Apple is being sued by a Texas couple, who allege that its FaceTime app played a role in a lethal car crash on Christmas Eve 2014 that killed their 5-year-old daughter Moriah. James and Bethany Modisette argue that Apple should have implemented safeguards and a “safer, alternative design” that would prevent drivers from using FaceTime while driving at high speeds.
The lawsuit, which was filed on December 23 in California Superior Court in Santa Clara County, also contends that Apple failed to “to warn users that the product was likely to be dangerous when used or misused” and properly issue safety guidelines to users.
The fatal incident occurred on a highway near Dallas after the Modisettes had slowed or stopped their Toyota Camry due to police activity ahead of them. Sometime later, Garrett Wilhelm, who was traveling in the same direction, plowed his Toyota 4Runner into them from behind while distracted by FaceTime app, the suit alleges.
His car struck the Modisettes’ with enough force to cause “it to be propelled forward, rotate and come to a final rest at an angle facing the wrong direction in the right lane of traffic,” the suit claims, whereafter it “continued its trajectory by rolling up and over the driver’s side of the Modisette car.” Moriah was in a booster seat in the left rear passenger seat at the time and later died from her injuries.
The suit also claims that Wilhelm admitted to have been using the FaceTime video chat app at the time of the crash, and that “police located his iPhone at the crash scene with the FaceTime application still active”. The Morisettes are suing Apple for damages, arguing that Wilhelm’s iPhone had the necessary hardware to automatically block his use of FaceTime. Their position is that Cupertino is liable because “Apple failed to configure the iPhone to automatically ‘lock out’ the ability to utilize FaceTime while driving at highway speeds, despite having the technical capability to do so”.