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New Jersey ruling still ‘out’ on remote text-sending liability

On Sept. 21, 2009 two motorcycle riders were injured in an accident involving a distracted teenage driver using his cellphone while behind the wheel. The motorcycle accident caused extensive damage for the two riders, both of which who lost a leg as a result of the collision.

The two injured riders have already settled their personal injury claim with the teenage driver for $500,000. The settlement amount was determined by the policy limit of the teen’s insurance. Although that claim was settled, there is another claim that the family hopes to settle, but it is one of first impression for the courts and the ruling is still “out.”

In a prior post we covered the start of the story in which the personal injury claim was brought in trial court, the complaint naming the sender of the text message who was not in the car at the time of the accident. That defendant was dismissed from the case, but the motorcycle riders hope to have the teen reinstated.

The issue for the three appellate judge panel, is whether the sender of a text message can be held liable when they know that the driver is likely to read the text message in a motor vehicle. Arguments were heard on Monday, May 6. The decision was not made, but a judge confirmed that a ruling would be made in the near future.

The judge said that if a duty of care was created under the ruling, it is “going to apply to thousands of people who do this and send a text.” The judge did suggest that the law already provides deterrence by punishing those who are behind the wheel.

Source: Daily Record, “Arguments in Morristown on whether text sender is liable if person receiving text crashes,” Peggy Wright, May 6, 2013

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