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 …

  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

      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

        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.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Didn't they see..

        Agreed.

        Most stupid comment of the year and its January the 4th...

    4. Anonymous Coward
      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.

    5. mkaibear

      Re: Didn't they see..

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

    6. Triggerfish

      Re: Didn't they see..

      The power of eagle eyed hindsight.

    7. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: Didn't they see..

      Basic physics, they were stopped and bozo was moving at 65 mph (~100 kph) when he hit. Even if bozo was spotted there probably was not enough time to get out of the way. The only difference it would likely have made is the precise angle of impact.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Didn't they see..

        Plus it's easy to be the rearmost car AND boxed in with cars on either side of you. That's how accident fraudsters keep you from escaping: by putting a shield car opposite the center from you while the sacrifice car (picked for a very short brake distance) slams the brakes, leaving the usually-much-heavier mark with literally nowhere to go. Trying to swerve either way will result in a side-on or wrong-way "ghost driver" accident where the driver will be held liable if not criminally culpable.

        PS. Reckless and intentional head-on accidents that leave pure victims are the reason you can't use a spike instead of an airbag.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "While it's perfectly understandable to sympathize with the Modisette family, it's hard to guess how this case will stand up in court."

    The only thing I sympathize with is the loss of a child because some idiot didn't keep his attention where it belonged: on the road.

    But unfortunately I can't sympathize with this family when it comes to their lawsuit because I consider that it to be plain out ridiculous. What's next? Sue a beer brand when a person has been drinking too much? If they would have targeted their anger at the moron behind the wheel, the one who killed their daughter then they would definitely have my sympathy, but not with this. This doesn't sound like a call for justice to me.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      "But unfortunately I can't sympathize with this family when it comes to their lawsuit because I consider that it to be plain out ridiculous. What's next? Sue a beer brand when a person has been drinking too much? If they would have targeted their anger at the moron behind the wheel, the one who killed their daughter then they would definitely have my sympathy, but not with this. This doesn't sound like a call for justice to me."

      They probably have in this case, but many times suing the driver of such an accident is impossible...because they're DEAD.

    2. Velv Silver badge
      Pint

      I was looking for a good analogy but I think you've hit it perfectly.

      "Sue a beer brand when a person has been drinking too much?"

      Now, off to the pub I go, I'm fairly sure SABMiller has the funds to pay me for falling over. They should have fitted a breathalyser to the font to stop me being served too much beer.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "They should have fitted a breathalyser to the font "

        I hope it's a san serif one or someone might sue them if they cut their lips on the pointy bits.

  9. whoseyourdaddy

    "Wilhelm's Toyota 4Runner SUV plowed into the Modisette's vehicle at 65mph and rolled slightly over it, "

    If you're as obsessed with IIHS.org crash tests as I am, at 45mph the crash is jaw-dropping. At 65mph... Damn.

    Still, while I am a religions sedan owner, I am lucky to have a sibling litigator. She has standing orders that if I'm ever maimed or killed in a vehicular accident by an SUV owner due to negligence,

    ...to ruin their life.

    I'm actually sad gas has dropped back to $2 range. Fsckwads are back to buying vehicles I can't see through that, theoretically, absolve them of all medical consequences of their actions.

    1. Lotaresco

      Religious sedan

      "If you're as obsessed with IIHS.org crash tests as I am... Still, while I am a religions sedan owner"

      If you're a religious sedan owner shouldn't that be IHS.org?

      And what does a religious sedan look like?

      1. whoseyourdaddy

        Re: Religious sedan

        "If you're a religious sedan owner shouldn't that be IHS.org?"

        They allow you near a computer?

        In the states, I get an insurance company website...

        But, since we're pulling our heads out of our butts with resounding plop noises.

        The 1997-2003 Ford F-150 WAS the most popular US-produced vehicle on the market..period.

        Watch this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_i5EmJBaGeQ

        Chances of surviving identical crash test results aced by the Volkswagon Beetle?

        1 in 3. Not broken limbs.

        Dead.

        Speaking of dead, here's a head-on collision between a 2009 Chevy Malibu and a much larger car,

        ..the 1959 Bel Aire.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fPF4fBGNK0U

        If you have a brain cell left in your body, you will recognize this organization, funded by insurance companies, not the US government, have done more to improve vehicle safety than any other organization on earth.

        You're welcome.

  10. whoseyourdaddy

    Facetime is not a navigation program.

    Verizon Navigator will chime if you're going more than 5 or whatever miles over the speed limit.

    I would argue that between facetime or my sister having a laborious conversation on a hands free while talking with both hands, facetime is largely reduandant.

    The driver was distracted.

    Since this is Texas, I predict he will at least regret this for the rest of his life and that's the end of it.

    1. redneck

      Since this is Texas, the driver likely won't give a shit, and if acquitted, will go on to do the same thing again. (I often read about Texas drivers that have 5 and 6 DWI (driving while intoxicated) convictions. And yes, I live in Texas.)

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Which is interesting because the THIRD DWI in Texas is a felony (as is any DWI where a person is hurt or killed or one with a child on board), which has severe consequences even after serving (I know most places won't hire convicted felons---trust issues).

      2. Lotaresco

        I live in Texas

        "Yee", and if I may so sir, "Ha!"

  11. John Latham

    It probably *is* possible to detect a driver...

    ...looking at the screen.

    Drivers typically have quite a particular arms-out posture. And their face will be looking at the forward-facing camera when it's looking at the screen.

    My old Samsung had gaze detection to prevent the screen going off, e.g. when reading slowly. I turned it off for privacy reasons and cos it was weird. Drivers also look at the screen for short periods of time, a usage pattern that's probably detectable.

    You could presumably also detect whether the driver was on the left of right of the vehicle by the angle of the phone w.r.t travel direction or by recognising.

    So some combination of detecting arms, gaze, car environment and phone orientation ought to be enough to reliably detect whether the user is driving, and then issue a torrent of abuse, disable messaging apps, keyboard etc or whatever. Maybe switch the language to Swahili to stop it being used for reading text (maps would still be usable).

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: It probably *is* possible to detect a driver...

      "You could presumably also detect whether the driver was on the left of right of the vehicle by the angle of the phone w.r.t travel direction or by recognising."

      What if the user is the passenger situated behind the driver in the back seat? Since the car is moving, both you and driver can occupy the same spot of land, making this too risky for false positives.

      1. Bruce Ordway

        Re: It probably *is* possible to detect a driver...

        Ignoring the lawsuit for now...

        Driver distraction is probably only going to get worse.

        I wonder what it would take to accurately identify the driver and restrict phone features.

        If phone proximity sensor(s) and a vehicle "driver" signal(s) could work.

        Or maybe at some point governments will mandate all cars include a default, driverless mode?

    2. TRT Silver badge

      Re: It probably *is* possible to detect a driver...

      Aw man! And after my skiing accident I was looking to prevent boredom by face timing people from my traction bed.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Solution - replace all driver airbags with a visible metal spike

    I guarantee people will pay much more attention when driving to avoid a crash.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      Re: Solution - replace all driver airbags with a visible metal spike

      I agree, since cars are now much safer than 30 years ago, you are more likely to crash and die in an accident.

      Oh wait....

      All that will happen is people simply believe it will never happen to them. PS, it would also kill the innocent people in front.

  13. Captain Queeg

    Stella Awards...

    Every year the Stella Awards are made, honouring outlandish US law suits.

    Throwing common sense out of the window, 2007's winner might give Apple's lawyers some cause for concern.

    From: http://www.chron.com/news/casey/article/Incredible-lawsuit-tales-1826357.php

    "This year's runaway First Place Stella Award winner was Mrs. Merv Grazinski , of Oklahoma City, who purchased a new 32-foot Winnebago motor home. On her first trip home, from an OU football game, having driven on to the freeway, she set the cruise control at 70 mph and calmly left the driver's seat to go to the back of the Winnebago to make herself a sandwich.

    "Not surprisingly, the motor home left the freeway, crashed and overturned. Also not surprisingly, Mrs. Grazinski sued Winnebago for not putting in the owner's manual that she couldn't actually leave the driver's seat while the cruise control was set.

    "The Oklahoma jury awarded her – are you sitting down? – $1,750,000 plus a new motor home. Winnebago actually changed their manuals as a result of this suit, just in case Mrs. Grazinski has any relatives who might also buy a motor home."

    1. DaLo

      Re: Stella Awards...

      Wow, that's amazing, it'd be even more amazing if it was actually true.

      Rule #1 Don't believe things you read on the internet

    2. Heironymous Coward
      Holmes

      Re: Stella Awards...

      The 'Winnebago incident' is is an urban legend, it never actually happened. Please google 'urban legend winnebago' to check for yourself. The real Stella awards (which are amazing and carefully verified) are at http://www.stellaawards.com/

      I feel for the family, but suing Apple is not the right way to get over this. Nor is it the right way to punish the driver, nor the right way to make sure the same type of crash doesn't happen to someone else. I'm glad I don't live in Texas...

      Rule #2 Don't repost fake information on the internet - if you are not sure, check it. Twice, like Santa..

    3. John Presland

      Re: Stella Awards...

      This is, to put it politely, an urban legend. See http://www.snopes.com/autos/techno/cruise.asp

    4. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: Stella Awards...

      There is an episode of Scrubs where Ted does that while driving Dr Kelso's RV.

  14. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Can't use if moving...

    That'd be good on a bus, train, plane, boat...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Can't use if moving...

      And the quiet carriage on a train. No wait, that would be a good thing.

  15. adnim Silver badge
    WTF?

    Driver distracted

    using Facetime. Sue Apple.

    Driver distracted changing radio station. Sue radio station/ICE manufacturer

    Driver distracted by advertising hoarding. Sue advertiser

    Driver distracted by attractive provocatively clad person. Sue said person

    Driver distracted by eating. Sue fast food store

    Driver distracted by dropped smoking device/cigarette. Sue device maker/tobacco company

    Driver drives without due care and attention. No longer drivers fault?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Driver distracted

      "Driver distracted by eating. Sue fast food store"

      The number of people I see getting into their cars at motorway services with takeaway Costa/Starbuck/McDonalds coffees, with no visible passengers, it's only a matter of time before this comes to pass.

      Yes, it's circumstantial evidence, but who buys a hot takeaway coffee then gets into a car alone only to let it go cold while they look for somewhere to pull over and drink it, having just left somewhere where they were already pulled over where it would still have been hot?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Driver distracted

        "Yes, it's circumstantial evidence, but who buys a hot takeaway coffee then gets into a car alone only to let it go cold while they look for somewhere to pull over and drink it, having just left somewhere where they were already pulled over where it would still have been hot?"

        I do, because it's normally TOO hot when it comes out of the shop and I need it to cool off a bit before I can drink it. Those lawsuits for coffee burns aren't all urban legends.

  16. Doc Ock
    WTF?

    FFS does the lawyer have no shame ! What next, are knife manufacturers supposed to implement an instant blunt feature when it's picked up by a murdering psychopath ?

    We live in a world where lawyers are only interested in trying to blame those with deep pockets who are able to pay their fees, the lawyers should be disbarred and have to pay for wasting everyone's time and emotional energy.

    Alternatively they should try suing God (if you believe in that sort of fairytale thing) for creating the whole fuck-up in the first place, heck I might even join the litigation and sue God for not creating me disgustingly rich.

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: suing God

      Someone should write a song about this; off the top of my head I'm thinking maybe a little country & western style ditty by Eric Idle.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: suing God

        Ray Stevens already has a song not specifically about this but about crazy lawsuits. Look up "No Lawyers in Heaven."

  17. Jess

    Apple have a patent for a system that would have prevented this.

    Either the patent is for something that doesn't work or the lawyers have a good point. Apple are quite happy to install tech that prevents piracy and even people using apps they don't approve, but not something that saves lives.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Apple have a patent for a system that would have prevented this.

      By the same token Toyota have the tech available to them that would have stopped the car running in to the back of them at such a speed (if at all) and prevented this accident.

      1. Dave 15

        Re: Apple have a patent for a system that would have prevented this.

        The tech available to Toyota is actually something that works unlike the stupid patent from Apple which was damaging to those not driving hence never implemented. Slime ball lawyers like these should be hung,.

        The issue about Toyota here is that they might not have the tech at the time the vehicle was made.

        Of course they could probably sue the oil company and fuel station for providing the fuel that allowed the guy to drive, or his employer for providing enough wages for him to buy the phone in the first place...

        It is sad that the lawyers wont get their just hanging but will end up paid.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Apple have a patent for a system that would have prevented this.

          "The issue about Toyota here is that they might not have the tech at the time the vehicle was made."

          FWIW, there are very few cars still on the roads which were built after that sort of tech was invented. The economic arguments for not fitting it as standard to all vehicles or keeping it back as one of the selection of extras to be upsold to the end user are more likely reasons for not installing it in all cars.

      2. Lotaresco

        Re: Apple have a patent for a system that would have prevented this.

        "By the same token Toyota have the tech available to them that would have stopped the car running in to the back of them at such a speed (if at all) and prevented this accident."

        Do they also have a time machine that would let them go back and retrofit the system to an antique SUV? They call it the 4runner for a reason, it was an old design when it was new.

  18. chivo243 Silver badge
    WTF?

    Ambulance chasers

    pfft... slimeballs, bloodsuckers... shameless bastards.

  19. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    Judgement call ...

    Perhaps the judge should sum up with words such as "A supplier cannot be held responsible for the inappropriate, illegal or plainly stupid behavior of a purchaser of their product."

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Judgement call ...

      If that were the case, we wouldn't all the personal injury lawsuits by stupid people. Go buy a ladder, for example. The warning placards are there because of the lawsuits from idiots and their lawyers. The price is approximately double what it should be due to liability insurance to cover those stupid people who do dumb things and then sue. Frankly, I just don't see what you're proposing ever actually happening. Pity that it won't.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Judgement call ...

        And you can't help with the liability insurance because the have to account for Stupid. And as a comedian once said, "You can't fix Stupid."

  20. morris_man

    Creeping Americanisation

    Since the reg is British that would be PLOUGHED not PLOWED

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: Creeping Americanisation

      "SUVs to ploughshares!", maybe?

  21. Tom_

    Ramp

    This is why I always tow a trailer with a ramp on it.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Ramp

      There are other ways to survive being rear ended at high speed. Might cost a bit more to run than an average family car though.

      1. Lotaresco

        Re: Ramp

        "There are other ways to survive being rear ended at high speed."

        I had a bet with myself before clicking the link that it would be a crash cushion. I won. I used to work designing roadside electronic systems for the HA and was around at the time these were introduced. They have saved the lives of mobile workers several times now. You still have to wonder at the driving skills of someone who can plough into the back of a massive truck with reflective markers, flashing lights and a massive illuminated arrow showing which side to pass.

        MPG may be an issue, also the cost of an MOT test and the shortage of places to put the weekly shop. Parking at Lidl could also be a headache. As you say, costs more to run than the average family car.

        The Texas solution would be to drive a Yukon or an Expedition though which probably cost as much to run.

        The ones I recall looked bigger than the one you linked to. I remember that the drivers wanted a huge pay increase to sit in these things. Despite the impact absorbing features it's still not nice to have a car plough into the back of one of these and the driver can still die if they are hit by an LGV.

  22. Nameless Faceless Computer User

    When I was learning the buttons on my new Jeep's radio, while I was parked, after a few minutes the radio took the time out to warn me, "Drive your Jeep." I appreciated the concern.

  23. Rob Crawford

    So how?

    So how does the phone detect if it's the driver or a passenger using the phone.

    I would not be overly happy if I couldn't use my phone on a bus, train, tram or while a passenger in a car.

    I understand the family's anguish, anger and the desire to make anybody even vaguely connected with the accident responsible and I'm sure that my anger and distress would cause me to to try and do something.

    However I do see this as a lawyer steering them in the wrong direction (and more for his own benefit than the family)

    1. Lotaresco

      Re: So how?

      "So how does the phone detect if it's the driver or a passenger using the phone."

      Well Waze does it in a simple minded but effective way. If you try to enter address details while driving it puts up a timed dialog box that tells you not to input text while driving. It also refuses to let you enter text and simply counts down then reverts to navigation.

      To ensure that anyone who is a passenger in a vehicle can use the app the dialog box has a "passenger" button. Of course the selection of this option is recorded. If you use it as a driver there is then evidence that you deliberately chose to over-ride the safety warning. This is not going to look good in court.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: So how?

        "To ensure that anyone who is a passenger in a vehicle can use the app the dialog box has a "passenger" button. Of course the selection of this option is recorded. If you use it as a driver there is then evidence that you deliberately chose to over-ride the safety warning. This is not going to look good in court."

        Unless, of course, you actually HAVE a passenger (even if he/she wasn't the one actually using it), giving you an alibi.

  24. David Austin

    Medical

    Could this be one of those weird US situations where you're pretty much forced to sue someone to get your medical expenses covered, like the Jennifer Connell case?

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/jennifer-connell-aunt-who-tried-to-sue-12-year-old-nephew-says-she-was-forced-to-after-insurance-a6694671.html

  25. John Robson Silver badge

    Kind of see the point..

    Aside from the possibility (probability?) that it's a medical insurance requirement (Thank ${DEITY} for the NHS)...

    Apple have publicly declared that they can stop this happening, and pretty much by doing so stopped anyone else trying to do it either...

    But then haven't done it.

    If a company advertises that they have this great new safety feature - shouldn't we all be allowed to think it might get implemented?

    As an aside I've been driven by someone making a FaceTime call. They were looking at the road, but their d/Deaf wife was lipreading...

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Kind of see the point..

      "Apple have publicly declared that they can stop this happening, and pretty much by doing so stopped anyone else trying to do it either...

      But then haven't done it."

      Because too many people pointed out that GPS and cameras have no way to tell the difference between an actual driver and a driver's-side passenger in the back seat. If a passenger was unable to do something and a death resulted (unable to report an accident or crime in progress, for example), Apple could get sued there, too. Dilemma: Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: Kind of see the point..

        So they've filed a patent on something they can't do?

        Maybe the patent office needs to be pulled in as a co-defendant?

        1. Dave 15

          Re: Kind of see the point..

          They can do it, just realized idea is flawed. Many patents like that

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Kind of see the point..

            The problem though is that Apple have pretty much stopped anyone else from trying anything similar for fear of being sued or stung with patent licensing fees. Like most patents which are applied for without a working model, it's wide ranging in its description and so makes it very, very difficult to work around.

            This is exactly the sort of situation I had in mind when I suggested in another comment thread that these type patents should have a limited life span where there is no evidence of either a product, a prototype or even research for, say, 12 months, then it's rescinded.

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Re: Kind of see the point..

              Thing is, it wouldn't take that much effort to produce some kind of prototype, appease the lawyers, and go on their way. Many already have prototypes, and for many the bar of "working model" is too high. Just look at medical patents.

  26. AJ_12

    Wtf

    So it's not the drivers fault for their daughters accident it's Apple FaceTime's fault raah f'd up world we live in

  27. Kaltern

    It's stories like this that genuinely make me wonder just how many people would swap their firstborn for their equivalent weight in gold.

    Abolish money. Save the world. (something like that...)

  28. GarethJ
    Stop

    I'm not a legal eagle, just a humble IT bod, but I can't see how is this the fault of Apple, there is only person at fault and that's the driver of the vehicle who was not paying attention to the road.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Why is everyone in such a tizzy about this? Or is there evidence to show the family sued Apple to the exception of the driver instead of (much more logically, especially if demanded by insurance) in addition to the driver?

      1. gnasher729 Silver badge

        In some places in the USA, everyone who is shown by a court to be _partially_ responsible for the damage is jointly and independently responsible to pay for the damages. So if a court found that the driver is 99% responsible and Apple is 1% responsible, and damages were granted, then Apple would be on the hook for the complete damages.

        Similar things have happened to towns, where some idiot caused a crash, and the lollipop lady hired by the town was found to carry 2% of the responsibility for the crash, and the town had to pay all the damages as a result.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          "So if a court found that the driver is 99% responsible and Apple is 1% responsible, and damages were granted, then Apple would be on the hook for the complete damages."

          I'm hoping you just worded that badly. If not, and Apple has 1% culpability but gets 100% of damages bill, the US law is even more fucked up than I believed possible!

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Well then, how can the family of the bereaved sue for damages if the defendant is deceased, destitute, and disowned (IOW, dead, broke, and with no kin to go after)? Hard to squeeze blood out of a stone.

  29. adam payne Silver badge

    It's never easy losing someone but I can't see how Apple can be held responsible for this.

    It is up to the individual to decide when and where to use FaceTime. If an individual decides to use their phone while driving they are being stupid and down right dangerous but it is their decision and they have to live with the consequences. He decided to use FaceTime while driving so he is responsible for the death of the child.

  30. dc_m

    Nice idea but just because you are moving doesn't necessarily mean you are in a car. In common with most people, I like to use my phone on the train too.

  31. Dave 15

    Time to..

    Personally I would hang the families lawyers... the whole company, and lock up the rest of the family for the rest of their days.

    I am no apple fan as people reading most of my comments would know BUT

    a) The guy was using coverage provided by a network so sue the network as well

    b) The guy was driving a car so sue the maker

    c) The guy was on a road so sue the government

    d) The traffic was stopped because of another accident so sue the people who stopped the traffic.

    The whole thing is ridiculous. Yes the guy shouldn't be using his phone and is being charged with manslaughter as a result, the RIGHT approach.

    Stopping people using a phone because it is in a moving vehicle means stopping passengers, kids in the back seat, people eon buses and people on trains... all of which is nonsense. The patent was stupid and pointless if I am honest.

    The nearest similar is the current obsession with blocking the internet on car infotainment which means I can't listen to streaming music or news... bloody stupid when I can listen to a radio or cd...

    Worry is that this sort of stupid bullshit is also happening in the UK. Time to hang some people for wrecking things for the rest of us.

  32. thomn8r

    I'm surprised nobody has mentioned an even more specious case, where the driver who caused the crash (which killed two people and crippled a third) is suing Apple: http://setexasrecord.com/stories/510631652-woman-checking-messages-on-iphone-causes-fatal-collision-survivors-sue-apple

  33. Bucky 2

    To file a patent and then avoid using it is extremely perverse, and also extremely widespread.

    This is probably not going to be an effective way to amend patent law, though--nor even get the patent office to do their existing job instead of pushing all the decision-making off to the courts.

  34. x 7

    they should sue Toyota for selling oversized killer Tonka toys that crush anything else they hit

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