Deceased’s Cellphone Data May be Mined After Fatal Florida Truck Collision



Austin Personal Injury Lawyers

Austin Personal Injury Lawyers - Perlmutter & Schuelke, LLP

Austin, TX (Law Firm Newswire) December 18, 2014 – A Florida Appeals Court decision may affect who accesses cellphone data after a fatal accident.

The appeals court’s ruling arises from the death of Tabitha Antico in 2012. Antico, who was 18 at the time of the accident, died after colliding with a truck. Her estate filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the trucking company and the truck’s driver. Sindt Trucking Inc. and James Williams were the named defendants in the action.

Initially, a circuit court justice agreed that the defendants could hire an expert to mine Antico’s cellphone data to see if she had been using the phone at the time of the accident. If so, the fault ratio of the case would clearly change. Antico’s estate appealed this ruling, citing breach of privacy.

“Ultimately, the circuit court judge’s ruling was upheld, as were the conditions applied to the inspection of data,” said wrongful death attorney, Brooks Schuelke of Perlmutter & Schuelke, LLP. The court did not allow the data to be investigated merely because the defendants alleged the deceased was on her phone or that the phone should be examined because she simply had a phone in the car. “It was not, as the plaintiff insisted, a fishing expedition to see everything. It was a request for specific, time-dated evidence.”

The defendants indicated that cellphone records revealed that the deceased was texting just prior to the collision. Two witnesses stated she might have been texting at the time of the accident. Additionally, evidence submitted by the police suggested Atico was using her cellphone when the wreck happened.

The ruling may open the door for other states to permit the same type of cellphone record investigation in search of specific, time-dated evidence as it pertains to an accident. “Determining liability in any accident is crucial, and if an individual involved in an accident, fatal or not, was using a mobile device at the moment of impact, apportioning fault percentages is easier to determine,” commented Schuelke.

Learn more at