This week a judge in a Santa Clara Superior Court sided with Apple. in a tentative ruling, Riggs vs. Apple, Inc.
History of the Wrongful Death Claim
Multiple plaintiffs who had lost children and family members in wrongful death accidents, have joined forces, filing wrongful death and product liability cases against Apple for not implementing their lockout mechanism which would take over when a vehicle is in motion.
In our blog, Cell Phone Manufacturers Walk a Fine Line Between Social and Personal Responsibility, personal injury and wrongful death attorney, Charlie Ward, stated it was revealed during the discovery process in another claim against Apple, Inc. that Apple had filed and later received a technology patent in 2008 entitled Driver Handheld Computing Device Lockout.
Their patented motion and scenery analyzing functions would lock-out the sending and receiving of texts, emails, social media posts and notifications. But as of this writing (August, 2017), the technology has not been implemented by Apple even though Apple has distributed six cell phone upgrades and a number of IOS updates since receiving the patent on their lock-out technology. No other cell phone manufacturer has utilized similar technology. The availability of, and Apple’s choice not to deploy the technology is at the heart of this claim.
Proving Apple’s Negligence
In tort law, an obligation is imposed upon an individual to adhere to a standard of reasonable care when they are performing an act that could foreseeably harm others. In a claim for negligence, this is the first element that must be established.
Plaintiff must also prove that the defendant (in this case Apple, Inc.) breached the duty of care; and that this breach was the proximate cause of plaintiff’s damages, i.e. but for the defendant’s negligence the damages would not have been sustained.
The family of college student, David Riggs, who suffered fatal injuries by a motorist who was texting and driving, is blaming Apple for his son’s 2013 death.
The plaintiff alleges that Apple owed a duty of care to the public; that Apple breached Business and Professions Code § 17200 by making smart phone technology available to the public without providing a lock-out device for motorists, and the breach caused the plaintiff’s injuries and death.
The Court’s Conclusions
The judge called for a balancing of factors, i.e.:
“…foreseeability of harm to the plaintiff; the degree of certainty that the plaintiff suffered injury; the closeness of the connection between the defendant’s conduct and the injury suffered, the moral blame attached to the defendant’s conduct, the policy of preventing future harm, the extent of the burden to the defendant and consequences to the community of imposing a duty of exercise care with resulting liability for breach and the availability, cost and prevelence of insurance for the risk involved.”
The court further found that plaintiff’s injuries were more closely connected to the failure of the other driver’s inattention to the road, an intervening act.
“…where there is an independent intervening act that is not reasonably foreseeable, the defendant’s conduct is not deemed the “legal” or proximate cause”
The Future of Apple’s Lock-Out Technology and IOS 11
Product liability cases are a tool used by citizens and attorneys against corporations to force a change in behavior that will benefit society.
Although experienced personal injury and distracted driving attorneys have no way of knowing when Apple would have implemented their lock-out feature, I would suspect the onslaught of product liability cases against Apple has hastened the release of their patented technology lock-out feature.
It is rumored that IOS 11 will contain a Do Not Disturb While Driving function utilizing lock-out technology that will mute interruptions and maintain a dark screen upon selection of the option. There will also be an option to send an “unavailable” auto response to text messengers.
Injury Attorneys Experienced in Wrongful Death Claims Caused by Distracted Driving
Although Indiana’s texting and driving law has proven difficult to enforce, experienced injury lawyers know how to use evidence that may establish a case of clear liability in your claim for injuries or the wrongful death of a loved one.
If you or someone you know would like to consult an attorney about a claim, our firm offers free consultations with no obligation. Call attorney, Charlie Ward, today at 317-639-9501.
Charlie WardWard & Ward Law Firm 728 S Meridian St Indianapolis, IN 46225 317-639-9501 or toll free at 1 (888) 639-9501 Published 8-30-17