In a case that garnered national attention, a New Jersey judge recently ruled that the sender of a text message cannot be held responsible for accidents caused as a result of the driver reading the message.
The case, resulting from a 2009 accident in which Kyle Best collided with David and Linda Kubert while distracted from a text message conversation would have had major implications for placing a portion of the liability on the person sending the text message. The Kuberts’ lawyer argued that because Best’s friend, Shannon Colonna knew he was driving, she “aided and abetted” in the accident. Morris County Superior Court Judge David Rand didn’t agree.
In a statement made to the Associated Press, Rand said, “Were I to extend this duty to this case, in my judgment, any form of distraction could potentially serve as the basis of a liability case. We expect more of our drivers. We expect more of the people who are given the license and privilege to operate vehicles on our highways. I find that there was no aiding, abetting here in the legal sense. I find it is unreasonable to impose a duty upon the defendant in this case under these facts.”
The Kuberts’ lawyer, Skippy Weinstein, said that his clients hope their lawsuit helped bring attention to the dangers of distracted driving. Weinstein issued a statement saying, “Even though the case against Shannon Colonna has been dismissed, [The Kuberts] are comforted by the thought that by bringing the case, it has accomplished the goal of making people think before they text, whether while driving or to someone who is driving. Perhaps it may prevent another tragic accident from occurring.”
Although Weinstein says the Kuberts plan on appealing the decision, for now the message seems to be that it’s up to each individual driver to behave responsibly while behind the wheel. As the judge alluded to, part of the expectation when someone is given a license is that they’re prudent enough to know what they should and shouldn’t do when they get behind the wheel. Texting and driving is undoubtedly dangerous, but it’s up to the driver to either turn off their phone or wait until they’ve parked before checking incoming messages.
On the other hand, even though Colonna is not legally responsible for the collision that resulted from her sent text message, at the very least this case should make people stop and question whether the text they’re sending is really all that important in the first place. After all, if they know the person might be driving, why take a chance?
Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/joegratz/117048243/