|Texting While Not Driving|
|Tuesday, June 19 2012|
A New Jersey teenager has been absolved of liability in a case involving text messages that she sent to her then boyfriend who was involved in a car accident and charged as a distracted driver.
Kyle Best, 19, pleaded guilty to charges of careless driving, improper use of a cell phone and failure to stay in his lane after being involved in an auto accident when his pickup truck crossed the yellow line and struck the motorcycle on which David and Linda Kubert were riding. According to phone records and Best's own admission, Best had exchanged several texts with his girlfriend, Shannon Colonna, 17, while driving home from work that day. Best was fined, given a probated sentence, and ordered to speak at 14 local high schools about the dangers of texting while driving.
The Kuberts' attorney then decided to add Colonna to the lawsuit on the novel theory that she was "electronically present" in Best's vehicle, that she knew or should have known that he would be driving, and that she owed third parties a "duty of care" to prevent Best from getting into an accident. Attorney Stephen "Skippy" Weinstein likened the girlfriend's actions to "aiding and abetting" charges and wanted the court to hold her to share in the blame for the accident.
Colonna testified that she did not know whether Best was driving at the time and phone records indicate he was typing, and not reading a text from Colonna, at the time of the accident. Colonna's lawyer, Joseph McGlone, argued that it is both impractical and unfair to impose a duty on the texter since she has no control over when, where or how a recipient would read and respond to a text. “Quite simply,” he says, “once the message sender transmits an electronic message, it is the message receiver’s responsibility to read it at the appropriate and safe time.”
N.J. State Superior Court Judge David Rand agreed with Colonna and her counsel and dismissed the claims against her, saying it is reasonable for text message senders to assume that recipients will behave responsibly. He also observed that drivers today are bombarded with all sorts of distractions, including GPS devices and signs along the road, and that “were I to extend this duty to this case, in my judgment, any form of distraction could potentially serve as the basis for a liability case.”
—Source: royalcityheraldbanner.com (Greenville, TX)