Pharmaceutical Sales Representative Kills Pedestrian While Simultaneously Driving and Using Laptop


This case involves a motor vehicle accident which took place while a pharmaceutical sales representative for a large, Fortune 500 company, used her laptop while driving. The plaintiff was struck by the sales representative’s vehicle as she walked through a crosswalk at a red light; the representative, distracted by her laptop, failed to notice that the light had turned red. While the company didn’t permit their employees to work on computerized tablets while driving cars provided by the company, they did nothing to strictly enforce this policy. In fact, the laptops were all programmed with wireless internet/mobile network coverage, which made it possible to access the internet while driving. The estate of the decedent has brought an action against the medical supplies company for punitive damages, for failing to strictly enforce the ‘no technology while driving’ rules that their employee training manuals suggest.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. While the pharmaceutical company in question may have had policies which were appropriate, were there additional measures which should have been taken to ensure that their employees do not harm individuals on the road?
  • 2. Is it reasonable for a company of this size (2,000+ traveling sales reps in the USA) to foresee that their sales team members may be inclined to use technology while driving to sales appointments, and in turn, to take necessary actions to ensure that this doesn't happen?

Expert Witness Response E-004895

The cars leased out by their company, as part of their fleet, would have regulations and guidelines associated with their operation. I have been involved with fleet management my entire career – nearly all of which has been specific to the pharma industry. I have trained more than 60 drivers at a time and supervised different types of fleets during my career. I have extensive experience with domestic and international logistics, and I have managed and coordinated national vehicle fleets. Also, I trained drivers in accordance with varying safety manuals to ensure adherence by employees. Additionally, I am very knowledgeable about most national regulatory agencies as they relate to vehicle operation. As such, I feel confident in serving as an expert on a case like this. Without question, it’s possible for a company of this size to invest in technology that ‘shuts down’ all computers and cell phones while a vehicle is in motion. It’s expensive, but it’s available.

Expert Witness Response E-004896

The standard policy is that there is zero tolerance for any texting or cell phone use while driving. Laptops are simply out of the question and shouldn’t be opened or on a seat while a vehicle is in motion. Working on a tablet while driving is unacceptable, and it is worse if the company allows it or doesn’t take appropriate measures to see that their sales reps are obeying these guidelines. My background consists of starting and managing fleets for various pharmaceutical companies, which includes authoring and enforcing the safety policies. I have more than 25 years of experience in pharmaceutical fleet management, and I am a member of numerous organizations dedicated to fleet administrators and accident reviews.

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