Texas

Denton family sues Apple after fatal wreck involving FaceTime

Apple is being sued over a 2014 wreck in which a 5-year-old was killed by an SUV driver who was reportedly distracted while chatting on the FaceTime app.
Apple is being sued over a 2014 wreck in which a 5-year-old was killed by an SUV driver who was reportedly distracted while chatting on the FaceTime app. The Associated Press

A Denton County family is suing Apple over a 2014 wreck in which their daughter was killed by an SUV driver who was distracted while chatting on the FaceTime app, according to the lawsuit, originally obtained by Courthouse News.

James and Bethany Modisette of Cross Roads and their daughters Isabella and Moriah were traveling southbound on I-35W in a Toyota Camry on Christmas Eve when they were rear-ended by a Toyota 4Runner driven by Garrett Wilhelm, 21, of Keller. Denton police said Wilhelm was headed from Gainesville to his parents’ home in Keller at the time.

The Modisettes had stopped in the left lane because of a DPS traffic stop along the highway ahead and Wilhelm’s SUV slammed into them going 65 mph, according to the lawsuit and reports at the time.

The SUV rolled over the driver’s side of the Camry, killing Moriah Modisette, 5, who was in a booster seat on the left passenger side, and critically injuring her father, who was driving. Her mother and older sister were also injured, as was Wilhelm.

The Modisettes’ lawsuit against Apple contends that Wilhelm was distracted at the time because he was talking on FaceTime on his iPhone 6 Plus and not paying attention to road conditions.

It says Apple should be held accountable because it failed to implement a disabling or lock-out mechanism or provide a safer alternative on its iPhones that would have prevented the use of FaceTime while driving.

“Bethany Modisette and Isabella Modisette visually and audibly witnessed rescue workers’ grueling efforts to extract James Modisette and Moriah Modisette from the mangled vehicle, as well as evidence of their ... serious and life-threatening injuries and struggles to stay alive,” the lawsuit says.

The suit was filed in state Superior Court in Santa Clara one day shy of the second anniversary of the wreck.

Apple did not respond to the lawsuit, according to The Associated Press, nor to messages from The Washington Post.

Wilhelm has since been charged in Denton County with felony manslaughter in the case. A jury trial has been scheduled for Feb. 27.

Texting while driving is illegal in Denton, and in December the Denton City Council voted to ban motorists from using handheld cellphones while driving for almost any reason.

Texas, meanwhile, is one of four states in the United States that doesn’t have a ban on texting while driving.

Tom Uhler: 817-390-7832, @tomuh

Find out how texting affects your driving, and how deaths related to driving distracted are on the rise in this video graphic.

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