Text Messagers Await Judge's Decision on Accident Liability

The question is whether the sender of a text message should be held responsible in an accident where the driver gets distracted

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A New Jersey judge will decide if the sender of a text message can be sued if the recipient becomes distracted and gets into a car accident. Chris Glorioso reports.

    A New Jersey judge is expected to decide Friday whether the sender of a text message can be sued in an accident in which the recipient was distracted by the text.

    The civil claim stems from a 2009 traffic accident in Mine Hill, N.J. Linda and David Kubert were riding their motorcycle when a pickup truck driven by Kyle Best, then 18 years old, hit them. 

    The husband and wife each lost a leg in the accident. They're suing not only Best, but Shannon Colonna as well, the teenager who sent Best text messages while he was behind the wheel.

    “This is somebody who got hurt in an accident making a reasonable attempt to hold everybody responsible for them losing their legs in this car accident,” said personal injury attorney Steven Harris, who does not represent the Kuberts.

    It is now up Morris County Superior Court Judge David Rand to decide if Colonna can be added to the list of defendants in the personal injury case. 

    The case has captured national attention because a decision favorable to the plaintiffs would push the limits of texting-while-driving laws to include conduct of people not even present in the vehicle.

    Harris said the court case has the potential to spark new legislation.

    “There’s a law that says you can’t text and drive, but there’s no law that says you can’t text somebody even if you know they’re driving," he said. "Maybe now there will be a law to that effect. These are the kinds of cases that create new laws."

    Colonna’s attorney Joseph McGlone had no comment for this story. In legal briefs, he has argued there was no way his client could have known the recipient of her messages was actually reading them while his truck was moving.

    The attorney for the injured couple, Stephen “Skippy” Weinsten, has argued Colonna was aware Kyle Best was reading her messages while in a moving vehicle because she was aware his work shift at the West Morris Area YMCA had just ended and he would likely be on the road.

    NBC 4 New York left a message for Kyle Best, but did not hear back.

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