Parents Sue Apple After Driver Reportedly Using FaceTime Kills Their Child


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A 5-year-old girl died as a result of a car accident that her family believes was completely avoidable. How can they be so sure? The driver who rear-ended the car carrying Moriah Modisette was using FaceTime on his iPhone 6 Plus, according to police. Now Modisette's grieving parents are suing Apple for allowing users to engage in video chatting while driving. 

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It was Christmas Eve 2014 when the Modisette family's Toyota Camry slowed to a stop due to traffic on Texas Interstate 35W. Traveling at full highway speed behind them was Garrett Wilhelm, who, police believe, never saw the Camry's brake lights because he was distracted by his iPhone. In fact, when police found Wilhelm's phone following the crash, FaceTime was still running.  

What a heartbreaking loss for this family, and the senselessness of it has to have the little girl's parents even more distraught than one can possibly imagine.

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According to the Associated Press, Wilhelm has been charged with manslaughter, but the Modisette family is also blaming iPhone manufacturer Apple. In the lawsuit, filed December 23, 2016 -- one day before the second anniversary of the devastating crash -- the Modisettes state that iPhones can tell when they're in motion and how fast the devices are traveling thanks to built-in accelerometers and GPS.

So, with that in mind, the lawsuit states: "Yet Defendant Apple, Inc., failed to configure the iPhone 6 Plus to 'lock-out' the ability for a driver to utilize (Apple's) 'FaceTime' application, while driving at highway speeds." 

The tech giant hasn't responded to the lawsuit, nor did it return the Washington Post's request for comment.

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It makes complete sense that this family is seeking justice for the horrifying and avoidable loss of this child, but it could be difficult to prove Apple culpable.

We're all familiar with those navigation apps and devices that ask users to agree that they won't use them while driving, but even if you check the box and agree, we all know it's on the driver to do the right thing and pay attention to the road rather than to his phone or gadget. 

And if you lock the ability to use apps as they're in motion, what happens to those who are passengers -- not only in cars, but also those who commute to work on buses or trains? As intuitive as today's technology is, we can't yet expect a phone to discern between a driver and a passenger.

Unfortunately, the only one-size-fits-all solution falls into the hands of users, who must be responsible and focus on the road or pull over and have that conversation or send a text from a safe, off-road place. Long before there were phones, drivers were distracted by the radio. And, as parents, we know how easy yet dangerous it is to take our eyes off the road to check on the kids in the backseat. 

While our hearts break for this family, we're not sure they'll win the suit against Apple. But if the case reminds drivers to turn off their phones while driving, Moriah's death may help save the lives of others.

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