Lawsuits are a major reason why more employers are now clamping down on vehicular cell-phone use, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. In recent years, lawsuits have blamed employers for accidents caused by employees gabbing on the phone while driving.

  • In Miami, a jury awarded a woman $20.9 million in 2001 after she was injured in an auto accident caused by a salesman making a cell call between appointments. The insurer for the salesman's employer picked up the settled final tab: $16 million on behalf of the company and $100,000 for its salesman.

  • In Pennsylvania, Smith Barney agreed to pay $500,000 in 1999 to settle a fatal auto accident claim involving one of its salesmen. He dropped his cell phone while driving and, as he groped for it, ran a red light and killed a 24-year-old man on a motorcycle. The stockbroker had tried to make a sales call or two before arriving at a restaurant for dinner.

  • In Northern Virginia, a $30 million lawsuit was filed against a cell phone-wielding lawyer who fatally ran over a 15-year-old girl in March 2000. The girl's father is also going after the lawyer's former employer, the firm of Cooley Godward. To establish that liability, the father's lawyer will have to convince a jury that the lawyer was discussing company business on the phone when the accident occurred. The trial is set for October 4.

    The lawsuit is brought against the driver of the car — and the driver's employer. The theory is that the driver is acting in the interest of the employer, so the employer is the beneficiary of that conversation and is liable for that conduct.