A recent New Jersey state appeals court ruling is raising questions about the potential liability of someone who knowingly sends a text to another person who’s engaged in driving at the time and the distraction leads to a collision.

The case involved Linda and David Kubert, who were seriously injured in Mine Hill Township, N.J., in September 2009. Then-18-year-old Kyle Best was texting while driving his pickup truck and crossed the double center line of the roadway. His truck collided with the motorcycle the Kuberts were riding. 

As a result of the accident, Linda and David Kubert each lost a left leg. The couple’s compensation claims against Best were eventually settled. However, a trial court dismissed their claims against then-17-year-old Shannon Colonna, Best’s friend who had texted him immediately before the collision. She had been texting him much of the day. The Kuberts appealed the trial court’s decision to dismiss their case against Colonna.

Though the appeals court judges ruled Colonna wasn’t liable for the couple’s injuries, their written decision opened the door for future decisions holding text senders liable, if the texting causes an accident and “the sender knew or had special reason to know that the recipient would view the text while driving and thus be distracted.” 

The decision concludes that the Kuberts' case failed to prove that Colonna had such knowledge when she texted Best immediately before the accident.

To download the decision, click here.