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N.J. Case Considers Whether Sender of a Text Is Liable for Injuries Caused by Distracted Driver

I've been following the government's ongoing battle against "distracted driving" for a while here at LBW, including the growing number of states that have imposed an outright ban on text messaging for all drivers. Indeed, 38 states, the District of Columbia and Guam all now have such a ban against text messaging by drivers. No state, however, has gone so far as to enact laws that would reach the sender of texts to a driver. 

The theory that the sender of texts to a driver may be liable for a crash that the driver then gets in is set to be tested this week in a state court in New Jersey. On Sept. 21st, 2009, David and Linda Kubert were riding their motorcycle when a Chevy truck crossed the center line and hit them head-on. According to CBS News, the Kuberts actually saw the driver "in the truck steering with his elbows, with his head down. And I could tell he was text messaging." Both David and Linda Kubert lost a leg in the accident. The driver of the car, an 18-year-old male, pleaded guilty to charges including using a handheld device while driving.

In the New Jersey lawsuit, the Kuberts are now suing the driver who hit them as well as his girlfriend, who had been sending him text messages while he was driving. The Kuberts' lawyer argues that the girlfriend was "electronically present" in the crash and "may have known" he was driving. Linda Kubert says that she believes that if the girlfriend "knew he was driving and answering her back with texts, that she's partially responsible too."

Lawyers representing the girlfriend reportedly argued in their briefs that the lawsuit against her is a "leap of logic" that must be dismissed. On Friday of this week, a New Jersey judge will determine if the case against the girlfriend can go forward. 

I must agree with the girlfriend's lawyers here -- a case against the sender is too much of a "leap of logic." The sender of the text should be entitled to send a text and assume that the recipient will not reply until they can do so safely -- after they park their car, finish the open heart surgery they are performing on a patient, or whatever.

Posted by Bruce Carton on May 23, 2012 at 04:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)


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