back to article Apple sued by parents of girl killed by driver 'distracted by FaceTime'

A family is suing Apple after their five-year-old daughter was killed by a driver allegedly distracted at the wheel with a FaceTime call on his iPhone. On Christmas Eve, 2014, the Modisette family was driving down Interstate 35W in Texas when a car accident up ahead brought traffic to a standstill. They stopped, but behind …

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  1. mics39
    Facepalm

    Just another greedy Texas idiot.

    1. Hans 1 Silver badge
      Happy

      >Just another greedy Texas idiot.

      What a wonderful way to describe the lawyer representing the family in this case.

      @el reg, please, please, please, we need a "Don't feed the lawyers" icon!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      They might not be greedy. They might be doing this for publicity (trying to get the law changed, for example) and not expecting to win anything, and they might even be planning to give any winnings to charity. In any case, I'm not sure that taking some money that is legally available counts as "greedy". The other day I filled in a form requesting repayment of about £20k from the taxman. But I guess I don't really need that £20k. Am I greedy?

    3. Triggerfish

      Or maybe a bunch of people in a lot of pain lashing out, trying to find a reason for why their lives have been set adrift?

    4. Planty Bronze badge
      Thumb Up

      I actually support them. If Apple want to go around slapping patents on everything, just to stop others doing so, without ever actually implementing the things, this might make them think twice...

      1. DougS Silver badge

        This are defensive filings

        Apple has NEVER tried to stop someone else from using something they've patented that they aren't using themselves. Besides, I'm sure there are a dozen "prevent using a phone while driving" patents out there, all just different enough in their details for the patent office to approve them.

        It isn't Apple preventing such technology from becoming a reality, it is because there's no way for the phone to know whether it is in the possession of the driver or a passenger.

        1. Known Hero
          Unhappy

          Re: This are defensive filings

          I really hope nobody comes near you with a sharp object your bubble might get popped !!!

          Apple are notorious for patent abuse, Sure another company could implement this tech into their phone, and pay through the nose for the ability.......

          Same way if somebody charged you £50 to goto the loo, you would think twice and hold it in or piss on their doorstep.

          1. DougS Silver badge

            Re: This are defensive filings

            Apple's 'patent abuse' is about companies using tech Apple is using themselves. I stand by my claim that they have NEVER sued anyone for using tech they aren't using in their own products. If you dispute that, provide a link of a single case where this has ever happened.

            Put up or shut up.

            1. Known Hero
              FAIL

              Re: This are defensive filings

              Impossible, so many patent deals are kept behind closed doors.

              same as requiring proof of aliens at roswell etc etc... easy enough to ask, impossible to deliver.

              1. DougS Silver badge

                Re: This are defensive filings

                You're an idiot. Patent lawsuits are public filings. You just can't produce proof because you know your claim is 100% false, so you make ridiculous claims about conspiracy theories keeping them secret. How come when other companies (i.e. all those patent trolls) file lawsuits over patents they have but don't use in any products make the news, and Apple magically keeps this secret? Ah, because of Roswell...gotcha.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sad

    I completely sympathize with the family, I can't even imagine losing a five year old offspring.

    On the other hand, this is sadly a total cash grab. They should be suing the guy that caused the crash, but they know that Apple has a bigger money bag.

    You can't just disable a phone just because it's GPS says it's going fast, as there is no way of knowing that the person using the phone is the actual driver.

    1. CanadianMacFan

      Re: Sad

      Even if it is being used by the driver it could be used correctly in a hands-free manner. In this case FaceTime shouldn't be used but other functions are allowed.

      1. djvrs

        Re: Sad

        FaceTime Audio should be allowed however........

    2. brainbone

      Re: no way of knowing that the person using the phone is the actual driver

      A warning, like most GPS navigation systems have, that detects you're moving, warns you not to use the device while driving and has you agree before continuing, may help a few people think twice before they inevitably choose to be an idiot anyway. (I'd like to say it would also reduce the risk of litigation, but someone would likely sue Apple because they [insert incident here] while reading the warning message.)

      Still, I can't imagine the pain these parents are going through, and hope I never have to. Just about lost control of my vehicle last night, with my child in the car, avoiding becoming part of a nasty pile-up on i94 that was caused by a combination of icy conditions and, allegedly, a texting driver. Had I lost concentration for split second, I likely wouldn't be typing this.

      1. Wyrdness

        Re: no way of knowing that the person using the phone is the actual driver

        Did you read the actual patent? It describe using the phone's camera(s) to determine whether it is the driver who is using it.

        However, it's not Apple's job to enforcing the law. Why aren't they suing the police for not catching this guy before he killed someone? After all, that is their job.

        1. ShortLegs

          Re: no way of knowing that the person using the phone is the actual driver

          @Wyrdness

          " Why aren't they suing the police for not catching this guy before he killed someone? After all, that is their job."

          Because the Police are not legally liable for any loss, injury (including death), damage arising from them failing to do so, even negligently. As I recall, this was established (in the US) by the Supreme Court,

    3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Sad

      Or sue Toyota for selling a off-road vehicle that is designed to ride up over other cars in the event of accident, for use on the road.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sad

      You can't just disable a phone just because it's GPS says it's going fast, as there is no way of knowing that the person using the phone is the actual driver.

      Exactly. So let's look at it as sweet justice being served on Apple for filing yet another obvious, non-inventive bullshit dross patent and because of that patent.

      Can we have a repeat performance of that? Daily basis if possible?

      1. GeezaGaz

        Re: Sad

        Agreed.

        Apple should be sued for raising endless patents that exist purely to provide a potential legal battle to stop anyone else doing anything.

        Sad case but I think its a stretch too far for the family.

    5. Hollerithevo Silver badge

      Re: Sad

      It could be a way to force Apple and others to add the technology now so that other idiots are prevented from killing innocent people, at least in this particular way. It's already delivered lots of publicity and made Apple look like it can't be bothered and, if it looks like succeeding, might prompt them to act.

    6. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: Sad

      GPS motion detection would cause problems with all phones. When we travel, the navigator uses their phone to keep abreast of traffic conditions and directions. If a phone call is necessary the navigator handles it.

      The problem is the 22 yr old probably has the state mandated minimum for liability and no other real assets. Apple has assets but their only connection to the case is the driver was using an iPhone. The patent angle may not be valid if Apple can show that no one has approached them to use the patents. AFAIK Android phones do not have GPS motion detection and lock out.

    7. Lotaresco Silver badge

      Re: Sad

      Before suing Apple, the family should be suing the state of Texas which permits drivers to use their mobile phones while driving. Because Freedom! presumably.

  3. Herby Silver badge

    Lawyers...

    Shakespeare was right. Especially in this case.

    Next they will sue the auto maker that might have prevented the accident by limiting the speed (or something like that).

    Who knows, I may even be picked for the jury (it is local to me).

    Here is a dollar kid, don't bug me.

    1. joed

      Re: Lawyers...

      Shakespeare was not right. I've messed up my eyesight while reading his s... Now I'll have to sue him. BTW, I do not recall "do not read while operating vehicle" disclaimer in any of his works. WTF with that, accident waiting to happen.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lawyers...

      Next they will sue the auto maker that might have prevented the accident by limiting the speed (or something like that).

      It would be more like taking them to court for an inability to stop utter morons use their product (as is the lawsuit against Apple). You cannot out-engineer stupid.

      Now, bonus questions: how did they discover this patent? Did the idiot driver run into a family of patent lawyers (IMHO unlikely, they generally don't drive Toyota Camry)? Why was Toyota not sued for not stopping the driver from driving without due care and attention (I'm assuming the driver will be sued too)?

    3. Hollerithevo Silver badge

      Re: Lawyers...

      Everyone scorns lawyers until they need one. Good legal advice has saved me from a pernicious case in court, saved me tons of money in a dispute, and given me a few astute contracts. In criminal law, they are part of a system that allows the innocent to defend themselves. I have seen an innocent man walk from from child molestation charges because my mother (a barrister) defended him.

      1. Vic

        Re: Lawyers...

        Everyone scorns lawyers until they need one.

        We only scorn lawyers who are clearly taking the piss; everyone understands the need for lawyers that don't try to game the system.

        But it's that 98.7% who do that ruin it for everyone else...

        Vic.

      2. Lotaresco Silver badge

        Re: Lawyers...

        "I have seen an innocent man walk from from child molestation charges because my mother (a barrister) defended him"

        And I have seen an abuser walk free from court and a paedophile escape with just a slap on the wrist because an excellent barrister defended them. Unfortunately the criminal law is a blunt instrument that presumes innocence, hence bad people walk free. If you recall Kenneth Noye walked free from court after killing a police officer, later he murdered Stephen Cameron.

        1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

          Re: Lawyers...

          "

          If you recall Kenneth Noye walked free from court after killing a police officer, later he murdered Stephen Cameron.

          "

          That's because (1) The killing of the police officer was legally justified and therefore was not in fact a crime and (2) courts are not equipped with crystal balls that enable them to see what the defendant will do in future and (3) a trial deals with whether what a person actually did was illegal, it is not about what they might do in future (no matter how likely), and should not convict on the basis that the defendant is a really nasty person who deserves to be punished even if he did not actually break the law (though sometimes that happens).

  4. CanadianMacFan

    Never an individuals fault

    We're in an age where it's not politically correct to say that an individual is at fault for something. Sure the driver caused the accident but he's not at fault because Apple didn't implement a feature on it's phone. Because the driver couldn't possibly have the self control to not use the phone. It always has to be the fault of a corporation or the government.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Never an individuals fault

      Really? Not politically correct? Any evidence, or are you just making up right-wing tripe?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Never an individuals fault

      "We're in an age where it's not politically correct to say that an individual is at fault for something."

      You're right, it's terribly politically incorrect of them to charge him with manslaughter.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Never an individuals fault

        >You're right, it's terribly politically incorrect of them to charge him with manslaughter.

        Do you mean it should be personslaughter?

        1. Hollerithevo Silver badge

          Re: Never an individuals fault

          It should probably just be 'slaughter'.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Never an individuals fault

            No, slaughter implies nonhumans; thus a slaughterhouse.

    3. Just Enough

      Re: Never an individuals fault

      "We're in an age where it's not politically correct to say that an individual is at fault for something."

      What a ridiculous statement. What is getting charged with manslaughter saying about this individual? It looks very like a move intended to assign fault to me. And are you suggesting that the family's lawyer decided not to sue him, simply because it's not "politically correct"? I find it very hard to believe that this entered into their considerations one bit.

      The age we are in is one where it's worth lawyers time punting a lawsuit about anything if there's money in it. The only reason they're not suing the individual is because, presumably, that individual doesn't have heaps of cash and the case against his insurer is limited. That does not mean they don't think the individual is at fault.

      And the idea that an app could be disabled, simply because it's moving fast, is obviously not a solution. The user could be a passenger in the car, or train, boat, plane etc.

    4. Eddy Ito Silver badge

      Re: Never an individuals fault

      This has nothing to do with fault, it has everything to do with lawyers mining deep pockets.

      Your analogy would be more apt if this were a case of someone suing the manufacturer for losing their fingers as the result of using their lawnmower as a hedge trimmer because it was possible to start the mower and wrap their fingers around the lower lip of the deck while the blades were still turning.

  5. harmjschoonhoven
    Mushroom

    But

    the number of alcohol-attributable lethal road traffic accidents worldwide is 268246. Sadly this is largely avoidable as figures from Germany show where the number of deaths dropped from 1716 with 18342 critically injured in 1995 to 256 and 4590 in 2015.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: But

      So what did Germany do to drop those deaths? It wasn't by adding breathalyzers to every car, i.e. a technological solution like this lawsuit seems to want. I'm guessing it was because they enforced existing laws better and/or stepped up ad campaigns to make it less socially acceptable to drive after drinking.

  6. DNTP

    Not saying this is necessarily the case here...

    But sometimes these lawsuits are a requirement imposed on the plaintiffs by their own insurance companies. As a condition of receiving payment they may be contractually required to file a suit for recovery from any tangentially related party who has money, especially given that the actual reckless driver is likely to be judgement-proof.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Not saying this is necessarily the case here...

      "But sometimes these lawsuits are a requirement imposed on the plaintiffs by their own insurance companies."

      In that case it would be the driver suing Apple.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Didn't they see..

    ..the car coming up behind them at full pelt in the rear view mirror? Don't know about anyone else but when sat in traffic on a motor way I'm pretty glued to my mirrors until the car behind me is stationary for this very reason, should've been ready to get out the way rather than blaming apple..

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Didn't they see..

      Given they were in a gridlock at the time due to an accident, they were basically cornered. If they released the brakes, they'd just crash into the vehicle ahead of them, creating a sandwich situation which could likely be even worse than just getting rear-ended (an impact from two points at once is more likely to compromise the passenger cabin, and the rear impact alone was enough here).

      In any event, the main reason disablers aren't automatic is because there's no way to tell if the user is the driver or a passenger (even with more accurate geolocation, the passenger can be behind the driver in the back seat--no way to tell the difference). The passenger is under no obligation to pay attention to the road so does not need any kind of reminder. Plus, the passenger may wish to call police on accidents as they pass, aiding those who do get into a crash.

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Didn't they see..

      So.... it's a gridlock situation with nothing moving. Where are you going to go to get out of the way in those few seconds before impact?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Didn't they see..

        The hard shoulder, always leave a bit of distance between you and the car infront and you can swerve left. Fail to plan and plan to fail.

        Stick to the left in these situations anyway, assholes travelling at speed and not paying attention tend to either be middle lane hoggers or outer lane twits, again reducing your chance of being violently impacted in the rear..

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Didn't they see..

          Those rules go out the window in a gridlock because everyone will be cramming for every inch of space. Leave that much space and someone will move into it. And you can't trust the shoulder since it could be soft or have an embankment or ditch, creating an "out of the frying pan, into the fire" situation.

          1. James O'Shea Silver badge

            Re: Didn't they see..

            "And you can't trust the shoulder since it could be soft or have an embankment or ditch, creating an "out of the frying pan, into the fire" situation."

            It's worse than that. I a situation like that, emergency vehicles tend to use the shoulder to get to the scene. They tend to be less than impressed when someone not in an emergency vehicle blocks their way. They also tend to be moving fairly quickly, and pulling out of the way of the SUV may result in getting in the way of a firetruck. Bad idea.

          2. Stoneshop Silver badge

            Re: Didn't they see..

            Those rules go out the window in a gridlock because everyone will be cramming for every inch of space. Leave that much space and someone will move into it.

            Getting rear-ended by a car at speed in a traffic jam logically means you're the rearmost car in your lane, and only the rearmost car in the other lane may be wanting to move into the gap, so not very much cramming at all. But even with space ahead to move into, sufficiently mitigating the impact from another car doing 65mph is as good as impossible if you're at or near standstill..

            When on a motorcycle I'll try to move between the lanes in such a way that at least I'm not the rearmost vehicle. Not having a crumple zone tends to make one aware of how to keep not getting crumpled.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Didn't they see..

          The hard shoulder, always leave a bit of distance between you and the car infront and you can swerve left. Fail to plan and plan to fail.

          I've been rear-ended while stationary in traffic. I was stopped behind other traffic at a red light, in the middle lane of a three-lane road, which was the correct lane for where I wanted to be after the turn. To get to either shoulder I'd have had to bulldoze my way through other vehicles across another lane of traffic. The distracted idiot who hit us took out 5 cars as well as his own, and totalled at least one (mine), fortunately not seriously injuring anyone.

          No amount of planning or "leaving a bit of distance" on my part would have helped.

    3. Bloodbeastterror

      Re: Didn't they see..

      "Didn't they see the car coming up behind them at full pelt in the rear view mirror?"

      Wow. Have a downvote for the stupidest comment I'm likely to read this month. Or year.

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