Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury Law Blog

Family of Deceased Five Year Old Blames Apple's FaceTime for Fatal Car Crash

Posted by Charles Gilman | Jan 06, 2017 | 0 Comments

Parents of a five-year-old killed in an automobile accident two years ago in Texas are suing Apple for the company's failure to implement technology that would detect when a car was in motion and prevent the use of certain applications. They say that this negligence allowed driver Garrett Wilhelm, 22, to operate the FaceTime app on his Apple iPhone while driving at high speeds on the interstate, a substantial distraction which they claim led to the fatal crash.

On Christmas Eve of 2014, the Texas family of four were driving in a Toyota Camry on an interstate north of Dallas when police activity on the highway ahead caused them to brake. Wilhelm, who was using the FaceTime app at the time, failed to see the brake lights and slammed into the sedan at full speed with his Toyota 4Runner, an SUV which then partially rolled over the car, severely injuring both 5-year-old Moriah Modisette and her father, James Modisette.

The lawsuit states that Moriah's sister Bethany and her mother Isabella, who both sustained minor injuries, “visibly and audibly witnessed rescue workers' grueling efforts to extract James Modisette and Moriah Modisette from the mangled vehicle, as well as...(their) serious and life-threatening injuries and struggles to stay alive.” Moriah was airlifted to a local hospital where she later died from her injuries. James Modisette survived.

When police arrived at the scene, they found Wilhelm's FaceTime app still running, and he admitted to using the program at the time of the accident. Wilhelm is facing charges of manslaughter.

The family has filed a lawsuit in California against the tech giant Apple, however, because they believe that Apple “voluntarily and intentionally failed to implement the technology” that would prevent drivers from using their smartphones at high speeds.

The lawsuit cites the fact that Apple applied for a patent for this exact technology in 2008, and was awarded the patent in 2014, months before the accident occurred. The family blames the accident on Apple's "failure to install and implement the safer, alternative design...to 'lock out' the ability of drivers to utilize the FaceTime application." The FaceTime application comes pre-installed on the phone.

Smartphone companies have thus far avoided implementing blocks on phones of people who are driving. They say that the technology is still in development and unreliable. According to The New York Times, they also “argue that they cannot shut down a driver's service without the potential of mistakenly shutting off a passenger's phone or that of someone riding on a train or bus.” Phone companies may also not want to program such technology into their phones because it could reduce user's access and cause customers to choose other providers.

While Apple did not comment on the present lawsuit for the fatal car crash, at a separate time they made a statement addressing safety while driving: “For those customers who do not wish to turn off their iPhones or switch into Airplane Mode while driving to avoid distractions, we recommend the easy-to-use Do Not Disturb and Silent Mode features.”

If you or someone you love has been injured in an auto accident, there may be more parties responsible than the other driver. Attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian will work hard to explore all your possible options for just compensation. For a consultation on your next possible steps, call (800) 529-6162 or contact them online.

About the Author

Charles Gilman

As managing partner and co-founder of Gilman & Bedigian, it is my mission to help our clients recover and get their lives back on track. I strongly believe that every person who is injured by a wrongful act deserves compensation, and I will do my utmost to bring recompense to those who need and deserve it.

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