- My law office in Onalaska, Wisconsin, overlooks highway 35, which reportedly has over 20,000 vehicles passing by per day. From time to time, I will look at the road below as I am talking on the phone, sometimes while dealing with car accident injuries. I frequently see driver's pecking away at their smart phones as they speed by at 15 miles over the speed limit. I think to myself, "I would like to be the attorney who sues that driver after they cause an accident." However, I never thought about suing the person texting with the driver, at least not until now:
A seventeen-year-old New Jersey girl was sued for sending texts to a friend she knew was driving. The evidence
revealed that driver and the girl had exchanged "hundreds" of texts on the day that the driver crossed the center line and struck a motorcycle. The texting friend was sued along with the driver.
The trial court granted the texting friend's motion for summary judgment (motion for dismissal). The New
Jersey Superior Court Appellate Division (Kubert v. Best, 2013 WL 4512313 (N.J. Super. App. Div. Aug. 27, 2013)) upheld the dismissal on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence to demonstrate the texting caused the collision in that case. However, it left the door open for such claims in the future, ruling that liability may attach when a person sends a text he or she knows is driving a motor vehicle and will immediately read the text, if the driver then loses control of the vehicle and causes injury. The central premise for the ruling is that a person texting a driver in such fashion essentially aids and abets their distracted/reckless driving.
The lesson: Don't "know" the person you are texting with is driving.