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Tech giant Apple is facing another lawsuit that claims they are liable for an auto accident which resulted in a death because the at-fault driver was using their iPhone at the time of the crash. Underlying the claim is the fact that Apple apparently has the technology to prevent drivers from using their iPhones in dangerous ways while driving. This newest lawsuit is also premised upon the same patent used in an earlier lawsuit, which shows that Apple has the technology to detect when a device is being operated by a driver in order to prevent certain features, like texting, from working.
The plaintiffs in the case, the surviving family of the five-year-old child that died as a result of the accident, assert that Apple is at fault because the driver that caused the accident was in the middle of a FaceTime video call when they caused the accident. The plaintiffs' legal theory, in both new and old cases, is that Apple should be liable because it knew people would use their technology in this dangerous way but didn't didn't stop it with a "driver lock-out" feature.
Slippery Slopes for This Type of Lawsuit
If you think this legal claim is ridiculous, you are not alone. Critics of these lawsuits against Apple explain that the legal theory being used is tenuous, at best, and if accepted could lead to even shakier legal theories of liability. Should McDonald's be liable if an accident is caused while someone is eating a Big Mac while driving? Should a gun manufacturer be liable if their gun is used to shoot an innocent person? Should a phone company be liable if their customer causes an accident while using the phone in violation of state laws? If a person is speeding, should the auto maker be liable if the speeder causes an accident?
While a manufacturer should be held liable for legitimate design defects that cause injuries, when a consumer misuses the product and causes someone else injury, holding the manufacturer liable seems disingenuous.
Like the example questions above, while each of the injuries are foreseeable, holding the manufacturer liable runs afoul of principals of personal responsibility. No car maker needs to make a car that can go over 85 mph (the highest speed limit in the country); should they be liable every time a car crash happens over 86 mph?