Is Apple's FaceTime Liable For Death Of Little Girl In Road Mishap?

Parents of 5-Year Old Killed In FaceTime App Car Accident Sue Apple
Five-year old Moriah Modisette was killed when Garrett Edward Wilhelm rear-ended her family’s vehicle while using the FaceTime app. The Modisette Family is now suing Apple for the death.
Photo : Vin Lotus/YouTube

Moriah Modisette lost her young life the day before Christmas back in 2014. And now her family is pointing accusing fingers at Apple.

The Modisette family, father James, mother Bethany, older sister Isabella and 5-year old Moriah, were on board their Toyota Camry driving along Interstate 35W in Denton County, TX. when they approached a standstill caused by an incident 1,500 feet away. James stopped in the left lane.

Garrett Wilhelm was driving behind Camry on board his Toyota 4Runner at 65 miles per hour. He slammed into the Modisette family car. The impact was so strong that the Camry was pushed and spun around until it was on the right lane facing the other direction. The SUV also "continued its trajectory by rolling up and over the driver side of the Modisette's car".

James and little Moriah were wedged inside the wreckage of their car and rescuers had a difficult time getting them out. Bethany and Isabella also suffered life-threatening injuries but suffered more from witnessing their loved ones being pried away from what used to be their car. James, Bethany, and Isabella survived but Moriah, who was at the back strapped in her booster seat, dies from her injuries.

Wilhelm, who survived the crash, is currently facing manslaughter charges. If convicted, the Gainesville resident can face jail time of at least two to 20 years and a $10,000 fine which seems not enough for a life of a young girl.

A couple of years after the incident, the Modisette family is suing Apple because of FaceTime. Investigators discovered that Wilhelm was using FaceTime at the time of the crash. Right after the incident, authorities found Wilhelm's undamaged iPhone 6 Plus. FaceTime was still running.

Washington Post found out that the bereaved family filed the case against the tech giant a day before the crash's second anniversary.

According to the lawsuit, iPhones should be able to tell if their users are driving a vehicle. If so, it should have a feature that automatically disables FaceTime and other similar apps that could prove distracting and hazardous.

"Defendant Apple has consistently and continuously failed to implement a safer alternative design that would lock-out and prevent the use of FaceTime while driving," read court documents.

Built-in GPS and accelerometers can let iPhones detect if the user is in motion. They can also tell if he or she is traveling really fast indicating the user is in a moving vehicle. These abilities, according to the lawsuit, should have been configured so that the device can prevent the use of the video chat app.

Driving while distracted by technology has been well-documented.

Recent accidents caused by distracted drivers include at least two drivers crashing their vehicles while playing Pokémon Go. Another incident, this time in Canada, involves an 18-year old man crashing his vehicle because he was texting while driving. In a similar case, a man perished while riding his Tesla which was on autopilot mode at the time of the crash. While the man was not using any gadget, the fact that the car was on semi-auto mode made him less focused on the road.

These facts alone indicate that there is indeed a problem that needs to be solved. The Modisette's observation that Apple has the capacity to 'lock out' FaceTime when necessary seems legit. Tech companies should use their resources to make things safer for everyone.

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