By on August 28, 2013

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Just when you thought things in America’s Litigious Society couldn’t get any weirder:

A New Jersey appeals court has found a person who knowingly sends a text to a driver can share liability if the driver causes an accident… The appeals court says someone who texts a motorist is not liable for the driver’s negligent actions. But the texter has a duty to refrain if the person knows the recipient is driving and likely to read the message.


No, we’re not making that up. However, the Associated Press, which reported on the case today, is perhaps overstating the meaning of the verdict. The fact that one judge on an appeals panel thinks that texters should be held liable for the crashes of their recipients seems a bit, um, F***ING INSANE, but more to the point it doesn’t seem to imply that such will always be the case. Legal beagles of the B&B are invited to chime in. You can read more here.

In the meantime, TTAC and its staff recommend that you do not “drive with your elbows while texting with your thumbs”. Learn to drive with your knee.

Just kidding. Do not, under any circumstances, drive with your knee.

It is critical that you pay full attention to the road at all times, even while stopped in motionless urban traffic for minutes at a time, but particularly while trundling down a road where the speed is artificially limited to a fraction of the safe possible velocity in order to enhance local violation revenue. Do not ever text or drive, even if the road is empty. A rabbit, or a child, or a Clydesdale horse could appear out of nowhere. Make sure you look straight ahead and do not use MyFordTouch or CUE. Particularly not CUE, because that thing sucks. It’s imperative that you face forward with your eyes open at all times. Do not blink. Consider being a productive doubleplusgoodthinking citizen and using public transportation instead. You can look at your iPad all you want and your chances of being raped by a fellow passenger range from slight (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) to virtually certain (any female under the age of fifty, not wearing a head-to-toe burlap sack).

This message has been brought to you by The Voice Screaming Inside Ray LaHood’s Skull.

(A tip of the hat to Miss Kat King for the link.)

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41 Comments on “New Jersey Appeals Court: Text A Driver, Share Financial Liability For The Crash...”


  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    The insurance companies will have a field day over this, I wouldn’t expect it to stick even as case law for long.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Lol! I do it one handed on the motorcycle here in Ohio. Mostly just to use navigation while on the highway when no one is around me.

    • 0 avatar
      crm114

      That’s funny. Bikes are good for the gene pool. Maybe everybody should have to ride for two years before they get an auto license.

      • 0 avatar
        crm114

        As I was riding behind a woman on the interstate who was driving an old Taurus, I watched her repeatedly come within inches of departing the pavement while she tried to compose a text. I’d like to put her on a ‘busa and see what happens.

        • 0 avatar
          JimC2

          @crm114, do a search for “train horn pranks” videos and let your imagination wander.

          • 0 avatar
            crm114

            Can you help me mount that rig to my bike Jim?

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            I like the way you think!

            Disclaimer: I won’t be held liable for any partial permanent hearing damage you suffer… in Jersey or elsewhere.

          • 0 avatar
            FuzzyPlushroom

            I get the ‘opportunity’, once or twice a year, to follow someone who’s obviously staring at a mobile device and/or completely wasted (probably well over twice the legal limit).

            If I see ‘em cross one of the painted lines several times, I start tapping my (depressingly factory-stock) horn every time it happens.

            THAT one usually works, and they either focus on what they’re doing or get freaked out and pull over. Either way, I know that if they weave off of the road without signaling, it won’t affect me.

      • 0 avatar
        Syke

        Totally in agreement with that. Only I’d take it one step further in the (old?) British tradition: 250cc maximum and a big red “L” on a white background on each end of the bike. I’m a firm believe that if you look like the dork you are on day one, you take riding much more seriously. Which makes you a better automobile driver.

  • avatar
    Freddy M

    FFS. I can “see” the logic behind that statement. But I totally disagree with it. It just further removes responsibility from the driver if he/she caused a crash to begin with. He/she still decided to respond to the text, just as if I didn’t know he/she was driving to begin with.

    Sure, I may know that “Jim” is behind the wheel, but it is still his decision to open/reply to my text. Perhaps I sent him a text with the intention of him reading it later so that he wouldn’t have to take his hands off the wheel to answer my call. How bout that one?

    • 0 avatar
      Skink

      This isn’t about removing responsibility from the driver, but rather properly spreading the blame and the liability to pay up. One could argue that if the driver didn’t get a text from me because I knew she was driving, that she could still go ahead and text someone else causing an accident. Yeah, but that accident would not, in any way, be my fault.

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    It’s Jersey, the land where people don’t read the texts because they are busy applying the makeup.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    “Do not, under any circumstances, drive with your knee.”

    Unless your buttock-to-knee length is unusually small (anthropomorphically speaking) or your sitting reach is excessively long (sort of reverse T-rex arms), then normal driving ergonomics dictate that the usually the inside of your thigh just above the actual knee is a more ideal contact point for alternate steering wheel manipulation. I mean, duh.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Are you driving a mid-’60s Buick? They had huge steering wheels that made knee driving easy. Then the downsizing of steering wheels in the late ’60s made it more difficult. Now, all I can do is keep a car on line with my beer gut, er, relaxed muscle.

  • avatar
    Topher

    Just logged in to say that we should employ children to rat their parents out when they use cell phones while driving. Little spies that report to the thought police.

  • avatar
    cartunez

    Welp no nation lasts forever and we are just watching the death of the great experiment called the United States.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      My dad told me he heard a guy say something very similar when women got the vote. It’s apparently a very long process.

    • 0 avatar
      Chicago Dude

      This is actually an (likely unenforceable) extension of a theory of law that the US inherited from our colonial masters. This is first semester law school stuff.

      If you enable somebody to do something and you are aware that they are likely to cause harm when they do that thing, you are partly liable for the harm.

      If you lend your car to someone that you know is drunk, you are partly to blame when they crash and kill someone.
      If you lend your gun to your friend who has no history of violence and says that he wants to go target shooting, you are NOT partly to blame if he instead shoots his girlfriend (although you’re gonna go bankrupt defending yourself!).

      The issue here is that the judge is attempting to say that if you KNOW they are driving, you also KNOW that you are likely to cause a crash by sending them a text. That is stretching things just a bit too far.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        Yeah, it IS a stretch, because 1. a text doesn’t require an immediate response or attention like a phone call, and 2. a crash is only remotely possible, not likely. But when you look at the background of judges, you’ll find that a lot of them are former office holders, basically political appointees wearing black dresses.

  • avatar

    So technically, if I were to be driving a Lamborghini and some chick flashes her boobs at me, SHE’S EQUALLY LIABLE?

    I need a lawyer…

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    The fine print shows the problem: how would the sender of the text know that the recipient is driving a car? Moreover, communication by texting or e-mail is asynchronous. It’s not always a running conversation.

    On the other hand, the implication is a lot scarier for people engaging in a voice conversation with someone who is driving. Under those circumstances, the land-based speaker is more likely to know that the other party is driving a car. But still . . . there are people like my daughter, who frequently calls me driving to work in LA (3 hour time difference) and always uses the speaker phone (I can tell by the way she sounds.)

    Of course, the reason for this silliness is that the person who was at fault probably didn’t have enough insurance to cover the full liability and the plaintiff was looking for another pocket to dig into.

    • 0 avatar
      thirty-three

      “Of course, the reason for this silliness is that the person who was at fault probably didn’t have enough insurance to cover the full liability and the plaintiff was looking for another pocket to dig into.”

      BINGO!

    • 0 avatar
      Rod Panhard

      I lived in Florida for 20 years, and now in New Jersey for the past nine. The difference between the two states is that everyone knows there are wackos in Florida, and even the wackos know they’re wacked. But here in New Jersey, the wackos don’t believe they are wacked. They believe they are normal.

      And that’s why appellate rulings like this don’t surprise me after 9 years.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    “So, why did you pick up your phone, read the text message and crash your car?”
    “Because I am so stupid that I should not actually be allowed to drive, my friend knows this, so it’s their fault… Boo! Hoo!”

  • avatar
    bomberpete

    It’s a stupid ruling but I don’t get the outrage.

    A) it’s unenforceable.

    B) the article said, “the appeals court says someone who texts a motorist is not liable for the driver’s negligent actions. But the texter has a duty to refrain if the person knows the recipient is driving and likely to read the message.”

    To me, that’s ambiguous enough to drive a Kenworth through. I don’t see any texters getting sued the way drivers should be.

  • avatar
    wsn

    “but particularly while trundling down a road where the speed is artificially limited to a fraction of the safe possible velocity”

    Uh… speed is a scalar and thus can’t be “a fraction of” velocity, which is a vector.

  • avatar
    wsn

    Just think about it, in certain locations, bars are responsible if they know someone is drunk and didn’t stop him from driving. This is similar.

    I am not saying it’s right. But they are either both right, or both wrong.

    • 0 avatar

      Ah! They didn’t attempt to stop him. They dont have to actually stop him. If they can prove they made a reasonable effort, then they are covered. Some 90 lb surgically enhanced Hooters girl cannot be expected to stop the averge Hooters customer, given their normal mass.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    For some reason both my wife and daughter (though mainly my daughter) like to text me when they know I am driving. Literally they will text me 2 or 3 minutes after I pull out of the driveway and had just told them that I was leaving. I do have a bluetooth and/or Sync in the car so I could answer the phone.

  • avatar
    JaySeis

    Yes, your honor, satellite radio sent a text message to my radio in the middle of nowhere and said Debbie Harry was singing Rapture and my Nav system knew I was driving because it wouldn’t let me program my destination. This was such a distraction that I failed to see the speed trailer texting me my current speed in large digital numbers.

  • avatar
    mmdpg

    So to all the people here who think talking and texting on a cell phone while driving is your God given right, I have a question.

    You are driving in heavy traffic, everyone is traveling 65-75, and it’s raining. You have your wife and kids in the car, all in appropriate cars seats or safety belts. Would you rather have the 8 or so cars around you all being driven by people talking on cell phones or texting or would you rather they all be paying attention to driving?

    Are you all perfectly happy traveling for mile upon mile with these drivers around you? Anyone wish they would all hang up the phone and just drive instead? Anyone want to bet on the odds of having an accident or near miss accident with one of these drivers if you are near them for a period of time?

  • avatar
    White Shadow

    Another big fail from the state of New Jersey. LOL @ their stupidity. Logic dictates that if you’re texting someone in the first place, you are probably not in the same general vicinity as him/her. Now follow along—if you’re not in the same general vicinity, then how would you know if he/she is driving at the moment you send the text? Unless you’re some sort of psychic, then I’d say the odds of you knowing that your intended recipient is currently behind the wheel is very low. And if you are psychic, then you probably wouldn’t have to waste your time sending text messages in the first place.

    Like I said, this is pure stupidity from the morons of NJ. I live in NY, but unfortunately I have to drive in NJ every day. The roads there are full of morons who severely lack driving skills.


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