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LIABILITY FOR TEXTING WHILE DRIVING TAKEN TO ANOTHER LEVEL?

Posted by Christina Cribbs
It is illegal to text while driving in Georgia. Taking this concept to another level, a New Jersey Appeals Court recently published an opinion that opened the door to liability for individuals that knowingly send text messages to someone who is driving. (See Published Opinion, Kubert v. Best, et al.).

The case arose out of a car accident where an 18-year-old driver crossed the center line as he was texting. The driver’s claims were settled, but the plaintiffs, who were seriously injured in the accident, continued to pursue a claim against the 17-year-old girl who sent a text message to the driver immediately prior to the accident. The Court held that “the sender of a text message can potentially be liable if an accident is caused by texting, but only if the sender knew or had special reason to know that the recipient would view the text while driving and thus be distracted.” In its analysis, the Court likened the situation to that of a passenger inside the driver’s vehicle intentionally distracting the driver while on the road. The Court found that in this case, there was no evidence to establish that the sender knew the recipient was driving and, therefore, there was no liability.

The Court’s decision in Kubert v. Best is getting national media attention and could mark the beginning of a new trend toward holding the senders of text messages liable for the consequences of distracted driving. Legal liability aside, it makes logical sense not to put our family and friends in danger by sending text messages when we know they are driving. Chances are the message can wait until they have made it safely to their destination.