Apple sued for not releasing texting safety feature

A study published by the U.S. Department of Transportation suggests that as many as 1.5 million drivers throughout Connecticut and the rest of the U.S. could be texting and driving at any given moment. The NHTSA has concluded that texting while behind the wheel is six times more dangerous than driving drunk. Because of these sobering statistics, leading electronics manufacturers and software developers have sometimes been accused of not doing enough to address the problem.

Apple, which controls a sizable portion of the U.S. smartphone market, was awarded a 2014 patent for a feature designed to help prevent drivers from texting. However, the feature has not yet been made available to Apple customers. This has prompted lawsuits from distracted driving accident victims. A group of California residents filed class-action litigation against Apple that calls for the release of the feature and demands its inclusion in all iPhones offered for sale in the state. The parents of a 5-year-old girl killed by a distracted driver have also sued the company over its decision not to release the texting lockout feature.

These lawsuits may hinge on whether or not Apple knew, or should have reasonably believed, that failing to include the texting feature would lead to accidents and injuries. The plaintiffs might argue that the size of Apple’s market share and the sheer number of distracted driving crashes that occur each year in the United States make it likely that a texting safety feature would prevent accidents and save lives. A National Safety Council study that links texting to more than a quarter of all motor vehicle collisions could bolster such claims.

The defendants in corporate negligence and product liability lawsuits often have much to lose. A personal injury attorney could encourage corporate defendants to settle quietly and avoid the uncertainties of a civil trial.