Apple Inc. sued for FaceTime car crash

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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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