New Jersey court rules people who text drivers can be held liable
In a Tuesday ruling, a New Jersey appeals court held that someone on the other end of a texting conversation with the driver of a motor vehicle could be found liable in an accident, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The decision clarified that the texter could only by found responsible if he “knew or had special reason to know that the recipient would view the text while driving and thus be distracted.”
The issue was brought to trial because of a 2009 incident where a New Jersey couple riding a motorcycle each lost their left legs after an 18-year-old male hit them with his Chevy pickup. It was discovered that the teen was texting immediately before the accident.
Though the original case was settled in court, the couple appealed the court’s decision to dismiss their case against the the 17-year-old girl who was texting the driver at the time of the accident.
During her testimony, the teen defended her excessive texting of up to 100 messages a day. “I’m a young teenager,” she said. “That’s what we do.”
There was not enough evidence to prove that the girl knew her friend would be reading her messages while driving, but the appellate decision set a precedent for future text-related accidents.
“When the sender knows that the text will reach the driver while operating a vehicle, the sender has a relationship to the public who use the roadways similar to that of a passenger physically present in the vehicle,” the decision read.
“[T]he texter has a duty to users of the public roads to refrain from sending the driver a text at that time.”