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Media Alert: Bentley College Professor's Analysis Suggests Manufacturer Liability for Cell Phone Accidents

February 25, 2003

WALTHAM, Mass. - Should only employers be held liable for cellular phone-related accidents caused by employees? As the number of cell phone-related automobile accidents increases, the notion of employer liability has also continued to expand. Bentley College Law Professor Jordan B. Michael J.D. says that manufacturers should be held liable for failure to warn ordinary consumers of the danger of driving a car while using a cell phone.

"This is about ordinary consumers, and that seems to broaden the perspective and concern," says Michael. "If people - whether making business or personal calls - get into accidents, shouldn't cell phone manufacturers provide warnings to drive responsibly?

"For years, the tobacco manufacturers have had to warn consumers of the hazards of smoking," adds Michael. "Why shouldn't cell phone manufacturers have to warn drivers of the hazards of cell phone use? It comes down to the same thing - public safety."

Michael's forthcoming paper, "Employer Liability for Cell Phone Related Accidents; Manufacturer Liability for Failure to Warn," will be published this June by the North Dakota Law Review. Among his key findings:

  • Drivers are four times more likely to have an accident when using a cell phone.
  • Although a cell phone may not be considered inherently dangerous, its use may be considered "unavoidably unsafe" while used in driving situations, and manufacturers may be held liable under traditional product liability law.
  • Manufacturers may also be liable under a theory of negligence - the manufacturer knows that use of the cell phone while driving is unsafe and the manufacturer should provide adequate instructions.
  • People injured by drivers making personal calls may have a legal claim against manufacturers for not providing proper warnings and instructions to cell phone users.

Jordan Michael is available to speak with the media on these topics. Michael is an adjunct assistant professor of Law and a business attorney in Waltham, MA. At Bentley College, he teaches General Business Law and Marketing Law, focusing on intellectual property law (patent, trademark, and trade secret), antitrust and consumer protection law, and regulation of advertising. He holds an MBA from Boston College and a JD from the New England School of Law. Michael was formerly director of regulatory affairs at CTC Communications Inc. He is a member of the Boston Bar Association, the Massachusetts Bar Association and the Volunteer Lawyers Project.

BENTLEY UNIVERSITY is one of the nation’s leading business schools, dedicated to preparing a new kind of business leader – one with the deep technical skills, broad global perspective, and high ethical standards required to make a difference in an ever-changing world. Our rich, diverse arts and sciences program, combined with an advanced business curriculum, prepares informed professionals who make an impact in their chosen fields. Located on a classic New England campus minutes from Boston, Bentley is a dynamic community of leaders, scholars and creative thinkers. The Graduate School emphasizes the impact of technology on business practice, in offerings that include MBA and Master of Science programs, PhD programs in accountancy and in business, and customized executive education programs. The university enrolls approximately 4,100 full-time undergraduate, 140 adult part-time undergraduate, 1,430 graduate, and 43 doctoral students. Bentley is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges; AACSB International – The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business; and the European Quality Improvement System, which benchmarks quality in management and business education. For more information, please visit www.bentley.edu

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