With over 100 million cell phones in use, employers are facing a new source of legal liability. A large number of employees use motor vehicles for work purposes and a growing number of them use cell phones while driving. Consequently, employers are facing the growing risk of legal liability for accidents and injuries caused by employees using cell phones for business purposes from motor vehicles.
Recently, the brokerage firm Smith Barney paid more than $500,000 to settle a wrongful death lawsuit after a motorcyclist was killed by a stockbroker using a cell phone while driving. The employee ran a red light while trying to pick up his cell phone that he had just dropped. Although the accident occurred on a Saturday night while the employee was driving to a restaurant, the employee stated that he was using the cell phone for business purposes. Thus, the employer faced the risk of being found legally liable for the wrongful death, despite the fact that the accident occurred outside of normal business hours and the employer did not own either the motor vehicle or the cell phone.
Given the risks associated with the use of cell phones while driving, employers may wish to consider banning employee use of cell phones while driving or requiring the use of hands-free cell phones in motor vehicles.