The New Jersey Superior Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Tuesday that knowingly sending a text message to someone who is behind the wheel creates liability for any causes of action that result from a potential collision. Previously, liability was only assigned to the driver that was texting. Defendant Shannon Colonna was sued for texting a driver who collided with a motorcyle less than 10 seconds after responding to her message.
The trial court dismissed [Bloomberg report] the plaintiff's theory of proximate cause, aiding and abetting illegal activity and joint liability against Colonna in a summary judgment. However, the plaintiffs appealed and the appellate court validated all of the theories of liability against her as trial-worthy arguments. However, the court found that the plaintiffs did not procure enough evidence to indicate that Colonna knew or had special reason to know that the recipient of her message was driving, and thus again dismissed the case for her liability:
[W]e also reject defendant's argument that a sender of text messages never has a duty to avoid texting to a person driving a vehicle. We conclude 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, the recipient will view the text while driving.In response to this crash and several others, the New Jersey legislature enacted the Kulesh, Kubert, and Bolis Law [press release] to increase penalties...
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