Are You Off The Hook? - Distracted Driving Lawsuits

By Daniel Croley Labor and Employment & Litigation, Futterman & Dupree | October 28, 2008

In a pending lawsuit in Virginia, a Palo Alto based law firm was sued for $30 million when an attorney, making business phone calls while driving, veered off the road killing a child. The child was not found until almost an hour later because she was thrown off the road by the impact. In defense of the claim, the employee claimed she thought she had hit a deer, and therefore did not stop her vehicle. At the time of the accident, the employee was making business calls while returning home from work. The family asserts that the employee is liable, and that the law firm is also liable as the attorney was billing the time spent on her cellular phone to a client at the time of the accident.

On June 2, 2003, a Los Angles jury awarded over $7 million dollars in damages against a driver who was using her cell phone when her car struck a patrol car and injured a Los Angles police officer. Jewett v. Johnson (MC013478) (Los Angles Superior Court, June 2, 2003).

Several other similar lawsuits have been brought. Some have produced multi-million dollar settlement and jury awards, including cases in Hawaii and Florida.

New Legislation

There has been and will continue to be a wrath of legislation to address the dangers of cellular phone use while driving. In 2001 and 2002, approximately 130 proposed laws regarding cellular phones and driving were introduced (a six hundred percent increase over 2000). Thus far, only one state (New York), as well as a few localities, has actually prohibited the use of hand held mobile phones while driving.

In New York, the penalty for use of a hand-held device is a fine of up to $100, with fines for repeated violations of up to $500.

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Hotel Spa: Oasis Unplugged

The driving force in current hotel spa trends is the effort to manage unprecedented levels of stress experienced by their clients. Feeling increasingly overwhelmed by demanding careers and technology overload, people are craving places where they can go to momentarily escape the rigors of their daily lives. As a result, spas are positioning themselves as oases of unplugged human connection, where mindfulness and contemplation activities are becoming increasingly important. One leading hotel spa offers their clients the option to experience their treatments in total silence - no music, no talking, and no advice from the therapist - just pure unadulterated silence. Another leading hotel spa is working with a reputable medical clinic to develop a “digital detox” initiative, in which clients will be encouraged to unplug from their devices and engage in mindfulness activities to alleviate the stresses of excessive technology use. Similarly, other spas are counseling clients to resist allowing technology to monopolize their lives, and to engage in meditation and gratitude exercises in its place. The goal is to provide clients with a warm, inviting and tranquil sanctuary from the outside world, in addition to also providing genuine solutions for better sleep, proper nutrition, stress management and natural self-care. To accomplish this, some spas are incorporating a variety of new approaches - cryotherapy, Himalayan salt therapy and ayurveda treatments are becoming increasingly popular. Other spas are growing their own herbs and performing their treatments in lush outdoor gardens. Some spa therapists are being trained to assess a client's individual movement patterns to determine the most beneficial treatment specifically for them. The July issue of the Hotel Business Review will report on these trends and developments and examine how some hotel spas are integrating them into their operations.