In a case that garnered nationwide attention, a Superior Court judge ruled that someone who sends a text message to a driver who consequently causes a car accident cannot be sued.

Claims were filed against a 17-year-old girl who had allegedly sent texts to a 19-year-old man moments before he lost control of his vehicle, crossed the center line and struck a motorcycle carrying a couple in 2009. Both bikers lost a leg from the accident. According to the motorcyclists, the 19-year-old was reading a text that the 17-year-old had sent him when he lost control, and therefore the girl should also be held liable for the accident. The couple claimed the girl had been aware the man was driving at the time she sent the texts.

According to court documents, the teens had sent and received three text messages before the crash was reported, with the final text sent only seconds before impact. However, it was discovered the young man had initiated the conversation by sending the first text message.

The judge dismissed the motorcyclists’ claim of aiding and abetting against the girl, who they said should have known the man’s schedule because of her close relationship with him. They reasoned she would have been aware he was on the road more often than not.

The girl’s attorney discussed his disagreement with the claims, stating there is no rule to say it is against the law to send a text message to someone when they’re driving. To entertain the couple’s charge would be unfair because texters cannot control when the receiver reads their messages.

The judge dismissed the charge against the girl, but sentenced the male driver to probation. He was also given fines and will be sent to local high schools to speak out against texting while driving.

There are no clear winners in a case where two people are seriously injured, but the cause of the crash reminds us that texting-while-driving laws such as the one that exists in Pennsylvania are necessary, especially for teen drivers. If the teen in this case had ignored the girl’s messages and answered them when he was stopped and off the road, the plaintiffs would have had no cause to file the suit against him or his female friend.

Source: New Jersey Law Journal, “No Liability Found for Sending Texts to Driver Just Before Crash,” Mary Pat Gallagher, May 25, 2012