Update: See our latest post about the implications of lawsuits like this for ALL Employers.
As reported by The Associated Press, Yahoo News, the Houston Chronicle, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times and other news outlets, Texas attorneys recently secured a $21 million verdict against Coca-Cola in a trucking accident case involving a distracted delivery driver.
On May 7, 2012, a Nueces County, Texas jury awarded $21 million to a woman who was hit by a Coca-Cola truck whose driver was chatting on a cell phone while at the wheel.
The jury awarded the woman $10 million in punitive damages and $11 million in actual damages for the 2010 accident that left her with severe neck and back injuries.
Two law firms collaborated to bring the cell phone distraction case to a jury, alleging that Coca Cola had a vague and ambiguous cell phone policy for its delivery drivers, according to court documents. The jury was to decide whether or not the accident was caused by a distracted Coca Cola delivery driver who was on a cell phone.
The law firms involved – Hilliard, Munoz & Gonzalez and Thomas J. Henry Injury Attorneys – stated that they discovered flaws in the Coca Cola management cell phone policy which allowed its employees to operate company vehicles throughout the United States while using a cell phone, according to court documents.
When asked about Coca Cola corporate governance, Bob Hilliard, a lead trial lawyer in the case said this:
“Today’s verdict I hope sends a message to corporate America that you can’t have employees on a cell phone and endanger the motoring public.”
When asked about the jury’s award, Thomas J. Henry of Thomas J. Henry Injury Attorneys stated:
“From the time I took the Coca Cola driver’s testimony and obtained the company’s inadequate cell phone driving policy, I knew we had a corporate giant with a huge safety problem on our hands. I also knew that taking on Coca Cola’s policy that affects hundreds of thousands of its employees would require assembling a trial team with the horse power necessary to fight and win. More importantly, I knew Mrs. Wilson deserved justice, and the rest of the motoring public deserved safer drivers; so, Bob Hilliard and I decided to put our law firm litigation teams together to shred Coca Cola’s policy.”
Bob Hilliard said:
“I knew looking into their hearts and minds, after hearing days of trial testimony, that they knew cell phone use while driving was deadly and harmful. The jury knew I gave them evidence to change Coca Cola’s policy, and I knew the jury would do justice, and they did. We now have a safer community, state, and country and now Coke gets to join, against their will, other Fortune 500 companies who volunteered to have a ‘no cell phone use while operating company vehicles’ policy.”
During the trial, Coca-Cola’s driver reportedly testified that if she had known the risks of talking on the phone while driving she would not have done it.
Coca Cola dispute the finding and may appeal.
It is vital for corporations and employers to understand that use of in-vehicle computers and laptops presents just the same distraction issues as cellphone use.
Blank-IT has been designed specifically to address the problem of driver distraction caused by in-vehicle computers and laptops. It is easily installed, doesn’t rely on 3rd party input such as GPS, is fully customisable for different working environments and will help businesses conform with distracted driving legislation and OH&S requirements.
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