An appellate court in California recently ruled that Apple should not be held liable for a car accident based on a driver’s use of the FaceTime app on the iPhone 6. This case arose from a car accident in Texas on Christmas Eve 2014, which resulted in the tragic death of a child. In the aftermath of the accident, the driver who was at fault admitted that he was using FaceTime when he rear-ended the car in front of him, in which the child was a passenger. Moreover, the police found the app running on his phone afterward.
The family of the deceased child sued Apple on the basis that it had decided not to disable certain functions on the iPhone 6 while the user is driving. Apple sought a patent for this lockout feature in December 2008 and has held it since April 2014, but it does not apply to the iPhone 6. Thus, the family argued under a product liability theory that the design of the iPhone 6 was defective because a safer alternative design involving the patented feature existed.
However, the court agreed with the trial court that initially dismissed the case. It ruled that Apple did not owe a duty of care to the family and could not be held responsible for careless decisions by drivers who are using its apps behind the wheel. The court also noted that the family could not establish causation leading from the design of the iPhone 6 to the crash.
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