Our last post on Distracted Driving Lawsuits: Suing the Sender ended with one question: what will happen?
As predicted, the New Jersey trial judge dismissed the sender of the text message. The judge stated that it was reasonable for text-senders to assume that text-receivers will act responsibly. He also noted that drivers must deal with numerous distractions: phones, GPS devices, and road signs, to name a few.
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.
The basis for the judge’s ruling is important–it rests on the premise that a text-sender has no duty of care to other drivers. Under Judge Rand’s interpretation, it would not matter if the text-sender knew that the driver was driving at the time, and it would not matter if the text-sender knew that the driver would read those messages while driving. I think that’s the right decision, but it would have been easier for the judge to rely on the specific evidence in this case–the receiver was himself sent the last message, so reading a message did not cause the collision.
That case will move forward to trial against the texting driver, though the lawyer for the motorcyclists indicated that he will appeal the judge’s ruling as to the text-sender.