Liability for Calling Church Employees on Their Cell Phones
Liability for Calling Church Employees on Their Cell Phones
Family of woman killed in fatal car accident caused by pastor claimed it was due to “negligent distraction.”

On the morning of October 9, 2013, a pastor employed by both a church and a university campus ministry was driving a motor vehicle when he negligently collided with another vehicle. The driver of the other vehicle (the "decedent"), a married woman with five children, was killed in the accident. At the time of the accident, the pastor was talking on his cell phone with a church employee. The church employee initiated the phone call with the pastor while knowing the pastor was operating a vehicle at the time.

The family of the decedent sued the church for wrongful death, alleging that the accident was due to the "negligent distraction" of the pastor by the church employee who initiated the cell-phone call. The lawsuit alleged that the negligence of the pastor and church employee were imputable to the church since both individuals were church employees who were acting within the scope of their employment at the time of the phone call.

The lawsuit further alleged that at the time of the cell-phone call the pastor was in violation of the Illinois Cell Phone Act, which, in part, provides:

(a) As used in this Section: "Electronic communication device" means an electronic device, including but not limited to a hand-held wireless telephone, hand-held personal digital assistant, or a portable or mobile computer, but does not include a global positioning system or navigation system or a device that is physically or electronically integrated into the motor vehicle.

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