Daneka Dodgy blamed a low-flying pelican and a dropped cell phone for her veering her sponsor’s million-dollar sports car into on-coming traffic near Galveston, crashing into Wilma Woondednee’s car and overturning it so that Wilma’s driver’s side hit and then slid along the roadway. The luxury French-built Bugatti Veyron provided to Daneka by her sponsor Blimpo Bakeries then sailed into a salt marsh. As a result of the accident, Wilma’s arm got trapped between the door and the asphalt, and complications led to the loss of her arm.
Wilma’s lawyer accused Daneka of DWT (Driving While Talking) and argued that the state cell phone statute prohibited Daneka from doing anything that was distracting. Despite the intervention of the pelican, Wilma contended that Daneka’s cell phone use was not reasonable as her cruise control was set at 77 miles per hour in a 70 mph speed zone. The lawsuit filed against Daneka and her sponsor Blimpo complained that Daneka’s negligence was intentional and sought punitive damages. Although Blimpo’s defense was that Daneka was not actually on the phone at the moment of the collision, Daneka admitted that she had used the cell phone just prior to getting on the interstate, and that a low-flying pelican caused her to drop her cell phone and swerve into Woondednee’s on-coming car. Snidely Snitch testified that he witnessed the accident and saw Daneka with the phone to her ear at the time of the collision. In a mediated settlement, Blimpo agreed to pay over $5 million to settle Wilma’s claims.
Tilting the Scales in Your Favor.
Not updating company policies can cost an arm and a leg, and cost your business a hefty settlement. More and more businesses are telling their employees, “Hang Up and Drive.” Normally a company would not be liable for damages and penalties related to an accident like this, but a critical fact crushed Blimpo: Dodgy was on her sponsor-issued cell phone at the time of the accident. Even though the company cell phone policy required the use of hands-free devices while in Blimpo vehicles, the business still risked being held accountable for Dodgy’s negligence. The Take-Away? Cell phone policies are a must for any company – especially one that puts its employees on the road, and more so if the company provides the cell phone. Having a cell phone policy, alone, may well not be enough. Managers and supervisors must both set limitations and provide training and guidance to show employees why such policies are in place and how failure to follow company guidelines can result in dire consequences.
In Texas, only hands free devices with cell phones may be used in school zones. And, Texas teenage drivers are prohibited from using cell phones, hands fee or otherwise, until they are 19 years of age.
See: Ford v. McGrogan, GA Superior Court, Dec. 14, 2007 and Cell Phone Driving Laws by State – Governors’ Highway Safety Association