In May of this year, a Morris County Superior Court Judge held that one cannot be sued for allegedly helping to cause an accident by texting a driver. The decision was the subject of a few local radio shows – and the source of some concern for me, a plaintiff’s attorney, trying to defendant why one of my brethren would go after the non-driving texter.
The facts were straightforward and tragic. The plaintiffs were riding on a motorcycle when the defendant struck the plaintiff’s motorcycle, causing the plaintiffs to each lose a leg. The defendant admitted that at the time of the accident he had been texting his friend, stating, “The road was curving when the phone distracted me. I looked up and all I saw was the motorcycle coming at me.” The defendant’s friend texted him at 5:48:23 PM; he texted her back 44 seconds later and then called 911 to report the crash just eight seconds after sending the text.
The Plaintiffs sued after learning the defendant had been texting, and added his friend claiming that she knew or should have known the defendant was driving. The defendant’s friend moved to be dismissed from the suit, and the judge agreed, finding that she had no duty of care owed to the plaintiffs.
Although most people believe it’s the defendant’s fault since he was the one who was texting and driving, and I do agree to that fact, I do not, however, believe that his friend was entirely without blame.
My question to those who believe the sender of the text should not be held liable: if you lost your leg, would you not explore all potential liable parties?
I can agree with the judge’s decision based upon the facts and current law. However, I think it begs the question: Is it the act of texting in and of itself that would have subjected her to possible liability? Or, could it be the content of the actual text? What if she had texted “don’t text and drive, I will see you when you get here” and he looked down to read it.
Although I believe the right decision was made in this case, I also think it’s important that in cases in the future, all facts are considered before reaching a conclusion.