A Christmas Eve tragedy from 2014 has sparked another ethically provocative lawsuit.
James and Bethany Modisette were driving through Denton County, Texas, on the evening of December 24, 2014, when they had to stop their car due to a traffic incident ahead of them on the Interstate. Their children, Isabella, 8, and Moriah, 5, were in the back seat, Everyone in the vehicle had a seat belt fastened.
Meanwhile, Garrett Wilhelm, idiot, was chatting away on his phone using the FaceTime app, and didn’t notice that the traffic ahead of him was stopped. His car rear-ended the Modisettes’ vehicle at 65 mph. Little Moriah was killed.
Now the Modisettes have filed a lawsuit against Apple, the maker of the app and the iPhone it was used with, citing a “failure to install and implement the safer, alternative design … to ‘lock out’ the ability of drivers to utilize the FaceTime application.” In the suit, the parents claim the company didn’t warn FaceTime users like Wilhelm that “the product was likely to be dangerous when used or misused in a reasonably foreseeable manner.”
This is a good example of a lawsuit that is not technically frivolous, because it seeks to make new law. It is, however, an unethical law suit (not for the lawyer to bring, but for the Modisettes.) Sure, they want to find the deepest pockets they can to get at for compensation for the horrible incident, but their argument is flawed. FaceTime isn’t intended to be used while driving, and everyone knows it, or should know. People also shouldn’t be playing video games or trying out Kama Sutra positions while driving. If this suit succeeds in holding Apple liable, why shouldn’t all distracted driving cases lead to damages assessed against the makers of cell phones or whatever else the driver was using?
Stupid people crash putting on lipstick while driving. Should there be a warning on compacts and lipstick: “It is dangerous to apply make-up while driving”? I’ve seen people driving take selfies. I’ve even heard of drivers reading or watching videos from a Kindle while at the wheel. Is it Amazon’s duty to make sure, somehow, that a Kindle shuts down while an insane user is driving?
Yes, this reminds me of gun manufacturer lawsuits. Apps don’t kill people. Negligent drivers kill people.
All these “safer, alternative designs” to protect morons from their own negligence and put the burden on manufacturers costs money, raises prices, and means that you and I have to pay for Garrett Wilhelm’s inexcusable carelessness. Worse, the lawsuit’s logic, if successful, might even allow him to sue Apple, and win. After all, it has a duty to save him and his victims from him, right? Attempts to sue the person conversing with the driver in these cases have failed so far, but they will be tried again, too.
One entity caused the death of this little girl. One: a criminally careless man named Garrett Wilhelm. It wasn’t the iPhone’s fault, or the app, or Apple, or Wilhelm’s non- driving FaceTime friend, or TV stations for not showing sufficient PSAs about not driving distracted, or Wilhelm’s parents for raising a jackass. Lawsuits like this one just continue to blur public understanding of what accountability and personal responsibility mean. No sympathy for the family should divert a jury from the plain fact that in this case, the big corporation did nothing wrong, and should not have to pay damages.
Pointer and Facts: Advice Goddess Blog