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Should Apple’s FaceTime be Blamed for Child’s Death?

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Driver distractions are on the rise; it isn’t just about texting anymore. People are increasingly driving and using Snapchat, Instagram, FaceTime, and Facebook, or taking selfies or playing Pokémon Go. The phone is constantly at the center of our lives.

A Texas couple has filed a lawsuit against Apple after a man who was using FaceTime, while driving crashed into their vehicle, killing their daughter.

On Christmas Eve in 2014, the family was on I-35 near Dallas when they slowed due to a traffic accident and police activity ahead on the road. The driver behind them was using Apple’s FaceTime video chat on his iPhone at the time and did not notice the traffic had stopped until it was too late, slamming into the back of the family vehicle. He was traveling at 65 mph at the time of the crash. His SUV rolled up and over the driver’s side of the family’s Camry, seriously injuring the couple and their two daughters, ages 5 and 8. Emergency workers extracted the man and the 5-year-old who was sitting behind him. The couple and the 8-year-old were taken by ambulance to an area hospital. The 5-year-old was flown to another hospital, but succumbed to her injuries.

The negligent driver’s iPhone survived the crash. FaceTime was still running when police officers found it. The man was charged with manslaughter.

While the family acknowledges the driver’s role and responsibility in the crash, they argue that Apple is also to blame. The lawsuit contends that Apple should be held accountable because the company knew the risks of using FaceTime while driving. The suit claims that Apple had a patent on safer technology, but failed to implement the safer, alternative to ‘lock out’ the ability of drivers to utilize the FaceTime app while driving. The complaint also says that Apple “failed to warn its users that its product was likely to be dangerous when used or misused in a reasonably foreseeable manner.”

The outcome of the litigation remains to be seen, but one thing the case does highlight is the need for common sense while driving. It is time to stop prioritizing a chat, a text, or a selfie over safety.

We are all aware of the risks of distracted driving. We acknowledge that cellphone use is an addictive behavior for many. We acknowledge that laws and education are not enough to stop motorists from distracted driving. Yet, such behavior continues at a growing rate.

Where do cellphone companies fall in the blame game? Kenneth A. Bamberger, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law told the New York Times, “This is a compelling type of legal claim. It deals with the widespread use of a product we now know is involved in significant risk and deals with the ultimate question of who should contribute in minimizing the risk.”

Who should be responsible when cell phone use causes an accident? The distracted driver? The cell phone company for not stepping up safety measures on their devices?  The government for not implementing and enforcing stricter laws?

Who has the power to ensure that our roads are free of distracted drivers; who should be responsible? What do you think? If drivers can’t police themselves, should automated blocking be the answer?

Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.

1 Comment

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  1. John Lockwood says:
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    Phones don’t kill people, idiots Texting/FaceTiming/other while driving kill people.

    I would expect the NRA to file an amicus brief.