Car Accident Lawyers Discuss Lawsuit Against Apple in an Alleged Distracted Driving Case
The parents of a child that died in an alleged distracted driving incident are suing Apple Inc explain New York car accident lawyers at Frekhtman & Associates. They allege that Apple’s FaceTime app contributed to the death by encouraging distracted driving. The lawsuit was filed in December 2016, in California Superior Court in Santa Clara County.
The litigation also asserts that Apple was aware of the safety risks posed by the FaceTime app, and that it failed to use its own patented lock-out feature to prevent driver use at highway speeds.
Details of the Accident
At about 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve, 2014, a couple and their daughters from Cross Roads, Texas, were traveling near Dallas, Texas, in their Toyota Camry. The vehicle was southbound in the left lane of Interstate 35W when it became necessary to slow down because of a traffic stop about a quarter-mile ahead.
A Toyota 4Runner driven by a 20-year-old man from Gainesville, Texas, approached the family from behind, and the SUV allegedly failed to slow down. The vehicles then collided at an estimated 65 mph. The SUV rolled up and onto the driver side of the car, according to the legal documents. Ultimately, the Camry came to a stop facing the wrong way in the right lane.
One Family Member Dies, Three Others Injured
At the time of the crash, the father was driving, and his wife occupied the passenger seat next to him. The 5-year-old girl sat behind her father, and the 8-year-old girl sat behind her mother.
The father required extrication from the vehicle. Emergency personnel transported him, his wife and their older daughter to Denton Regional Medical Center. Their younger daughter was airlifted to Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, but she did not survive. The driver of the other vehicle also required transport to Denton Regional Medical Center.
Motorist Tells Police About FaceTime App Use
The parents’ lawsuit states that the offending motorist told police he was using the FaceTime app on his iPhone 6 when his vehicle struck the plaintiff’s car. Officers reportedly found his phone at the accident scene with the Facetime app still running.
Indicted on Manslaughter Charge
On August 7, 2015, a Denton County Grand Jury returned an indictment against the driver of the 4Runner. He was charged with manslaughter and taken into custody the following Tuesday. He was released that evening after posting a $25,500 bond, according to the Denton Record-Chronicle. The bond pertained to the manslaughter charge and a theft charge not related to the traffic accident. Those found guilty of manslaughter in Texas face a minimum 2-year and maximum 20-year prison sentence. A fine up to $10,000 may be assessed as well.
A jury trial regarding the manslaughter charge was scheduled to commence on Monday, September 19, 2016. When the Denton County District Attorney’s office and defense counsel could not reach a plea agreement, the trial was postponed to February 27, 2017.
Lawsuit Seeks Actual and Punitive Damages
According to KTLA News, attorneys filing the lawsuit state that Apple’s actions “were a substantial factor in causing the plaintiffs’ injuries and decedent’s death.” As a result, the couple seeks actual and punitive damages from Apple. The parents of the deceased child claim Apple is liable for damages due to its gross negligence, general negligence, negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent and strict products liability. The couple also seeks compensation for loss of consortium. The plaintiffs seek a jury trial.
Lock-out Feature Patented, Not Implemented
The legal documents allege Apple was negligent in failing to implement a “lock-out” feature which the company previously received a patent for. The feature would prevent a motorist from using the FaceTime app while operating a motor vehicle. In 2008, Apple applied for a patent for a “Driver Handheld Computing Device Lock-out.” The design used GPS tracking to calculate the speed of the app’s user. The U.S. Patent Office granted the patent in April 2014, approximately eight months before the fatal rear-end collision.
Not only did Apple not implement the lock-out feature, but the company did not adequately warn motorists against using FaceTime, according to the lawsuit.
In the legal documents, attorneys for the parents of the deceased child cite evidence of increasing amounts of compulsive and addictive use of smartphones while driving. They assert that both texting and using apps while driving constitute distracted driving, and they cite research which links distracted driving and compulsive/addictive use of smartphones. The plaintiffs assert that the FaceTime App causes three kinds of distracted driving – visual, manual and cognitive.
In some traffic accidents resulting in injury and/or death, it is possible for victims to seek compensation for certain medical expenses, pain, suffering and possible lost wages. In suits involving the wrongful death of a child, survivors often seek monetary damages for loss of consortium as well. In particularly egregious cases of negligent conduct, it is sometimes possible to pursue punitive damages as well. A jury may award punitive damages to discourage similarly negligent conduct by the same party or other parties in the future.
If you or a family member is a victim in a crash, our law firm makes it possible for you to consult with an attorney focused on relevant aspects of personal injury law. There is no charge for our services unless we obtain monetary compensation for you through civil litigation or an out-of-court settlement.
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