On Christmas Eve 2014, a driver distracted by using FaceTime on his iPhone crashed into another vehicle on I-35 in Texas, killing the 5-year-old girl in the back seat. The child’s parents and her older sister — all also injured in the collision — are now suing Apple, alleging that the company was negligent in not deploying safeguards that would restrict the use of FaceTime while driving.
In a lawsuit [PDF] filed last week in a California state court, the parents point out that in 2008, Apple filed a patent application for a “Driver handheld computing device lock-out” systems that “disable the ability of a handheld computing device to perform certain functions, such as texting, while one is driving.” This patent was eventually granted by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office in April 2014.
The plaintiffs allege that Apple was negligent by not including this technology in the iPhone 6 Plus (the phone used by the driver in the collision), and by allegedly failing to warn users that FaceTime was “likely to be dangerous when used or misused in a reasonably foreseeable manner.” This supposed negligence, was a “substantial factor” in the death of their daughter and their own injuries.
Apple, argue the plaintiffs, has “consistently and continuously failed to implement a safer, alternative design that would lock-out and prevent used of FaceTime while driving.”
The plaintiffs point to the Apple patent application, which cites research on the potentially deadly dangers of distracted driving, as evidence that the company willfully ignored the risks associated with FaceTime and driving.
According to the complaint, Apple had known for years before this fatal incident about the “compulsory, addictive, and dangerous nature of iPhone usage by drivers” but “nevertheless voluntarily and intentionally failed to implement this technology.”