Family of Halloween crush victim withdraws lawsuit against Apple

By Kuksung Nam, The Readable
Aug. 4, 2023 8:34PM GMT+9

The legal dispute between Apple and the parents of a young victim tragically injured during a Halloween event has reached its conclusion. The family has made the choice to withdraw their legal pursuit against the tech behemoth regarding access to their deceased child's smartphone.

The Ho law firm, acting as legal representatives for the grieving family, announced on Thursday their decision to formally retract the lawsuit filed against Apple's South Korean division on July 20. This legal action, initiated by the parents of a victim caught in a crowd surge incident, was brought before the court on June 15 with the primary aim of seeking transparency and answers surrounding their son's untimely demise. In October of last year, the crowd surge during Halloween festivities claimed the lives of 151 individuals, including the deceased victim.

In an official submission to the Seoul Central District Court on June 21, the family formally petitioned Apple for the unlocking of the late victim's iPhone 7 Plus. Their intent was to unravel the mystery behind his presence at the event, an unusual departure from his customary interests. As per the guidelines set forth on Apple's official website, access to a deceased individual's information is possible for relatives, contingent upon their validation as lawful inheritors through a court-sanctioned decree.

According to statements from the legal spokesperson, Apple clarified during the consultation phase that should an incorrect password be entered repeatedly resulting in device lockout, the option to unlock the phone without resorting to a complete reset becomes unfeasible. In this particular case, the victim's phone became deactivated due to multiple unsuccessful attempts by the parents to gain entry, unknowingly inputting incorrect passcodes. This scenario raises the possibility that reactivation of the phone by the company might lead to the irreversible erasure of the deceased individual's final communications.

“The family members, placing their trust in Apple's assertions, reached the conclusion that pursuing the case further would be pointless,” stated Hwang Ho-jun, legal counsel representing the Ho law firm, in a conversation with The Readable. Hwang further disclosed that deliberations between Apple's South Korean division and the bereaved family revolved around the prospect of publicly disclosing the rationale behind their decision to retract the lawsuit. Consequently, both parties arrived at a consensus to release an official statement.

The Readable reached out to Apple to request a comment on the lawsuit but did not receive an immediate response.

The cover image of this article was designed by Sangseon Kim.

Kuksung Nam is a journalist for The Readable. She has extensively traversed the globe to cover the latest stories on the cyber threat landscape and has been producing in-depth stories on security and privacy by engaging with industry giants, foreign government officials and experts. Before joining The Readable, Kuksung reported on politics for one of South Korea’s top-five local newspapers, The Kyeongin Ilbo. Her journalistic skills and reportage earned her the coveted Journalists Association of Korea award in 2021 for her essay detailing exclusive stories about the misconduct of a former government official. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in French from Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, a testament to her linguistic capabilities.