Last week a Lackawanna County judge, faced with an issue of first impression, indicated that in certain circumstances a driver’s actions in diverting his attention from the roadway to view a GPS device can be found to be reckless for purposes of establishing a punitive damages claim. In Rockwell v. Knott, No. 12 CV 1114, Judge Nealon set forth important factors to be considered when determining whether a driver’s actions will rise to a level of outrageous conduct. These factors include, “(1) [t]he position of the GPS device [within the motor vehicle], (2) the extent of the driver’s distraction, and (3) the distance travelled by the vehicle during that period of diversion.” The court drew a critical distinction between a GPS device that is mounted on the dashboard or windshield of a motor vehicle and one that is not. The former location allows a driver to maintain a peripheral view of the roadway, much like a momentary glance at a speedometer, and such conduct does not rise to the level necessary to impose punitive damages. However, a driver who completely diverts his attention from the roadway during his course of travel to view a GPS device located elsewhere, for example on a seat, may be deemed reckless conduct.
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