A New Jersey judge ruled Friday that the sender of a text message cannot be held liable for an accident caused by a driver who read that message, dismissing a case that attracted national attention.
Morris County Superior Court Judge David Rand said the sender of the text, Shannon Colonna, had no way to know when driver Kyle Best would read the text, and therefore had no responsibility for a horrific 2009 accident in which Best was found at fault. Both David and Linda Kubert, who were in a vehicle struck by Best, suffered devastating injuries in the crash, including leg amputations.
The Kuberts' lawyer, Skippy Weinstein, advanced a novel legal theory which would have placed part of the liability for the crash on Colonna, arguing that she knew Best would be driving as she engaged him in a text message conversation. His theory rested a claim that Colonna "aided and abetted" the responsible party, and last week, several legal experts told msnbc.com the argument might have merit, and could be convincing to a jury.
But Rand didn't see it that way. He dismissed the case on summary judgment.
“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,” Rand said, according to the Associated Press. He noted that drivers are tempted by all manner of distractions now, such as GPS devices and smartphones, and senders can assume that recipients who happen to be driving can be expected to behave responsibly.
"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," Rand said, according to the AP. "I find that there was no aiding, abetting here in the legal sense. I find it is unreasonable to impose a duty upon the defendant in this case under these facts."
Weinstein said the Kuberts hope they've generated attention to the important issue of texting while driving.
"Even though the case against Shannon Colonna has been dismissed, they are comforted by the thought that by bringing the case, it has accomplished the goal of making people think before they text, whether while driving or to someone who is driving. Perhaps it may prevent another tragic accident from occurring," he said in a statement.
He said the Kuberts plan to appeal the decision, probably after the remaining case against Best is decided.