Appeals Court Rules That Text Message Sender Could Be Held Liable

A New Jersey appeals court has ruled that a person who knowingly sends a text to a driver can share liability if a driver receiving the text message causes an accident.

A panel of judges on the Superior Court of New Jersey’s Appellate division found that the sender would be liable if the person had a “special reason” to know the recipient was driving and would read the messages, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The ruling last month was in the case of a couple who lost both their legs when their motorcycle was hit by a teenager who was texting and driving in Morris County, New Jersey in 2009. The motorists had sued the teen driver’s girlfriend who sent him the text messages. The trial court dismissed the claim against his girlfriend. The appeals court upheld the lower court ruling.

The appeals court said that normally a person who texts a motorist can’t be held liable for the driver’s negligent actions. But the court did say, however, that the texter has a duty to refrain from texting if he or she knows the recipient is driving a car and likely to read the message.

“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 court wrote.

“The texter has a duty to users of the public roads to refrain from sending the driver a text at that time.”

The injured couple settled their lawsuit against the driver for $500,000, but was unsuccessful in the claim against the texting girlfriend. The court’s opinion indicated that the claim would have been upheld had there been required proof.

For more information you can contact one of our Gacovino Lake attorneys at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).

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