Message Sender Not Liable in New Jersey Texting While Driving Case

Kyle Best crashed into David and Linda Kubert while texting with his girlfriend, Shanon Calonna. Each of the Kuberts, who had been riding a motorcycle at the time, lost a leg in the accident and then sued Best for their injuries. But that’s not all: they also sued Colonna, alleging that her text distracted Best and contributed to their injuries.

State Superior Court Judge David Rand agreed with Calonna’s lawyers that she could not be held liable for injuries her boyfriend caused while texting with her. The Kuberts had alleged that Calonna knowingly distracted Best and should be held accountable. Judge Rand decided to throw out the case because he found that there was no proof that Ms. Calonna knew that Mr. Best was driving while she was texting him.

He said that many things, from GPS devices to billboards, distract drivers and it is reasonable for text message senders to assume that recipients of their messages will behave in a responsible manner if driving. A Fox News article on the case quoted Judge Rand as saying, Were I to extend this duty to this case, in my judgment, any form of distraction could potentially serve as the basis of a liability case.

Judge Rand emphasized that since driving laws are mostly state-based rather than federal, the precedent set in New Jersey does not necessarily mean that those who contribute to distracting drivers in other states will absolutely remain free of liability. However, it does provide some precedent on which other judges may base their own rulings.

Under Georgia law, texting while driving is illegal for all drivers regardless of age. Speaking on the phone is only prohibited for drivers under the age of 18. The law does not currently extend to those sending text messages to drivers, but the future can always bring interesting twists to the law.

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Attorneys Dan Jason and Claire Bradley Jason are Military Veterans with a combined 16 years on active duty as Captains and Judge Advocates in the United States Army. Dan served at several military installations, including as Trial Defense Counsel with the Army's 2nd Infantry Division, South Korea; and Group Judge Advocate with the U.S. Army Criminal Investigations Command, Ft. Gillem, GA. Claire is an Operation Desert Storm Combat Veteran and served in a host of other installations. After moving into the Reserves, both attained the ranks of Major before their honorable discharges in 2002. Dan and Claire received several awards for their military service.

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