve two years ago.

Driver distracted while using FaceTime

The accident happened in Texas when a 20-year-old driver who was distracted because he was using FaceTime while driving rear-ended the Modisette family’s vehicle. James Modisette decelerated because traffic in front of them was congested, and the driver behind them rear-ended their vehicle at a speed of 65 miles per hour according to the lawsuit (spotted by Courthouse News). Five-year-old Moriah Modisette died at a local hospital following the accident, and the rest of the family was injured.

James and his wife Bethany say that Apple is responsible for the accident because it did not “install and implement” a lockout feature on FaceTime to prevent drivers from using it while driving. The driver had told police that he was using FaceTime when he slammed into their vehicle, and officers found a call still in progress in the app on his iPhone 6 Plus when they arrived on the scene.

Apple failed to utilize lockout patent: lawsuit

According to the lawsuit, Apple has had the ability to implement a lockout feature on FaceTime since 2008 and in fact has held a patent on it for years. However, the iPhone maker “has consistently and continuously failed to implement a safer, alternative design that would lock-out and prevent use of FaceTime while driving,” the lawsuit states.

The court document also states that Apple’s failure to implement a feature it owns a patent for is a breach of its “duty of care to plaintiffs.” Additionally, the plaintiffs state that the driver’s use of FaceTime while driving is “inextricably intertwined” with the lack of the lockout feature. They also claim that Apple could implement such a feature for “minimal” cost with no apparent disadvantages to adding it.

The case even goes so far as to accuse the iPhone maker of intending to cause injury while willfully and knowingly ignoring the rights and safety of others so that it could turn a profit.  It demands that the company add the lockout feature and seeks reimbursement for medical expenses, damages and any other remuneration the court feels should be awarded.

Similar case involved Pokemon Go in Japan

The case bears a resemblance to an accident in Japan earlier this year. Thirty-nine-year-old Keiji Goo was sentenced to 14 months in prison after being found guilty of playing Pokemon Go while driving and killing someone because he was distracted by the game. Although this wasn’t the first accident involving driving while playing the game, it was the first conviction in a case like this.

However, unlike Apple’s FaceTime case, the driver was held responsible for his actions rather than the game’s developer, Niantic, The Pokemon Company, or Nintendo. Of course Americans seem to sue everyone for everything, and Apple certainly has a hefty enough wallet that anything a court might award would simply be pocket change. Also all three companies are facing a case in Michigan related to trespassing.

As it became apparent that car accidents were becoming common among drivers who were playing the game while driving, Pokemon Go made it much more difficult to play while driving. Whether or not the Texas couple wins their case against Apple, it would make sense for the iPhone maker to add a lockout feature to FaceTime. It is rather surprising that there is no such feature on it, but then accidents like this don’t get a lot of press, so it’s unclear how common of a problem this is.

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About the Author

Michelle Jones
Michelle Jones was a television news producer for eight years. She produced the morning news programs for the NBC affiliates in Evansville, Indiana and Huntsville, Alabama and spent a short time at the CBS affiliate in Huntsville. She has experience as a writer and public relations expert for a wide variety of businesses. Michelle has been with ValueWalk since 2012 and is now our editor-in-chief. Email her at Mjones@valuewalk.com.

5 Comments on "Apple Inc. sued for FaceTime car crash"

  1. And depending on Siri to accurately dictate a message is even worse.

    Either way, Apple has lost its halo.

  2. Kevin Sangeelee | Dec 30, 2016, 6:08 pm at 6:08 pm |

    Since Apple’s patent (the link referenced above is the wrong one!) would require co-operation from car manufacturers, as well as drivers, the claim is a bit absurd. Otherwise, there’s no way of knowing who is actually driving the car.

    My question of Apple is why they (and doubtless others) would file such a patent and then simply sit on it for years, stifling any real innovation that could result in workable solutions to the problem.

    My guess is they hope that demand for the feature materialises, either through public opinion or through legislation, which will allow them to start raking in royalties from the players with a stake in meeting those demands. That would be shameful.

    They could, instead, hold the patent defensively and offer it royalty free for public good so that interested parties could develop something that works well for everyone, other than people who want to FaceTime at 70mph on the motorway, of course.

  3. If you thinking facetime was bad, wait until they hear about this feature called “texting”. Amazing, all phone manufacturers have this feature, and it never shuts off when driving. When will we get the future AI skynet that will finally shut on and off features as safety measures, so weak-willed humans no longer need to take accountability for their own actions?

  4. These sort of lawsuits need weighty consequences if they are deemed to waste the court’s and defendant’s time. James and his wife clearly have noted that Apple has a lot of money and did some math. It a low probability they will win but with no risk and a high reward.

    The ability to facetime while being a passenger would have to be sacrificed and battery usage would go up if Apple prevented use while moving. It’s not Apple’s responsibility to enforce laws.

  5. Tragic accident, absolutely, but this is absurd. Why stop there? Why not sue Apple for all texting accidents too? What about the car company which failed to include automatic emergency braking, when they have the patents, and just want to turn a profit on that feature instead?

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