A five-year-old girl was buckled snugly into her booster seat in the back of her parent’s Toyota passenger car. It was the the day before Christmas 2014. She and her family – her mother, her father, and her older sister – were on the Texas interstate. Up ahead, police had stopped traffic. The girl’s dad, behind the wheel, applied the brake. The vehicle stopped in the left lane. The driver of the sport utility vehicle behind them, though, never saw the brake lights. At the time, he was using the video chat application on his Apple iPhone 6 Plus, known as FaceTime. The brakes on his 5,000-pound vehicle, traveling at full speed, were never applied.
Everyone was hurt, but the injuries of the little girl and her father were especially serious. He survived. She did not.
Now, in Modisette v. Apple, the family is suing the manufacturer of the iPhone and its FaceTime application, which comes pre-loaded onto all iPhones and iPads. The plaintiffs allege that Apple has the technology to determine when a user is operating a motor vehicle and can disable the video chat application, which can dangerously consume a driver’s attention.