MLG Auto: No more iPhone sales in CA until safeguards implemented for texting and driving

By Ethan Bailey | Jan 27, 2017

LOS ANGELES — A class-action lawsuit from MLG Automotive Law firm filed against tech giant Apple seeks to halt the sale of iPhones in California until the company enables texting and driving blocks on its devices.

The lawsuit, known as Julio Ceja v. Apple Inc., according to court documents, comes on the heels of a car accident in which a man was injured by a woman who was allegedly on her iPhone when the accident occurred, according to a news release from MLG.

The firm is suing Apple under the California Unfair Competition Law, which protects consumers as well as businesses from unfair, unlawful and fraudulent business practices.

Jonathan Michaels, founding member of MLG Automotive Law, told the Northern California Record that the dangers of texting and driving are an area in which Apple is familiar.

"They, in fact, stated that (texting and driving) was an extremely dangerous situation when they applied for a patent back in 2008," Michaels said. "In that patent application, they argued that the only way to prevent this dangerous conduct from occurring was to have a lock-out device."

Michaels also said that Apple itself acknowledged, in its 2008 patent application, that cracking down on drivers through legislation would have no effect on curbing texting and driving.

"What they put in the patent application is extremely damning to them," Michaels said.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration classifies texting and driving as six times more dangerous than drinking and driving. MLG's news release said that, according to U.S. Department of Transportation data, 1.5 million people on the nation's roads are texting and driving at any given point. Also, the release cited data from the California Highway Patrol and Federal Highway Administration indicating that iPhones are specifically responsible for 52,000 automobile accidents and an average of 312 deaths yearly in California.

It's no secret that the issue at hand extends beyond Apple — numerous other smartphone manufacturers also do not have safety protocols in place on their devices to block texting and driving. Michaels acknowledged that, although the problem doesn't end with Apple, there are specific reasons his firm has decided to target it first.

"We want to have one fight that defines the parameters of what the issue are, and so we had to start somewhere," Michaels said.

Starting with Apple, according to Michaels, was based on two factors.    

"First, it was the inventor of the smartphone. It's really the one who, for all intents and purposes, created this issue that we're all dealing with on a daily basis," he said. "And it's still by far and large the dominant player in the field."  

Michaels made it clear that this is not a case of an injury firm seeking claims against a large, wealthy company.

"First of all, we're not asking for any money. We're not asking for Apple to give the citizens of California a billion dollars," he said. "What we're asking is that the court ... prevent the sale of any further iPhones in California until there is a lock-out device that can protect consumers."

Michaels noted that consumers should practice self-control when it comes to their smartphones, but also said that the compulsive relationship between people and their phones makes conduct such as texting and driving impossible to stop without companies enabling safeguards.

"Unfortunately, we're not in a position as a society where we have the ability to self-regulate," he said. "We're just not."

Apple did not return calls or emails asking for comment on the lawsuit.

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