Apple is being sued by a family after the tragic loss of their daughters. According to Patently Apple, James and Bethany Modisette have sued Apple for not including a patented technology on iPhones that could keep FaceTime from being used by a driver.
The lawsuit was filed after the Modisette’s two young daughters were killed by injuries sustained in a car wreck. The person who rear-ended them was talking on FaceTime on his iPhone at the time of the accident. That’s according to his own statement to police and to a police report that said FaceTime was still active when they arrived on the scene.
The couple is suing Apple because of a 2014 patent (filed in 2008) for a method capable of, “disabling any function of a handheld computing device that may interfere with the safe operation of a vehicle by a driver.”
The family believes Apple is culpable for not including that method/technology in its iPhones, and that if Apple had, this accident wouldn’t have happened.
Let me crystal clear on this: the family’s loss is tragic. That two young girls were killed by a driver because he was FaceTime video chatting while driving is tragic. I can’t imagine their loss.
But that loss isn’t Apple’s fault. It’s the fault of the driver who hit them. There is such a thing as personal accountability. Or there should be.
Some brief notes:
- Patenting a method doesn’t necessarily mean a technology is shippable
- Or foolproof
- While drivers shouldn’t video FaceTime or text, I would be shocked if any company was close to being able to limit drivers without also limiting passengers
- To that end, screw any lawsuit seeking to shift all personal accountability onto companies that make products rather than the people who use them
- For the love of all that is remotely sane, don’t text, Waze (unless you’re using it hands-free), video chat, or play Doodle Jump while you’re driving
I get it. It’s human nature to look for someone to blame in the wake of tragedy. There are plenty of times when companies are responsible for tragic events, on a large and small scale. There are plenty of companies who have acted irresponsibly, or even been criminally negligent. I’m in no way defending such things.
But this isn’t one of those times. The idea of a company being sued for not shipping a patented method because a person was irresponsible is philosophically repugnant to me.
Your mileage may vary.
Not a Lawyer
Lastly, Patently Apple took a detailed look at the patent in its coverage, including examining the wording. Though the lawsuit specifies FaceTime, the patent doesn’t specify FaceTime. As usual, I’m no lawyer, but I can’t imaging the merits of the case will center on that specificity or lack thereof. Hopefully it will center on whether a company has a legal obligation to ship patented methods. Spoiler: no, they don’t*.
*I’m still no lawyer.