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Apple faces product liability lawsuit over distracted driving crash

In recent posts, we briefly mentioned a recent recommendation made by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that smart phone manufacturers start equipping mobile devices with features which prevent the occurrence of distracted driving. Interestingly, pressure to make such changes may soon be coming not only from government regulators, but also from the courts.

Apple, one of the leading manufacturers of mobile devices, was recently sued in California for its alleged role in causing a distracted driving accident in 2014 which seriously injured a couple and killed their five-year-old daughter. The driver of the vehicle that struck the family had apparently been distracted at the time of the crash by FaceTime, a program which allows users to video-chat with other users. 

The couple subsequently filed a lawsuit against Apple, alleging that the company had already patented technology eight months before the accident which had the ability to lock out FaceTime users when they get behind the wheel of a car. The company has reportedly had the technology available since 2008. The couple claims that Apple had the legal duty to include the lock-out feature on its iPhone 6 Plus product, which the other driver was using at the time of the crash. They claim the product was, for this reason, defective.

As we noted last time, regardless of the safety features mobile devices have and will have in the future, drivers are always responsible for exercising reasonable care behind the wheel at all times. In this case, the other driver’s negligence is closely intertwined with any liability Apple may have had for designing a defective product. That being said, manufacturers can and should be held accountable for their role in causing motor vehicle accidents, including distracted driving accidents.

In our next post, we’ll look a bit more at the product liability issue as it presents in this case. 

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