N.J. Court Rules Senders of Texts to Drivers Could be Liable for an Accident

By Jesse Sokolow on 29 August 2013
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I-80 in New Jersey

I-80 in New Jersey

A New Jersey appeals court ruled on Tuesday that an individual who knowingly texts the driver of a car could be held liable if the driver should have an accident while texting.  The court decided that a person should have a legal duty to avoid texting someone who is operating a motor vehicle.

The court said that the sender of a text message would be liable only if they had a “special reason” to know that the driver was on the road and would read the message(s).  It went on to say that when a sender of a text message is aware that the person they are texting is driving, “the sender has a relationship to the public who use the roadways similar to that of a passenger physically present in the vehicle.”

The case involved a couple who were riding a motorcycle in Morris County, New Jersey, in 2009, who were sideswiped by a Chevrolet pickup truck driven by an 18 year old who was texting his friend.  Both the husband and wife lost their left legs in the ensuing accident.

The couple settled their claims with the driver, but appealed a trial court’s decision to dismiss their claims against the driver’s 17-year-old friend, who had been texting with him right before the accident.  The appeals court did not find the friend liable in this case because there was not enough evidence to suggest that she knew her friend would look at her messages while driving.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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