Texters at Home Could be Liable for Texting Friends on Road

William E. Johnson
September 16, 2013

Texting and LiabilityIt is well known that those who text and drive risk causing serious accidents. The law punishes these drivers by holding them responsible for the damages they cause. However, New Jersey is taking this a step forward by expanding the liability of the people texting the driver. In a widely reported case, the Appellate Division of New Jersey Superior Court held that a person texting a driver, who they know is driving and will respond, will be liable for damages caused under the law of negligence.

In the case a driver, Kyle Best, drove his truck on a New Jersey highway in 2009. At the time Best was texting his girlfriend Shannon Colonna when he was allegedly distracted and collided with a motorcyclist and a passenger, David and Linda Kubert. Unfortunately the Kuberts both had to have 1 leg amputated because of the collision, and sued both Best and Colonna.

The Kuberts lost at trial court, and appealed against the decision against Colonna. The court concluded that “a person sending text messages has a duty not to text someone who is driving if the texter knows, or has special reason to know, that the recipient will view the text while driving.” This is revolutionary because prior to this case no court has said that a remote texter could be liable for the damages that a distracted driver causes. However, the court limited its holding by that merely sending texts that require responses is not active encouragement that would cause the remote texter to be liable.

Nevertheless, the court did not believe, in this particular case, that Colonna had sufficient knowledge to know that he would view and respond to texts while driving. The court also found that Colonna had not actively encouraged Best’s texting, because she only sent 2 texts to him on that afternoon, one of which was sent 2 hours before the accident. The court also found that Colonna lacked the special relationship with him to control whether or not he texted.

It is unclear whether other courts will follow this principal. Currently, it is only binding in New Jersey, but other courts throughout the country may decide to follow the reasoning.

Contact an Experienced Attorney for Distracted Driving Lawsuits

If you or a loved one has been injured because of a distracted driver call the West Palm Beach personal injury lawyers at the Law Offices of William E. Johnson, P.A. Our expert auto accident attorneys can help get you the relief you may be entitled to under Florida law. Schedule a free consultation by calling 561-832-4848.