NEW YORK, Aug. 1 -- Members of a New York family injured during a 1993 head-on collision filed a $35 million lawsuit Tuesday against Motorola Inc., charging that the other motorist was using one of the company's cellular phones prior to the crash. In a news conference in Manhattan announcing the lawsuit, family attorney William Groner said Motorola should have provided safety instructions for the phone's installer and the consumer. And he said the phones should be redesigned to prevent future tragedies. 'It is our hope that this lawsuit will send a strong and clear message to Motorola and every other cellular phone manufacturer that it is their responsibility to protect their customers from their potentially dangerous product,' Groner said. 'This is a guillotine over the heads of manufacturers that if they do not fulfill (that responsiblity), it will cost them in their pocketbooks,' he added. Rochelle and Ronald Silber and their 23-year-old daughter, Dana, were driving on a Long Island highway on Oct. 17, 1993 when a motorist traveling in the opposite direction crossed over a double yellow line and crashed into the family's car, allegedly as she was reaching for a cellular phone. All three family members suffered multiple broken bones and required extensive surgery. Ronald Silber, 56, said his injuries forced him into early retirement from the Town of Babylon's traffic safety division. 'Accidents like this happen regularly, accidents like this are waiting to happen every day, and the cellular phone industry is doing nothing,' Groner said.
He said a Rochester Institute of Technology study found that a cellular phone in a vehicle increases the risk of having an accident by 34 percent. The attorney said the Motorola phone involved in the crash comes with no installation guidelines and inadequate instructions for safe use and is not well-designed. The lawsuit also names the Magnadyne Corp. which manufactured the cellular phone holder, and East End Care Care Inc., which installed the phone in the 1992 Ford Explorer involved in the accident. Motorola spokesman Norman Sandler said the company first learned about the lawsuit Tuesday and could not comment on the specific allegations. 'Our position on this in general is that a commonsense approach to the usage of cellular phones in automobiles and in other motor vehicles can mitigate any potential risk of interfering with safe driving,' Sandler told United Press International. He added that the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association has done its own studies on cellular phone use in vehicles and has come up with a safe driver's code of conduct and operates driver's education programs.