California Case Law - The FindLaw California Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal Opinion Summaries Blog

Court Rules: Apple Not Liable for Texting While Driving Accident

Recently, a line of cases have all been filed against Apple and other device makers as a result of auto accidents caused by smartphone-induced distracted driving. Following a federal decision in a similar case against Apple out of Texas, a California court rejected the theory that device makers are liable for distracted driving accidents caused when drivers are using their devices.

In sustaining the demurrer, the court explained that:

The chain of causation alleged by plaintiffs in this case is far too attenuated for a reasonable person to conclude that Apple's conduct is or was a substantial factor in causing plaintiffs' harm.

What's This Case About?

In 2013, David Riggs, a 20 year old college student, died as a result of an auto accident caused by an 18 year old driver that was texting while driving. Riggs' parents filed a lawsuit against Apple for negligence, and other causes of action, for not implementing a "lock-out" mode to prevent texting while driving. Essentially, Riggs' parents were seeking to hold Apple liable for their son's death.

Despite the tragedy this case is based upon, and the relative ease with which it seems Apple could implement a "lock-out" feature, the court found that Apple did not have a duty to stop people from using their devices while driving.

Apple Clearly Cares and Listens

Although Apple has vigorously defended these types of claims, it is clear that company not only cares about these issues, but they are listening. The newest version of their mobile software, iOS 11, is actually slated to include a "Safe Driving Mode." This new mode will actually mute, and block, any on-screen notifications and sounds that would ordinarily be received while a person is driving.

Related Resources: