In my last blog post, I discussed a significant legal issue that had cropped up recently in a Morris County courtroom: whether the sender of a text message can be responsible if she texts someone she knows is driving and then the recipient of the text gets into an accident and injures someone.

The judge, David Rand, recently dismissed the sender of the text, Shannon Colonna, from the lawsuit that the plaintiffs had filed.  The judge told the court that his decision was not meant to minimize the importance of attentive driving.  Judge Rand explained, “We expect more of our drivers.  We expect more of the people who are given the license and privilege to operate vehicles on our highways.  I find that there was no aiding, abetting here in the legal sense.  I find it unreasonable to impose a duty upon the defendant in this case under these facts.  Were I to extend this duty, in my judgment any form of distraction could potentially serve as basis of a liability case.” 

The judge cited some examples of distractions that drivers must avoid on their own: GPS devices, billboards on highways, and “push notification” features on smart phones.  Essentially, the judge’s ruling puts the burden on the recipient of the text to ensure that he is not distracted while driving.  As of late, I have not seen this issue come up in any other cases in any other states.  On a general level, as more and more people use “smart” phones, this issue will come up again in courtrooms around the country.  More specifically, the plaintiffs in the Colonna case could appeal Judge’s Rand’s ruling, so this issue may not be over.  I will keep you posted if there are any new developments in this case.  The important thing to keep in mind is that you should never read or send texts or surf the Internet while driving.  If you do, you could endanger yourself or the lives of others, even if you are not the one doing the driving.  If that does not scare you, then perhaps knowing that you could be sued might be enough to get you to change your habits.  

Stephen Di Stefano is an attorney in Stark & Stark’s Marlton, New Jersey office, specializing in Accident & Personal Injury Law. For more information, please contact Mr. Di Stefano.