A New Jersey judge will rule this month whether a woman who sent a text message to the driver of a pick-up truck is partially liable for his subsequent crash into a couple riding a motorcycle.
The case stems from a 2009 accident when a then 19-year-old Kyle Best got into an accident while texting. Best was driving his pick-up truck and replying to a text he had just received from Shannon Colonna when his vehicle drifted into opposing traffic and slammed into David and Linda Kubert’s motorcycle.
The couple’s injuries were horrific with David Kubert losing his left leg above the knee during the accident and Linda Kubert having her leg later amputated below the knee as a result of her injuries.
After initially bringing a suit against Best for his role in the accident, the Kuberts’ lawyer, Stephen Weinstein, expanded the complaint to include Colonna as well.
“They were texting back and forth like a verbal conversation,” Weinstein told ABCNews.com. “She may not have been physically present, but she was electronically present.”
Weinstein says that Colonna should have known that Best was driving from work as she texted him since they had been corresponding for much of the day and she knew his schedule. Weinstein compared Colonna’s actions to that of a passenger who enables a drunk driver to break traffic violations.
However, Colonna’s lawyer argued that the then 19-year-old should not be held accountable for the actions of a driver when she was not even present in the vehicle.
“The sender of the text has the right to assume the recipient will read it at a safe time,” Colonna’s lawyer Joseph McGlone argued in court, according to the Daily Record.
“I don’t think it’s a valid claim against her,” McGlone told ABCNews.com McGlone said he had never heard of a case similar to the one against his client being brought to trial.
Morris County Superior Court Judge David Rand is expected to make his ruling on May 25 about Colonna’s potential liability in the accident.
The driver in the accident, Kyle Best, pleaded guilty to three motor vehicle citations earlier this year, according to the Daily Record. However, his driver’s license was not suspended.
The case has again brought up the question of how to balance safe driving with distracting mobile communication devices.
In December last year, the National Transportation Safety Board called for a ban on all “personal electronics” in cars except for those needed for emergencies or driver assistance.