How's this for an interesting decision about texting and driving - This week, a New Jersey Court of Appeals stated that a remote texter could be held liable to third parties for injuries caused when the distracted driver has an accident:
"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,
This responsibility can arise 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 entire text of the decision can be read here in pdf format.)
The court wrote: "When a texter knows or has special reason to know that the intended recipient is driving and is likely to read the text message while driving, the texter has a duty to users of the public roads to refrain from sending the driver a text at that time."
Still, absent evidence that the teen texter knew her friend was driving during their text exchange, the appeals court affirmed the earlier decision to dismiss the complaint against the girl.
The teens' phone records showed that the young man behind the wheel had received a text from the girl just seconds before his pick-up truck crossed the center line and collided with an oncoming motorcycle, causing serious injuries to the couple on the motorcycle. The pair had exchanged 62 messages during the day of the accident, including one just moments before the crash. Said the young woman of her 100-plus texts per day habit: "I'm a young teenager. That's what we do."
It's unlikely that this will be the last word on this issue. However, it's an interesting new twist in the case law as courts all over the country wrestle with the grim aftermath of distracted driving.
Mike Bottaro is founder of The Bottaro Law Firm, a Rhode Island personal injury law firm. He has been interviewed about, written about, and recorded public service announcements about the dangers of texting and driving.