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Apple accused of withholding distracted driving safety feature

Four out of 10 smartphone buyers in West Virginia and around the country choose to purchase an Apple iPhone, but that kind of market dominance could wind up costing a great deal if the plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit filed against the electronics giant prevail. A group of California road users say that the Cupertino-based company developed a texting lockout feature in 2008 that was designed to prevent distracted driving accidents, and they claim that Apple placed its market share and profit margins over the lives of motorists and pedestrians when it elected not to release it.

The lawsuit suggests that Apple chose to keep the feature from the public because it felt that a feature making their popular smartphone less attractive to drivers would prompt loyal customers to consider devices made by rival companies like Motorola and Nokia. Apple is said to have patented the texting lockout technology in 2014. In addition to the class action lawsuit, Apple is being sued over the unreleased safety feature by a California couple who lost their 5-year-old daughter in a distracted driving crash.

Apple may argue that it is not liable in these situations because the direct link between the injured party and manufacturer that is needed in product liability cases was broken by the intervening actions of distracted drivers involved. However, the plaintiffs will point to Apple's dominant market position and the scientific data linking cellphone use with car accidents to argue that injuries and deaths were a foreseeable result of holding the feature back.

When dealing with product liability cases, experienced personal injury attorneys may expect disputes to be settled during negotiations rather than in front of a jury. The defendants in this kind of lawsuit often have reputations worth far more than the damages being sought, and they may welcome the opportunity to dispose of these matters quickly.

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