Remember that business school professor who predicted lawsuits over BlackBerry addiction? Overlawyered's Walter Olson explains why such suits are unlikely. The American tort system ma have its problems, Olson argues, but it hasn't endorsed the sorts of leal theories upon which such cases would depend (at least not yet).
it's very unlikely that employers need worry about BlackBerry-addiction suits. Despite rumors to the contrary, American courts have not in fact been much inclined to let sunken-eyed Jane blame her addictions on deep-pocketed James. Compulsive gamblers' suits have mostly flopped so far - as have those alleging videogame addiction - while the very modest success enjoyed by plaintiffs in fast-food lawsuits has come on other legal theories, such as ingredient mis-labelling. A Wisconsin man won brief national derision by blaming his addiction to television-watching on his local cable service, but soon decided not to pursue the matter.
There are other big problems with the liability theory as well. When employees overuse the devices they're usually spending a lot of time on personal and not just company business. Asking for the employer to be made liable because it introduced the worker to the device proves too much: are bosses who introduce their workforce to telephones and the internet to be sued over off-work abuse of those too?
To be sure, there are ways employers can run into legal trouble by way of their staff's BlackBerry use. It's just that those ways have nothing to do with the notion of addiction. Obliging an employee to stay connected after hours can sometimes run afoul of wage and hour laws, though many professional, creative and managerial types, prime users of the devices, aren't covered by that set of laws. Should an employee on the road have a crash while fiddling with the tiny keyboard, a clever lawyer might name the employer as defendant. But again, no addiction angle there.