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In September 2008, one Linda Doyle was driving her Toyota through an intersection in Oklahoma City when she was slammed by a Ford pickup. Doyle was killed and the pickup driver, one Christopher Hill, told police that he had not noticed the red light. Why not? Because he was on a cell phone call and shot into the intersection at 45 mph.

Doyle’s daughter has now filed a suit against the company that made Hill’s cell phone, Samsung, and the company that supplied his wireless service, Sprint Nextel, for not giving proper warnings about the danger of driving while using a phone.

  • Samsung has not made any comment;
  • Sprint Nextel has rejected any claim of negligence. The company gives safety warnings on the phone packaging and in its user manual; as well as in all advertising and on its website.

One Similar Suit Dismissed

This is only the second lawsuit filed over a car accident caused by cell phone use. Previously, one was filed in Indiana, where a woman sued Cingular in 2003 after being hurt in an accident caused by a driver using a Cingular phone. Both the lower court and Indiana appeals court dismissed the case because:

  • The accident could not have been foreseen by Cingular
  • There was no legal relationship between the woman and Cingular
  • Auto accidents are caused by inattentive drivers, not by cell phones, and most of the time, drivers use cell phones without causing any accidents

The chairman of the Product Liability Committee of the New York City Bar Association, Jackson Russell, comments that this Samsung/Sprint Nextel claim is tricky because it is fair to assume that most drivers are aware of the risk in making calls while driving, but they do it anyway, regardless of warnings, and more warnings would not likely solve anything.

Individual Responsibility

In other words, the responsibility lies with the phone user, not with the phone or wireless company. Hill has in fact pleaded guilty to negligent homicide and is not blaming the cell phone companies for any lack of warnings. “It’s our choice if we’re going to talk on the cell phone while driving or walking down the street or in the office,” he said.

Certainly it is a shock to suddenly lose a loved one in an accident, or at any time for any reason, and sometimes people have difficulty with completing their grieving and moving on. It might seem to some that blaming a deep pocket and obtaining monetary compensation would soothe the grief, but that is not necessarily true.

Perhaps these current plaintiff’s lawyers will find a new way to obtain monetary compensation for a decedent’s relative after cell phone use caused a car accident.

If you or a loved one has been badly injured in a car accident, or a truck accident or motorcycle accident, please contact our law firm to schedule a free case review. You may have a valid legal claim.

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