A New Jersey court will soon decide whether a woman who sent a text message to an irresponsible teenager is liable for the accident he caused.
It was a horrible accident: the Morris County teenager, tinkering with unimportant texts while behind the wheel, struck a motorcycle ridden by a couple. They were severely injured and each had a leg amputated. They’ve described it as being in prison, and their lives will never be the same.
To make matters even worse, the driver, Kyle Best, received a mere slap on the wrist – a nominal fine and some community service. The law didn’t even require his license be revoked. He’s free to drive and risk the penalties for texting while driving again if he so chooses.
But the couple’s attorney has filed a lawsuit against not just the teenager – but the person he was conversing with via text at the time of the accident.
“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,” according to an Associated Press report. “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.”
The Daily Record reports that Morris County Superior Court Judge David Rand is expected to decide on May 25th whether to dismiss Shannon Colonna, the woman who sent the text message to Best, as a defendant in the suit.
NJLRA mused over the implications if the court finds the text-sender liable: will people need to sign waivers before we can hand them a bottle opener? It would open a legal can-of-worms bound only by a lawyer’s imagination and ability. What’s next, “the phone made me do it”?
It’s a painful situation in which New Jerseyans have to wonder how our legal system became so unfair. Dismissing the claim against Colonna wouldn’t right the wrongs committed against the couple. But it would help bring common sense and personal responsibility back into the legal equation.
NJLRA will keep you updated as this case unfolds.