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Texting and Driving - Can Those Who Text Drivers be Liable for Crashes?

Photo of Brant Stogner

In Morristown, New Jersey, the Daily Record, and now USA Today, is reporting on a lawsuit that was filed against Shannon Colonna for causing an auto collision - when Colonna was not in any vehicle involved in the crash. The lawsuit stems from a head-on collision between David and Linda Dover and Kyle Best. The Dovers were on a motorcycle when Best veered head on into them, causing each to lose a leg as a result of the incident. Best pleaded guilty earlier this year for careless driving, failure to maintain a single lane, and using a hand-held cellphone while driving. The suit against Colonna claims that she knowingly sent text messages to Best, which caused and contributed to Best's collision with the Dovers.

Cell phone records have been produced that show Best and Colonna exchanged more than twenty text messages during the day, but none while Best was at work. Colonna appears to have provided conflicting statements during her deposition, testifying at one point that she did not know whether Best was driving when she texted him after work. She also testified that she may have known that Best was driving when she texted him. According to Colonna's attorney, regardless of whether Colonna knew Best was driving, "It's not fair...it's not reasonable...Colonna has no way to control when Kyle Best is going to read that message." According to Best, right before the crash, he glanced down at his phone to see who had sent him a text message. However, the evidence shown in court was that Best was the last to send a text prior to the crash.

It remains to be seen whether or not the court will allow Colonna to remain a defendant in the suit. Assuming the court allows her conduct to be submitted to the jury, it is not certain that she will be found liable by the jury. Given that the dangers of texting and driving have been well publicized and documented, I think we can all agree that those driving should refrain from texting and driving. This suit does, however, beg the question as to whether those who knowingly text drivers can and should be held liable along with the driver when it leads to a collision and damage.

If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident by a driver who was cellphone while driving, contact the attorneys at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Friend by calling 713-222-7211 or 1-800-870-9584.

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