Woman Sues Sprint Over Driving While Yakking Death

from the good-luck-there dept

More than five years ago, we wrote about a ridiculous lawsuit that involved a lawsuit against Cingular (now a part of AT&T) seeking to pin liability on Cingular for an accident caused by a driver who was talking on his phone. That lawsuit was tossed out as ridiculous (and again on appeal) with the court noting that the mobile phone operator was not at all responsible for what a driver did. Apparently, some folks are unaware of this case. Broadband Reports alerts us to the news that Sprint is being sued in a similar lawsuit. In this case, a woman was killed by a driver on the phone, and the woman's daughter is claiming that Sprint should have warned people of the risks of driving while talking on the phone. Nice try, but chances are, this lawsuit is going to get tossed just as fast as previous ones.


Reader Comments (rss)

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    aguywhoneedstenbucks (profile), Dec 8th, 2009 @ 1:27pm

    It's not Sprint's fault and the danger doesn't lie in talking on the phone while driving. It's the fault of the government for giving licenses to morons. So the lawsuit should be against the DOT for that state.

     

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      bigpicture, Dec 8th, 2009 @ 3:57pm

      Re: Morons?

      I agree, the "adapt or die" natural selection rule applies. There is a big difference between putting a truly dangerous product in the marketplace, (one that can in and of itself creates risk and hazardous situations) but morons create hazardous situations all by themselves. (they are the primary causal factor) And the irony of it all is that some expect to get enriched just because they are morons.

       

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      JKirchartz, Dec 8th, 2009 @ 8:03pm

      The only time any driver follows the rules of the road is during their driving test. After that it's free reign to drive however you see fit, even if it endangers others. I think that drivers tests should happen every 5 years or something just to remind people of their responsibility while driving.

       

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    senshikaze (profile), Dec 8th, 2009 @ 2:02pm

    i don't know. how many people thought the hot coffee trial was going to be thrown out.

    face it, common sense just isn't that common.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 8th, 2009 @ 2:42pm

      Re:

      Yeah but this seems to have some precedent already set by the courts. I don't know if the hot coffee incident did.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 8th, 2009 @ 5:50pm

      Re:

      Actually, the McDonald's hot coffee lawsuit was an actual legitimate lawsuit, not frivolous as popular myth believes.

      The coffee wasn't just hot; it was dangerously hot (180 degrees, at least 20 degrees hotter than at any other restaurant, enough cause third degree burns in seconds). McDonald's knew this after over 700 complaints before the incident that sparked the lawsuit and their own expert consultants. The cups and lids were so flimsy they were prone to spilling when opening (eg to add cream and sugar).

      The woman who sued suffered third degree burns to her thighs, legs, and groin; she literally burned her genitals off and was disabled for years afterwards. If the coffee had been at a standard ~155 degrees, she might have suffered minor first degree burns, but nothing serious.

      The following links have more information on the case, Liebeck v. McDonald's:
      Liebeck v. McDonald's Restaurants
      The Actual Facts about the Mcdonalds' Coffee Case
      McFacts abut the McDonalds Coffee Lawsuit

      While I agree that many lawsuits these days (including the one against Sprint in the article) are frivolous, the McDonald's coffee lawsuit is *not* one of them. It is one of the few cause where a lawsuit actually helped fix a wrong and keep a corporation honest; after the lawsuit McDonald's finally changed its policy regarding coffee temperature.

       

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        Almost Anonymous (profile), Dec 9th, 2009 @ 10:31am

        Re: Re:

        Thanks AC for typing all that so I don't have to. It always fascinates me that people will spout off about that lawsuit with only the barest second-hand knowledge of the real issues behind it.

         

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Dec 8th, 2009 @ 2:06pm

    Sigh

    "Nice try, but chances are, this lawsuit is going to get tossed just as fast as previous ones."

    Never underestimate the power of stupidity in America....

    Because often times we're not just stupid, but WILLFULLY stupid....

     

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    Seshan (profile), Dec 8th, 2009 @ 2:14pm

    "The gun maker should of warned us that a gun could kill people"

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 8th, 2009 @ 2:39pm

    Like the chic

    that walked past all the cones and fell down the open man hole?

     

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      Ima Fish (profile), Dec 8th, 2009 @ 3:03pm

      Re: Like the chic

      I've got a worse one. A lady tripped and fell on one of those orange warning cones and attempted to sue. The United States District Court For The District Of Minnesota agred with the lower court and held that warning cones are per se open and obvious and dismissed her case.
      The Court finds that the orange traffic cones were open and obvious as a matter of law because they were placed on the streets and in fact visible. Indeed, the cones are bright orange in order to make them obvious. Moreover, the Court also finds that the Defendants could not have anticipated harm from the cones because traffic cones are, themselves, warning markers. Therefore, the Defendants had no duty to warn of their existence. Defendants are entitled to summary judgment on this claim.
      Phyllis A. Engleson, Plaintiff, v. Little Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, Civil No. 01-1072 (DWF/RLE).

       

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        Glaze, Dec 8th, 2009 @ 3:07pm

        Re: Re: Like the chic

        being from MN, i have to say that I am quite speachless with this one... but not so much... we do have some pretty retarded people out here... I think the cold freezes their brains.

         

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        Lonzo5, Dec 8th, 2009 @ 3:51pm

        Re: Re: Like the chic

        Out of curiosity, how badly was she hurt?

         

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          Ima Fish (profile), Dec 8th, 2009 @ 4:59pm

          Re: Re: Re: Like the chic

          The opinion does not say. Which is not surprising because, under the open and obvious doctrine, the seriousness of the injury simply does not matter. The open and obvious doctrine only attacks the argument that there was some duty, in this instance, a duty to warn.

          Of course the plaintiff's argument that the city needed to warn her of a warning cone is pretty hilarious.

           

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        iNtrigued (profile), Dec 9th, 2009 @ 9:22am

        Re: Re: Like the chic

        Just curious, how might one warn you that a warning cone is in front of you? Another warning cone? Warning sign?

        But then how would you warn them of the warning sign warning you of a warning cone? There would be a never ending chain of warning objects. It would be madness!

         

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    Stuart, Dec 8th, 2009 @ 2:42pm

    Cases like these

    remind me that as a rule ... I fucking hate people.

     

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    Ima Fish (profile), Dec 8th, 2009 @ 3:11pm

    Made up news from the past....

    Associated Press, 1930: Galvin Manufacturing Corporation was sued today by a woman who claimed that the corporation should have warned drivers that its newfangled "car radio" could distract drivers which could lead to serious accidents.

    Judge Ima Idiot, who thought this new "car radio" technology was "of the devil, because it did not exist when I was a kid," agreed with the plaintiff Anita Someonetoblame and awarded 10 bucks. Which incidentally, would be worth $40 billion when adjusted into dollars for the year 2009.

     

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      Big Al, Dec 8th, 2009 @ 3:23pm

      Re: Made up news from the past....

      Off topic, but the original Mini had no place to mount a radio, purely because the designer (that I can't remember the name of) decided that they WERE too distracting for the driver.

       

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        Alan, Dec 8th, 2009 @ 3:43pm

        Designer of the Mini

        It was Alec Issigonis - later Sir Alec. Boosted sales of radios though! I seem to recall we had a tranny on the back seat....

         

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    Kulgan Vaslor, Dec 8th, 2009 @ 3:28pm

    Driving with both hands

    I am guessing that the case is simply about money, not common sense.

     

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      Marcus Carab (profile), Dec 8th, 2009 @ 3:43pm

      Re: Driving with both hands

      Perhaps. But it could have a lot to do with the visceral reaction we have to tragedy: we lash out at everything remotely connected because we have a desire to attach blame to someone or something. It's a very sad thing, because it's entirely possible that the daughter in this case is simply distraught and trying to make some sense of the situation - in a very misguided but somewhat understandable way.

       

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    Bengie, Dec 8th, 2009 @ 3:43pm

    har har

    Mother Nature should warn that life has a 100% death rate

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 8th, 2009 @ 3:46pm

    Almost ready to agree with the suit

    As insane as it feels to actually lean toward sympathy regarding one of these suits, I'm getting there. The communciations companies are spending an inordinant amount of money lobbying against hands-free laws and distracted driver laws that, in my mind, they're rapidly assuming some responsibility because they're actively fighting against those of us who would like to hold that driver responsible for their own actions. My life has been threatened by enough morons on phones that I'm ready to blame the provider until they stop working against public safety in favor of the bottom line.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 8th, 2009 @ 4:52pm

      Re: Almost ready to agree with the suit

      There are ALREADY laws in place that hold the driver responsible for their own actions.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 8th, 2009 @ 5:00pm

      Re: Almost ready to agree with the suit

      *As insane as it feels to actually lean toward sympathy regarding one of these suits, I'm getting there. The communciations companies are spending an inordinant amount of money lobbying against hands-free laws and distracted driver laws that, in my mind, they're rapidly assuming some responsibility because they're actively fighting against those of us who would like to hold that driver responsible for their own actions. My life has been threatened by enough morons on phones that I'm ready to blame the provider until they stop working against public safety in favor of the bottom line.*

      That is pure over-legislation. Are we going to need homer simpson laws?
      - Faxing while driving can be dangerous and should be illegal
      - Making Nachos while driving can be dangerous and should be illegal
      - Watching a portable tv while driving can be dangerous and should be illegal
      .
      .
      .

      How about enforce the law for reckless driving and call it a day. You know what happened with hands free in CA? First day cops handed out tickets left and right, hands free manufacturers made a mint and everyone was off the phone. 3 days later, back to normal.

       

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        Michael, Dec 9th, 2009 @ 4:26am

        Re: Re: Almost ready to agree with the suit

        Wait - making nachos while driving can be dangerous?

        Great, I installed that microwave in the dash for nothing...

         

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      no way, Dec 9th, 2009 @ 5:49am

      Re: Almost ready to agree with the suit

      Seriously, the last time I checked any knuckle head that does not pay attention to driving and all the other drivers around them is looking for an accident. Most states have some type of law against anything that distracts the driver from doing what the should be doing, paying attention. If all states just enforced the laws they have, we would not see the stupid lawsuits regarding an idiot who decided to talk on their phone, read a newspaper, text on their phone, eat a sandwich, mess with the radio, put on their make up, etc, etc, etc. Seriously folks, use your head for something besides a hat rack.

       

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      Anonomous, Dec 9th, 2009 @ 7:00am

      Re: Almost ready to agree with the suit

      And what about the other morons that are fixing their hair, putting on make up, reading the paper, etc. It is not just cell phone. So should I sue the guy that was reading the paper or the person putting on makeup? Give me a break, it is people not the technology...............

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 8th, 2009 @ 3:54pm

    wow what a f*cking annoying ad by nokia, sized itself up to cover the whole page, plus 2 other ads of the same thing on the rest of the page...

     

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    Lonzo5, Dec 8th, 2009 @ 3:54pm

    It's not Sprint's responsibility to warn people about the dangers of doing stupid things-- there are laws to do just that. That driver is responsible for his own actions, and if he survived the crash he should be the one who pays restitution to the victim's family.

     

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    Anonymoose, Dec 8th, 2009 @ 4:57pm

    So THIS is the "moron in a hurry" test people keep talking about?

     

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    mjb5406 (profile), Dec 8th, 2009 @ 6:31pm

    Like they say...

    Cell phones don't kill people.. people kill people.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 8th, 2009 @ 7:02pm

    HEY sprint is right

    this means its nto anyones bother when i urchase a hang gun or rifle

    i get wasted at a bar its not the owners responsibility to make sure i dont drive and walk out drunk of his place, try waving your keys around saying im a driving home cause sprint told me i can

    this logic then can be said if i get pulled over by coppers driving drunk and have not yet killed anyone that it also is not that cops business and he can call sprint for hte reason why.....

    HAHAHAHA

     

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    YE HAW, Dec 8th, 2009 @ 7:03pm

    HEY sprint is right

    this means its nto anyones bother when i urchase a hang gun or rifle

    i get wasted at a bar its not the owners responsibility to make sure i dont drive and walk out drunk of his place, try waving your keys around saying im a driving home cause sprint told me i can

    this logic then can be said if i get pulled over by coppers driving drunk and have not yet killed anyone that it also is not that cops business and he can call sprint for hte reason why.....

    HAHAHAHA

     

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    oh and, Dec 8th, 2009 @ 7:04pm

    its now illegal in ontario canada to use a cell while driving

    as in sanity

     

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    Javarod (profile), Dec 8th, 2009 @ 8:41pm

    Interesting law suit, considering that i would swear on a stack of bibles that my Sprint phone came with a little yellow flyer warning me that i should use a hands free set while driving, although i could be mistaken i suppose.

     

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    Ryan Diederich, Dec 8th, 2009 @ 9:01pm

    Do I see a new commercial on the horizon....?

    Theres a suit for that.



    (/play off theres an app for that)

     

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    erica (profile), Dec 8th, 2009 @ 9:31pm

    time?

    I would think something like this happening was only a matter of time. I wonder if the dude that rear ended me had Sprint.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 8th, 2009 @ 10:24pm

    ISP are wilful partners of pirates LoL

     

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    LordKwll, Dec 9th, 2009 @ 1:48am

    Change the charge for accidents where the driver on a phone is at fault to attempted manslaughter. See how many in-car phone calls go to voice mail.

     

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    Jerry Leichter, Dec 9th, 2009 @ 4:29am

    Don't dismiss this lawsuit quite so quickly. The difference between this and earlier ones is that time has passed and there's more information. On the one hand, all the wireless companies clearly sold these devices as useful in cars. Their buildouts focused on highways, their ads kept showing the advantages of carrying out business while driving. Meanwhile, studies *that they themselves funded in many cases* showed the hazards. In response, for years they put CYA warnings in the booklets - where they knew no one would read them.

    The argument will be that it's as if, hmm, a ski resort ran repeated ads showing people with previous skiing experience using some kind of new-fangled skis on a special course with no instruction, then put a warning at the end of those books of local attractions they put in rooms saying "Don't go out on the slopes until you've learned how to ski" - and then claimed to someone injured "Oh, you should have known better."

    Well, maybe - but this isn't even such a great analogy, since the actual hazards from cell phone use are much less obvious than those of skiing. Everyone jumped on "hands-free" operation as the issue, because *that* seemed like the obvious hazard. Except that it wasn't, and isn't. While it doesn't *feel* like "just talking on the phone" has much of an effect - how many of the previous posters here *don't* use their cellphones while driving? - the fact is objective measurement shows it does.

    Laws are supposed to be unambiguous. It's fine to say that general laws about distracted driving are enough - but how do you know when such a law has been violated? Is it a law you trot only when there's already been an accident and you want *something* to charge an idiot driver with? Or do you want something that might actually be effective in preventing accidents? Frankly, I don't all that much care if people do stupid, dangerous things that only harm themselves - but I damn well *do* care what they do when they share the road with me.
    -- Jerry

     

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      Ima Fish (profile), Dec 9th, 2009 @ 4:57am

      Re:

      Let me guess, you're the plaintiff's attorney who represented Phyllis A. Engleson in the case I cited above. I can hear your arguments now...
      "It's fine to say that general laws about open and obvious dangers are enough - but how do you know when a warning cone is truly a warning of its own imminent danger?"

       

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      Ima Fish (profile), Dec 9th, 2009 @ 5:13am

      Re:

      Well, I'm going to get serious for moment and respond to this argument:
      Is it a law you trot only when there's already been an accident and you want *something* to charge an idiot driver with? Or do you want something that might actually be effective in preventing accidents? Frankly, I don't all that much care if people do stupid, dangerous things that only harm themselves - but I damn well *do* care what they do when they share the road with me.
      Back in the 70s nearly everyone drunk alcohol and drove. Now, most people are aware that drinking and driving is bad and most people do not do it. What caused this change in attitude among drivers?

      Was it dramshop lawsuits against the producers and servers of alcohol? Did that cause people to decide drinking and driving was a bad idea? Not even a little bit. Those lawsuits shifted the blame away from the drivers, leaving them off the hook for the vast majority of damages.

      What caused the mental shift were tough laws against the perpetrators of the dangerous condition, the drunk drivers. After a few of your buddies serve prison time for drunk driving, your eyes tend to open a bit to reality.

      So in this instance, exactly how does holding phone companies liable for people yakking on their phones, stop people from yakking on their phones?

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 9th, 2009 @ 5:38am

    So, we now know that Jennifer Smith is the dumbest person in the world. Closely followed by her lawyer. The RIAA must be relieved at this news.

     

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    p, Dec 9th, 2009 @ 7:39am

    personal liability does it exist anymore?

     

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    Vincent Clement, Dec 9th, 2009 @ 8:34am

    This will just mean more warning labels on products, more warnings on packages and more warnings in user manuals.

    I recently bought a desk lamp for my son. It came with not one but two warning labels on the cord that essentially warned me that electricity is dangerous. I kid you not. There was also a label on the hood of the lamp that stated the bulb could get hot - naturally it was a pain in the ass to remove that label. Half the 'manual' was nothing but warnings.

     

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    Doc, Dec 9th, 2009 @ 8:39am

    Warnings? Really?

    Churches and government then should warn anyone thinking of getting married that 100% of divorces are caused my marriage.

     

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    distracted driving, Dec 9th, 2009 @ 10:54am

    distracted driving

    Accidents occur every day across the nation and are caused by a variety of reasons, including excessive speed, failure to obey rules of the road, reckless driving, driving under the influence, and distracted driving. So I suggest proper care should be taken while driving as life is precious.

     

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