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May 25th, 2012

Texting Lawsuit Deleted, er, Dismissed

In a ruling that will certainly be considered among other “Points of Light” nominees when we draft this year’s upcoming Judicial Hellholes report, a Morristown, New Jersey judge today dismissed a lawsuit that sought to hold the sender of a text message liable for an accident caused by the reader of that message.

As reported by the Associated Press, State Superior Court Judge David Rand agreed with the defendant’s lawyer and dismissed claims against a young woman who had sent a text message to her boyfriend just before the boyfriend, while driving his car, crossed into oncoming traffic, gravely inuring a middle-aged couple on a motorcycle.

Plaintiffs’ attorney Stephen Weinstein had argued that the texter should have known her boyfriend was driving when she texted him and was therefore partly responsible for his client’s injuries.

But the texter denied in an earlier deposition that she knew her boyfriend was driving at the time.  The driving boyfriend “has pleaded guilty to distracted driving, admitting he was using his cellphone and acknowledging a series of text messages . . . around the time of the accident,” according to AP.

Judge Rand said texters can reasonably assume recipients will behave responsibly, adding that drivers face many electronic distractions these days.

“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, noting that his decision is not intended to minimize drivers’ responsibility to pay attention to the road and what’s in front of them.

Though the judge expects his decision to be appealed, he nonetheless deserves credit for holding the line of rationality against evermore creative theories of liability ginned up by personal injury lawyers.

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