Posted in: Commentary,
by Gregg Laskoski on Sep 4, 2013 11:06 AM
We all know that anyone texting and driving is a risk to all of us; an accident waiting to happen. And when it does he or she should suffer the harshest penalties that applicable laws may provide.
But what about the person who sends the text to the driver?
A New Jersey court now says a person who knowingly sends a text to a driver can share liability if the driver causes an accident. The ruling came last week in the case of a couple severely injured when their motorcycle was hit by a teenager who was texting while driving in 2009.
The injured couple settled their lawsuit against the driver for $500,000. They also sued his girlfriend, who sent him a text message.
The appeals court says someone who texts a motorist can potentially be liable if the sender knew the recipient would view the text while driving.
USA TODAY reported that the novel prospect of imposing a potential cause of action against a texter was raised by lawyer Stephen "Skippy" Weinstein, whose clients Linda and David Kubert both lost their left legs when a teenager hit their motorcycle Sept. 21, 2009. Kyle Best, then 19, was texting and driving in Mine Hill Township, N.J.
The Kuberts settled their lawsuit against Best of Wharton, N.J., but sued then-17-year-old Shannon Colonna of Rockaway, N.J., who was exchanging texts with Best as he drove.
"To summarize our conclusions, we do not hold that someone who texts to a person driving is liable for that person's negligent actions; the driver bears responsibility for obeying the law and maintaining safe control of the vehicle," the appeals court wrote.
"We hold that, when a texter knows or has special reason to know that the intended recipient is driving and is likely to read the text message while driving, the texter has a duty to users of the public roads to refrain from sending the driver a text at that time," two of the three appellate court judges agreed in their opinion.
"The sender should be able to assume that the recipient will read a text message only when it is safe and legal to do so," the appeals court wrote. "However, if the sender knows that the recipient is both driving and will read the text immediately, then the sender has taken a foreseeable risk in sending a text at that time. The sender has knowingly engaged in distracting conduct, and it is not unfair also to hold the sender responsible for the distraction."
Do you agree?