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 …

Facepalm

Just another greedy Texas idiot.

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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!

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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?

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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?

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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...

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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Re: Sad

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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,

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Never an individuals fault

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

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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.

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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?

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Re: Never an individuals fault

It should probably just be 'slaughter'.

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Re: Never an individuals fault

No, slaughter implies nonhumans; thus a slaughterhouse.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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..

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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.

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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?

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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..

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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.

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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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Anonymous Coward

Re: Didn't they see..

"should've been ready to get out the way rather than blaming apple"

This just isn't always possible. Having been rear ended by a car from behind, there often isn't enough time to get out of the way. Cars move from stationary pretty slowly, do that at the same time as reacting, quickly checking the way is still clear, steering and before you know it you've got an idiot doing 60mph in the back of you.

Moving onto the shoulder can often be much worse, it is the escape route of the idiot driver as they suddenly realise the cars are stopped, that is their most likely get out of jail free card (I've seen it happen). You start to manoeuvre into that area while the 60mph idiot is also reacting and turning into it and anything could happen. A sideways blow might roll you, you could be punched at high-speed up an embankment, you could be barrelled into a tree etc.

I would agree that the best thing to do is not bunch up and try to leave plenty of space between you and the next car (and keep your head back against the headrest).

Some of the biggest idiots on the roads are those that think they are the best drivers, the sort who blame even the victim of a traffic accident for not having the foresight to be a super driver like themselves.

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Re: Didn't they see..

Oh lovely comment. I'm amazed at how many people failed to spot the sarcasm. Good work :)

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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.

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