N.J. Judge to Decide If Text Sender Liable for Car Crash

May 7, 2012

A New Jersey judge will likely soon decide whether a woman who sent a text message to a male friend can be held liable for a car crash he caused while reading the message.

The Daily Record reports the legal question stems from a lawsuit filed by two Dover residents who were seriously injured when a 19-year-old driver crashed into their motorcycle in September 2009. One victim had one of his legs torn off above the knee, while the other had her leg amputated because the injury was so severe.

The driver received three motor vehicle citations and pleaded guilty earlier this year. He was ordered to speak to 14 high schools about the dangers of texting and driving and had to pay about $775 in fines, but his driver’s license was not suspended.

The victim’s lawyer claims the woman aided and abetted the driver’s negligence by texting him when she knew or should have known he was driving.

However, her lawyer is seeking to have her dismissed as a defendant, saying she had no control over when the driver would read the message. He also claims the legal arguments made by the victims’ attorney are not supported by case law.

For example, he said a passenger could be held liable for a crash if they encourage a young driver to speed or ignore traffic signals. But the woman had no control over the driver’s conduct since she wasn’t in the car.

In a deposition for the case, the woman said she didn’t know whether her friend was driving when she texted him. But she also said she “may have known.”

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