The USA is often known as being a country of lawyers. Where a woman can sue a restaurant for her coffee being too hot and a couple can sue iPhone manufacturer, Apple, over a customer’s misuse of their app while driving.
Parents of the deceased, five-year-old, Moriah Modisette, are launching a full-scale litigation campaign against Apple. The lawsuit comes more than two years after her tragic death. The Modisette’s daughter was killed after a driver became distracted using FaceTime and smashed into the back of their vehicle.
While the accident is undisputedly a tragedy, one might question what grounds the couple have to go up against the tech giant. After all, the fault, you might argue, lies with the driver, Garrett Wilhelm. He faces charges of manslaughter against a jury trial in February.
Wilhelm admits to irresponsible behavior while driving and that he crashed his SUV into the back of the Modisette’s car. He was speaking on FaceTime and traveling at high speed. In fact, police reported that the application still open when they found his phone at the crash scene.
While Apple has so far declined to comment, the key to this lawsuit lies in the fact that the maker of Mac and iPhone should have added a drive-safe feature. This is a way of disabling the video camera app while driving.
The lawsuit highlights a patent for exactly this type of feature requested and filed by Apple back in 2008. Yet, the feature was never developed.
Parents, James and Bethany Modisette, are seeking damages for Apple’s failure to implement and install the safer design, as detailed in the December 2008 patent, which was later granted by the US patent office in April of 2014.
Death by Technology
The issue of drivers being distracted by technology is not a new one, with many countries in fact banning the use of cellphones while driving. Despite the ban however, many motorists continue to dial and drive at the same time. The particular problem with FaceTime, though, is that it needs to be used with a camera.
This lawsuit also touches upon many studies into the use (or rather, misuse) of technology when driving. This includes one study for telcom firm, AT&T, which had found that as many as 43% of young adults had admitted to texting while driving.
Similar studies in the United Kingdom have also shown a rise in accidents, as the number of motorists using their mobile phones while driving has increased. The UK government is planning on a zero tolerance policy of double fines and license points for anyone found caught texting behind the wheel.
The outcome of the litigation remains to be seen. Whether the jury will be more sympathetic to the technology giant, or to the perpetrator of the accident. One thing the case does highlight though, is the need for using common sense while driving.
The World Health Organization found that there were over 1.25 million road deaths globally in 2013 alone. That amount is certain to increase, as more and more of the population clamors to get mobile.
But, whether large manufacturers will be forced to disable apps with video cameras in vehicles or not, we should all take the responsibility to think before we drive and keep our cellphones in a safe place.