This appears to be the season for decisions on distracted driving.
In Rockwell v. Knott, et al., a case of first impression, a Pennsylvania trial court was faced with the question of whether an individual who was involved in a car accident while looking at a GPS (or sat-nav for our friends across the pond) screen, can be liable for punitive damages.
In a lengthy 20 page decision (which is quite unusual for Pennsylvania), Judge Terrence Nealon of the Lackawanna County trial court ruled that the answer is “maybe.”
While denying the request for punitive damages in the case before him, Judge Nealon wrote that “a motorist’s use of a GPS device may, or may not, cause distracted driving depending upon the type and placement of the GPS device and the concomitant operation of the vehicle….[In making that decision, the court must look at] the position of the GPS device, the extent of the driver’s distraction and the distance travelled by the vehicle during that period of diversion.” Judge Nealon noted that if distracted driving evidence was produced, a jury would get to decide whether that distraction constituted reckless indifference such that an award of punitive damages was appropriate.
Just something else to worry about as our reliance on technology in cars ever increases.
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