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Driving While Calling

Fulton, GA: (Mar-21-08) Debra Ford brought a personal injury claim against International Paper Co. employee Vanessa C. McGrogan, alleging that she rear ended her car while driving, and using a cell phone. The suit stated that McGrogan was using her company-supplied cell phone as she drove west on Interstate 16 near Dublin when she crashed into Ford's car, overturning it so that the driver's side hit and then slid along the roadway. As a result of the accident, Ford's arm got trapped between the door and the asphalt, and complications led to Ford, a widowed mother of four, to have her arm amputated almost up to the shoulder.

Legal counsel stated that there was a cell phone statute in Georgia that says the driver is not to do things that are distracting. Ford's attorneys said that McGrogan's cell phone use was not reasonable as her cruise control was set at 77 miles per hour, in a 70 mph speed zone. The personal injury suit stated that there was intentional negligence on the part of the employee and International Paper, and sought punitive damages. In its defense, International Paper said that the employee was not actually on the phone at the moment the collision occurred, and McGrogan testified at deposition that she had used the cell phone just prior to getting on the interstate, and the accident occurred nearly two miles later. A witness testified that he had seen her with the phone to her ear at the time of the collision. Both Ford's doctor and another medical expert refuted the company's defenses.

As a result of a mediated settlement, International Paper Co. agreed to pay $5.2 million to resolve allegations. Earlier the company made a settlement offer of $750,000, and a mediator indicated International Paper would go as high as $2.5 million. Ford rejected that offer. [DAILY REPORT: CELL PHONE USE IN CAR LEADS TO $5.2 MILLION PAYOUT]

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Published on Mar-24-08


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