Since last year, we’ve been following a New Jersey case where a person who sent a text message was sued for contributing to a serious car accident. The theory is that the text sender knew that the recipient was operating a car at the time and would read the message while driving. The details of this case are set forth in “Can You Be Liable For Sending A Text Message To Someone Driving?“
Last week, a New Jersey appellate court held that a person can be found liable for knowingly sending a text to a driver who will likely read it while driving if the distraction causes an accident. Because the two plaintiffs in this case were severely injured, the text sender is not faced with the prospect of being liable for $100,000s, clearly a hefty price to pay for simply sending a text.
New York courts have not yet ruled on such a theory but, in my opinion, common negligence principles indicate that a similar ruling would be made here. If person knowingly distracts someone driving (in-person or electronically), it seems appropriate to find that person partially responsible. Keep in mind that the NJ ruling only applies to the unique facts of when a text sender who knows that the recipient is driving and likely will read it while driving.
Regardless of how New York would rule on this issue, common sense dictates that you should never knowingly send a text to someone who is operating a moving vehicle and likely to read it while driving. In addition to potential liability, you may never forgive yourself if your text resulted in someone getting serious injured (or worse).