California Man Brings Class Action Lawsuit Against Apple For Not Preventing Drivers From Doing Stupid Stuff
from the white-knight-and-his-windmills dept
There’s lots of “me too” litigation flying right now. Multiple plaintiffs have advanced the theory that because terrorists kill people and terrorists use social media platforms to communicate, it somehow follows that social media platforms are at least partially responsible for terrorists killing people.
Bed legislation tends to follow tragedies. So does bad litigation. In the aftermath of a car accident that killed a five-year-old girl, a lawsuit was brought against Apple for supposed negligence — solely because it has yet to implement a patented lockout mechanism that might have prevented the driver who killed the plaintiff’s daughter from using Facetime while driving.
The key is “might have.” The key is also a little understood aspect of intellectual property like patents. Just because a patent is acquired does not mean the company obtaining it has the means to put it to use. Nor does it indicate it ever plans to put the patent to use. It’s an exclusionary process meant to keep others locked out for a certain period of time more than a leading indicator of any company’s immediate plans for the future.
Partly due to a fundamental misunderstanding of patent filings, a “me too” class action lawsuit has lobbed into a California court, piggybacking off the negligence lawsuit filed late last year.
A California man has levied a class action lawsuit against Apple in Los Angeles Superior Court over the company’s decision to not implement technology that would prevent drivers from texting while behind the wheel.
Julio Ceja, who was rear-ended by a driver allegedly distracted while using her iPhone, isn’t seeking monetary damages (save for legal fees). Instead, Ceja hopes Apple will be forced to halt sales of its iPhones in The Golden State until a lock-out mechanism preventing people from using their smartphones while driving is implemented.
The lawsuit [PDF] proposes a potential class of EVERY PERSON IN CALIFORNIA, thanks to the popularity of cell phones and the increase in distracted driving accidents.
Of course, this legal effort attempts to shift the burden of personal responsibility to cell phone manufacturers. Ceja’s concerns about distracted driving may be justified, but his desire to see the government force Apple to implement an as-yet-unused patent by blocking phone sales is thoroughly misguided. The lawsuit only targets Apple and only because Apple is in possession of this granted patent. The state’s millions of Android (and tens of Windows phone) users would presumably be free to rear end Ceja and others while distracted by their non-iPhones.
Chances are this will be tossed before it advances too far, with the court pointing out that Apple is free to handle its unused patents however it feels and that any solution lies with the state’s legislature, rather than the court. Of course, this will result in misguided legislation that targets cell phones specifically while ignoring all sorts of distracted driving that has nothing to do with electronic devices. But this solution makes a hell of a lot more sense than a court-ordered injunction that allows distracted drivers to offload their culpability on an unused patent. And it would the responsibility where it should be: on drivers who pay more attention to their phones than the road.