Apple Hit With Class-Action Lawsuit for Not Blocking Texting and Driving

Complaint alleges the company has had the ability to lock out drivers' iPhones since 2008. 

A class-action complaint filed against Apple in California court yesterday alleges that the Silicon Valley giant has intentionally refrained from implementing a feature to prevent drivers from using their iPhones while a car, and demands that Apple cease all sales of the phone in the state until such a feature is added. 

"Apple has the ability to outfit its iPhones with a lock-out device that would disable the smartphone while being used by motorists. In fact, it has had this technology since 2008, and was granted a patent on it by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2014," the complaint states. "Yet, fearful that such a device would cause it to lose valuable market share, Apple refuses to employ the technology."

The suit was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court by MLG Automotive Law on behalf of Julio Ceja, who was injured when his car was rear-ended by a distracted driver using an iPhone, according to legal documents. 

Based on data from the California Highway Patrol and the Federal Highway Administration, the lawsuit claims that Apple's refusal to add a lock-out device results in an average of 312 traffic deaths in California every year.

"Texting and driving has become one of the most serious issues that confronts all of us on a daily basis," MLG co-founder Jonathan Michaels said in a statement. "Legislating against drivers will unfortunately not solve the problem. The relationship consumers have with their phones is just too great, and the ability to slide under the eye of the law is just too easy. Embedding lock-out devices is the only solution.”

Last month, a Texas family sued Apple over a distracted driving-related matter after their 5-year-old daughter was killed in an accident reportedly caused by a man using the FaceTime app. In their lawsuit, the Modisette family claimed the company failed to warn people that use of FaceTime could be dangerous. 

Distracted driving has become a major issue on American roadways in recent years; eight people a day die as a result of it in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, compared with 28 people a day who die due to intoxicated drivers. Yet in spite of this, penalties for distracted driving are often less severe than those for a DUI. In California, for example a first texting-and-driving offense results in a $20 fine.