In the past 15 years, texting has gone from being a very rare practice to an essentially universal habit. And since the introduction o the iPhone in 2007 and the onslaught of other smartphones like it, drivers are not only texting on their phones, but checking email, posting on social media, taking photos, and doing any other number of actions when their eyes should be on the road. According to recent statistics, texting and driving is a leading cause of car accidents, up there with speeding and alcohol. Car manufacturers have created safer cars over the decades to reduce car accidents, and they have often done so to avoid product liability suits, which raises the question of whether cellphone makers who create the technology that contributes to a whopping 1.6 million accidents every year should be held to the same standard.
Calling Out Apple for a Texas Death
In 2013, a woman named Ashley Kubiack was driving on a Texas highway and checking her iPhone for messages when she slammed into the back of an SUV, killing two of the occupants of the vehicles and paralyzing a child passenger. Kubiack was convicted of negligent homicide (for which was given a sentence of five years probation), but this conviction of course did nothing to compensate the families of those who died and the child whose life was permanently altered.
In late September, the families of the victims filed a product liability suit against Apple, manufacturer of Kubiack’s cellphone, arguing that the company knew that drivers might cause accidents by using them while driving and yet failed to install mechanisms that might prevent drivers from accessing features on the phone and thus causing danger. The families argue that, by doing so, Apple violated a legal duty towards the people who died or were injured as a result of the phone’s design. They are requesting that Apple compensate for them losses associated with the family member’s deaths based on this alleged breach of duty.
Smartphone Manufactures Could Make Their Products Safer, But Have Not
Some legal experts have suggested that the case may be unable to succeed based on the argument that the primary cause of the injuries was the driver’s careless actions, but it is important to note that smartphone technology, while ubiquitous, is still a very new technology, and the law often takes years to catch up with societal issues. It is a principle of product liability law that manufacturers may be liable for injuries resulting from use of their products when there was a product design issue that caused the injury and there was a reasonable alternative design that would have lessened the risk while still fulfilling the purpose of the product.
The lawsuit against Apple includes information indicating that the company appeared to have develop technology which could impair the ability of phones to be used for certain purposes such as texting when the user is driving a car, and that this technology was shared with other cellphone makers, but the cellphone maker declined to employ the technology. That said, there may be issues with the ability to incorporate this technology such that it does not affect safe use of cellphones by passengers and the like, and there is the additional issue of whether consumers will simply reject phones incorporating any such technology for phones that do not.
At the same time, however, the fact that cellphone companies may be able to incorporate technology to prevent thousands of deaths and injuries across the country each year and yet may be declining to do so out of concern for corporate profits is certainly the kind of issue that product liability attorneys, judges, and juries should take a look at as the death toll from texting while driving continues to grow.
Experience Legal Counsel for Your Car Accident Matter
The attorneys at The Kaufman Law Firm has consistently won six- and seven-figure verdicts and settlements on behalf of injured victims in car accident cases across Southern California. They will work with you from the moment you call to investigate the accident and build your best possible case for recovery. Contact The Kaufman Law Firm today to schedule a free consultation.