In a recent case, a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit rejected a Texas personal injury claim against Apple. The plaintiff alleged that a driver’s “neurobiological response” to a text message notification caused a fatal car crash.
According to the facts alleged in the plaintiff’s complaint, a text message came in that the at-fault driver looked at while driving on the highway. When the driver received the text message, she looked down at her phone to read the message. In doing so, she averted her eyes from the road. When she looked back up at the road, it was too late, and her car crashed into another car, which had two adults and a child inside. The two adults were killed and the child was seriously injured.
The victims’ family sued Apple, the manufacturer of the phone, claiming that Apple was liable under the theories of negligence and products liability. The plaintiffs claimed that, although Apple was aware of the dangers of texting while driving and had obtained a patent for a lock-out mechanism for texting while driving, the company did not put the lock-out mechanism in any version of the at-fault driver’s phone. The plaintiffs claimed that Apple was liable because the receiving of text messages triggers “an unconscious and automatic, neurobiological compulsion to engage in texting behavior.” The plaintiffs also claimed that Apple failed to warn customers about the dangers of texting while driving. Apple filed a motion to dismiss, and a federal court granted the motion. The plaintiffs then appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.