Apple Inc. faces a federal lawsuit alleging the tech giant failed to design a smart phone that disables texting while driving and thus prevent a 2013 motor vehicle accident that claimed the lives of two women and paralyzed a young boy who overcame cancer.
In the suit, filed July 28 in the Tyler Division of the Eastern Division of Texas, plaintiffs Kimberly Meador, Amos Standard and Russell Jones allege that the child, identified as L.M., and decadents Shari Standard and Sandra Jones were traveling east on Highway 43 in Henderson in Rusk County on Apr. 30, 2013, when another motorist, Ashley Kubiak, struck their 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe with her 2003 Dodge Ram.
Sandra Jones, who was L.M.’s grandmother, operated the Tahoe.
The suit says Kubiak was driving her truck behind the victims “while at the same time operating her iPhone” on the “straight and unobscured” roadway when the collision occurred.
“As (Sandra) Jones slowed her Tahoe to turn left into her parents’ neighborhood residence on County Road 214-D, Kubiak was distracted from the safe operation of her Ram pick-up truck while operating her iPhone to check messages,” the suit says. “When Kubiak looked up from her iPhone, she tried to avoid the collision by turning the wheel of her Ram truck to the right, but could not avoid colliding with (Sandra) Jones’s Tahoe due to the level of distraction caused by the iPhone.”
Sandra Jones’s vehicle, which was hit on the right rear portion, was subsequently pushed into the oncoming lane of traffic and “struck broadside on the passenger side by a Ford F250 pickup truck,” the complaint adds, further stating that Sandra Jones and Shari Standard died at the scene of the accident.
L.M., who was seven at the time and had defeated childhood leukemia, was transported via Life Flight to Children’s Hospital in Dallas and placed on life support. He survived, but was rendered paraplegic, the suit says.
Kubiak was charged with two counts of criminally negligent homicide, purportedly based on distracted driving through use of her iPhone, on July 2, 2013, and found guilty in a jury trial.
The original petition charges Apple had “no universal solution or ‘built-in’ method of disabling the sending or receiving of text messages, emails or notifications while driving” implemented into the iPhone.
“Despite the high level of public awareness regarding the dangers of distracted driving when using an iPhone, and the compulsory nature of such use by drivers, Apple failed to implement a universal ‘built-in’ solution which automatically ‘locks-out’ the sending or receiving of text messages, emails, social media posts, messaging and/or notifications while driving,” it says.
Apple offers the DriveSafe Mode app, a communication tool that notifies users when the driver’s phone is in use and the vehicle is in motion.
Consequently, the plaintiffs seek unspecified monetary damages and a jury trial.
They are represented by Gregory P. Love of the Love Law Firm, P.C. and Ron Adkinson of the Adkinson Law Firm, both in Henderson.
Tyler Division of the Eastern District of Texas Case No. 6:15-CV-715