A couple in Santa Clara, CA has added their names to a growing list of individuals who are suing Apple Inc. for failing to introduce technology that was patented in 2014, and designed to prevent iPhone users from using certain applications while driving.
The couple and their two daughters were struck by a distracted driver on Christmas Eve 2014, and their daughter Moriah tragically passed away as a result of her injuries. The distracted driver was using the iPhone’s Facetime App at the time of the crash. The suit alleges that Apple Inc. should be held accountable for the accident because the smartphone manufacturer had a patent for a safer version of the Facetime application, and failed to implement it. Similar suits have been filed against Apple in Texas and Southern California relating to other applications, including text messaging.
The technology can apparently be applied to many, if not all of the iPhone’s applications, and uses a lockout mechanism to disable applications based on the rate of speed at which the device is traveling. The popular game Pokemon Go has a similar feature, and experts have posited that the emergence of the lockout function in that game prompted the discovery of the Apple patent, and subsequently, the lawsuits.
Essentially, the plaintiffs in this case are alleging, and trying to prove, that Apple Inc. is at fault for the death of their daughter because they failed to implement the lockout safety feature. One could say that if the lockout feature was in place, the accident wouldn’t have happened. But, it can also be said that if the distracted driver was acting within the law, the accident wouldn’t have happened.
There are some significant hurdles to overcome when bringing this type of case, and we will focus on two for the purposes of this article.
The first hurdle is a common aspect of product liability law – ordinarily, a manufacturer should not be found liable for injury caused by the illegal use of their product. Using your phone to text or talk in California while driving is illegal, so this definitely represents a hurdle for this case. There is however, some legal precedent for assigning the manufacturer liability when illegal or dangerous use is well known and the manufacturer had a feasible way to prevent it and chose not to. With regards to this lawsuit, the case could hinge on whether the implementation of the lockout technology was feasible, as it is already proven the technology existed at the time of the accident. The Weinberger law firm is a Sacramento personal injury attorney with experience in product liability law, please give us a call for a free consultation if you or a loved one have been injured by a defective product.
In order to build a case to prove Apple’s liability in this situation, the plaintiff would need to create a causal chain that proves Apple’s liability – It was Apple Inc.’s failure to implement life-saving technology, that led to the auto accident on Christmas Eve 2014, that led to the young girl’s death. The defense team may attempt to chip away at the plaintiff’s case by introducing the idea of a superseding cause that breaks that causal chain. In this case, the superseding cause would likely be the distracted driver. The defense would argue that the victim was injured in a car accident because the other driver broke the law and illegally used their phone, which carried a much greater responsibility for the accident than did Apple’s choice to refrain from implementing the lockout technology, thereby superseding Apple’s liability.
There have been multiple similar cases brought against apple in the last year, and it’s a good idea for all of us to keep an eye on them. These cases could have sweeping and far reaching legal implications in the product liability field. The experienced Sacramento personal injury attorney at The Weinberger Law Firm can help you and your loved ones if you have been hurt in an automobile accident in Sacramento. If you suspect a distracted driver was responsible, they should be held accountable for their negligence and injured parties should be compensated. Call for a free consultation today!