Parents of 5-Year-Old Girl Hold Apple, Inc. Responsible for Daughter’s Death

A Texas family, who has been grieving the loss of their 5-year-old daughter, has filed a lawsuit against the technology company, Apple, in Santa Clara Superior Court, California. In their lawsuit, the family claims that Apple had the patent for a safer version of its “FaceTime” video calling application but chose to make a less safe version available with the iPhone 6. Ultimately and unfortunately, the family claims that the use of this FaceTime application led to death of their youngest daughter.

More specifically, on Christmas Eve 2014, Moriah Modisette, a little girl, was traveling in the back of her parents’ vehicle in Dallas, Texas on Interstate 35. Vehicles began to slow down due to a traffic accident on the freeway. Suddenly and without any warning the vehicle Moriah was traveling in was violently struck from behind by another vehicle. The striking vehicle was driven by Garrett Wilhelm, who was using Apple’s FaceTime application while driving 65 miles per hour on Interstate 35. Mr. Wilhelm confessed to the police that he was on FaceTime at the time the fatal crash occurred. Furthermore, the police also found that the FaceTime application was still live when they arrived at the scene. Mr. Modisette, Mrs. Modisette, and 8-year-old daughter Isabella were taken by ambulance, while Moriah was life-flighted from the scene to Cook Children’s Medical Center. Moriah died shortly thereafter. Mr. Wilhelm was charged with manslaughter.

Given the fact that the FaceTime application fully engages visual components, the family sued Apple for its failure to either program a “shutoff” into the FaceTime application, or provide its users with warnings about using the application while driving. The family claims that Apple knew the risks of using the FaceTime application while driving because the company patented a “lock-out” technology in 2008.

“Defendant Apple Inc. has had the technology to prevent these events, and the Modisettes’ injuries, specifically since at least December 12, 2008, when it filed an application with the US Patent Office for a ‘driver handheld computing device lock-out,” the family said in their complaint.

The Modisette family further added, “…failure to install and implement the safer, alternative design for which it sought a patent in December 2008 to ‘lock out’ the ability of drivers to utilize the ‘FaceTime’ application on the Apple iPhone when driving a motor vehicle, which resulted in the injuries sustained by plaintiffs”, and by Apple failing to implement this technology “breached a duty of care to plaintiffs.”

Benny Agosto, Jr. is a partner at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner in Houston, Texas. For over 65 years, Abraham Watkins has successfully represented injured people and families who fall victim to catastrophes. Our attorneys have the knowledge, experience and resources necessary to obtain just compensation their clients. If your life has been impacted by the negligence of an individual using the Apple FaceTime application while driving, please contact the office of Benny Agosto, Jr. at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner, by letter at 800 Commerce Street, Houston, Texas 77002, or by phone at (713) 222-7211.