Judge: No liability for text sender

Superior Court judge David RandThe argument that the sender of a text message could be held liable for a crash has been shot down by a New Jersey judge.

The widely publicized case involved a distracted driving crash in which a husband and wife each lost a leg. They were riding a motorcycle in Mine Hill when struck by the driver of a pickup truck.

The girlfriend of the young man driving the pickup truck text messaged him just before the accident. The driver responded with a text seconds before hitting the motorcycle.

Kyle Best, 18 at the time of the 2009 accident, admitted that he had been texting on his cell phone before hitting the motorcyclists.

David and Linda Kubert, who lived in Dover, N.J., at the time, sued Best and later added Colonna to the complaint.

The Kuberts maintained that the girlfriend, Shannon Colonna, knew Best was driving and should not have texted him. Their lawsuit against Colonna argued that she was “virtually present.” Colonna responded that she assumed Best would read the text when it was safe to do so.

Superior Court Judge David Rand, pictured, ruled May 25 that Colonna had no way of knowing when Best would view and respond to her text message.

The judge said “any form of distraction could potentially serve as basis of a liability case” if he were to rule in favor of the accident victims.

The Kuberts’ lawyer said they were “understandably disappointed with the court’s ruling” and planned an appeal of the summary ruling.

The Kuberts’ lawyer added: “Even though the case against Shannon Colonna has been dismissed, (the Kuberts) are comforted by the thought that by bringing the case, it has accomplished the goal of making people think before they text, whether while driving or to someone who is driving.”

The couple’s lawsuit against Best continues.

Best previously pleaded guilty to distracted driving. He was sentenced to the community service of speaking in area schools about the dangers of texting while behind the wheel. Best also paid a fine but did not lose his driver’s license.

None of the four people involved in the crash were in court to hear the ruling. The Kuberts have since moved to Florida.

In New Jersey, several pieces of distracted driving legislation are tagged with the Kuberts’ name..

Comments

  1. How many people have to die before these Judges and Representatives get off their ass and do something about it.

    It is outrageous to see how these violators drive. WAKE UP AND GET WITH THE PROGRAM. WHAT WILL YOU DO WHEN YOU LOSE A FAMILY MEMBER because of these drivers. Will you then pass this law or make them pay for what they have done when it comes to causing accidents. You are all so blind. Maybe you are too old to be on the seat, your judgement is evidently clouded, or you just don’t give a darn. Maybe you are guilty talking and texting. Everyone, get your cameras out and see what you can catch on film.

  2. B Adams says:

    I think that a stronger argument for extending liability to the text sender might be made, if the actual content of the text messages revealed that the sender knew that he/she is engaging a driver while driving and nonetheless continues to text. For instance, where the driver responds to a text saying something along the lines of “I am driving right now” and the person on the other end continues texting, in a back-and-forth dialogue, engaging the driving party. In such an instance a car accident by virtue of the distraction would arguably be more foreseeable, and thus a proximate cause of an accident.

  3. Al Cinamon says:

    It would have been a powerful message had he ruled differently. Who knows, maybe it would even save some lives. But, of course, that’s not his concern. The kicker is, the driver gets to keep his license. No suspension, no revocation. He just has to go around talking to people about the dangers of texting and driving, something he obviously doesn’t’ believe. I wonder, when someone shoots someone, accidentally of course, why don’t they give the gun back to the perp and have him/her lecture on the dangers of carrying a loaded gun? Just asking!

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