Texas family blame Apple's FaceTime in suit over fatal crash

A man using FaceTime killed a 5-year-old girl in a highway crash. Was Apple to blame?
Family sues Apple over FaceTime's role in fatal car crash
Author

06 January, 2017

Apple is being sued by a Texas couple, who allege that its FaceTime app played a role in a lethal vehicle crash on Christmas Eve 2014 that killed their 5-year-old daughter Moriah.

They say Apple should be held accountable because it had a patent for a safer version of FaceTime that was created to prevent people from using the video and voice calling app while driving.

Because the use of FaceTime requires "cognitive, manual, audio, and visual efforts to operate, any and all of which distract the attention of a driver", the suit claims, Apple should have implement safety precautions to prevent drivers from using the app.

On December 24, 2014, James and Bethany Modisette along with their daughters Isabella and Moriah were inside their auto on Interstate I-35 just north of Dallas when they had to slow down because of a gridlock caused by an accident in front.

Filed in California Superior Court in Santa Clara County late last month, the suit also claims that Apple failed "to warn users that the product was likely to be risky when used or misused". Due to some police activity on the road ahead, traffic had all but stopped.

In an accident the driver involved in the crash, Garrett Wilhelm, drove his SUV into the back of the Modisette family's vehicle while travelling at high speeds.

The almost 5,000-pound SUV tore into the Camry, then rode up over the driver's side.

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James, Bethany, and 8-year-old daughter Isabella were taken by ambulance to Denton Regional Medical Center, along with Wilhelm, while Moriah was airlifted to Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth, where she died of her injuries, reports the Denton Record-Chronicle.

"Wilhelm told police at the scene that he was using FaceTime on his iPhone at the time of the crash, and the police located his iPhone at the crash scene with the FaceTime application still active", the suit claims. When police found it, FaceTime was still running.

At the time of the collision in question, the iPhone utilized by Wilhelm contained the necessary hardware (to be configured with software) to automatically disable or "lock out" the ability to use [FaceTime] ...

Wilhelm was charged with manslaughter in the case, which is working its way through court, according to the Associated Press, but the family thinks the iPhone's manufacturer, Apple, is also to blame.

In the lawsuit, the Modisettes claim that Apple failed "to warn users that the product was likely to be unsafe when used or misused" or to instruct on its safe usage.

The Modisettes want Apple to pay for the damages incurred from the accident because they believe the tech company could and should have created features that lock people out of FaceTime.


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