For years, Coca-Cola has barred employees from using cell phones while driving. But in May, a Texas jury awarded a woman $21.5 million in damages when her car was hit by a Coca-Cola employee driving a company car while using a phone with a hands-free headset. This was permitted under Coke's cell-phone driving policy, as it is at many companies. The employee testified she would not have used the phone at all had company safety managers told her studies have shown even handless cell-phone use poses a greater risk of traffic accidents.

Coca-Cola concedes the employee was at fault but is contesting the amount of the award, noting that driving while using a cell phone is legal in Texas.

"Large judgments like this will eventually force companies to take a serious look at banning all cell-phone use," says Richard Bleser, senior vice president and fleet specialty group leader at Marsh Risk Consulting. "That was a big hit for a company that was not being negligent," he adds.

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