We’ve all heard the dictum: Don’t text and drive. Now a New Jersey state appeals court has an addendum: Don’t knowingly text a driver — or you could be held liable if he causes a crash.
Kyle Best was behind the wheel of his pickup in September 2009 driving down a rural highway when Shannon Colonna sent him a text.
The two were teens at the time. He was 18; she was 17, and they were dating. They sent each other 62 texts that day.
In the opposing lane of traffic, David Kubert was cruising along on a big, blue touring motorcycle with his wife, Linda, along for the ride. They approached Best at exactly the wrong time.
Can you really be liable for texting a driver?
On Tuesday, three appeals court judges agreed with it — in principle.
They ruled that if the sender of text messages knows that the recipient is driving and texting at the same time, a court may hold the sender responsible for distraction and hold him or her liable for the accident.
“We hold that the sender of a text message can potentially be liable if an accident is caused by texting, but only if the sender knew or had special reason to know that the recipient would view the text while driving and thus be distracted,” the court said.
But the judges let Colonna off the hook.
She had a habit of sending more than 100 texts a day and was oblivious to whether recipients were driving or not.
“I’m a young teenager. That’s what we do,” she said in her deposition before the original trial.
Since she was unaware that Best was texting while driving, she bore no responsibility, the court decided.
“In this appeal, we must also decide whether plaintiffs have shown sufficient evidence to defeat summary judgment in favor of the remote texter. We conclude they have not,” it said.