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Text-sender isn't liable in text-reader's crash, N.J. judge rules

May 25, 2012|By Dalina Castellanos

The argument that a text-sender should be held liable in a text-reader’s crash didn’t make it very far. A New Jersey judge ruled Friday that a woman could not be sued for texting her boyfriend while he was behind the wheel, though his distraction led to a tragic accident.

In a ruling believed to be the first of its kind, Superior Court Judge David Rand decided that Shannon Colonna, 20, cannot be held liable for an accident in which David and Linda Kubert each lost a leg. 

The Kuberts were riding a Harley-Davidson on Sept. 21, 2009, when they were struck by a  pickup truck driven by Kyle Best, then 18, as the New Jersey Star-Ledger and the Associated Press have reported. At the time, Best was driving home from his job as a swimming instructor.

Records showed that Best responded to one of Colonna’s texts only seconds before he dialed 911 to report the accident.

The Kuberts’ lawyer argued that Colonna’s text messages to Best were a factor in the accident, but Rand agreed with Colonna’s lawyer, saying she had no control over when or how Best would read and respond to the messages, the Star-Ledger reported.

The Kuberts are “understandably disappointed with the court’s ruling,” their attorney, Stephen Weinstein, said in a statement emailed to the Los Angeles Times.

Even so, “They are comforted by the thought that by bringing the case it has accomplished the goal of making people think before they text, whether while driving or to someone who is driving.”

Best pleaded guilty to distracted driving, admitting he was using his cellphone, and was ordered to speak to 14 high schools about the dangers of texting and driving. He also had to pay about $775 in fines, but his driver's license was not suspended.

Lawyers for Best and Colonna declined to comment after the hearing, and neither they nor the Kuberts were in court, the AP reported.

Weinstein said he plans to appeal the decision.

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dalina.castellanos@latimes.com

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