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A New Jersey state appeals court has ruled that a teenage girl who texted a friend just a few minutes before he crashed his truck into two motorcyclists cannot be held liable in a civil suit for their injuries.
However, two members of the three-member judge panel also wrote in their decision that “a person sending text messages has a duty not to text someone who is driving if the texter knows, or has special reason to know, the recipient will view the text while driving.”
The New Jersey Star-Ledger editorial board writes that the implication of the ruling is that “It would not be impossible to hold message senders legally responsible in a civil case if it could be proved that they knew the recipient was likely to text while driving.”
But how could that be proved?
Legal expert Emily Bazelon tells Here & Now that according to the court decision, “if you’re the person who’s not in the car, who’s texting someone who is in the car, in order to be liable, the court has to show — has to know — that you knew the person you were texting was driving, and you knew they would open the text message. And that’s a pretty high bar. It’s hard to know how you would have that kind of specific knowledge, particularly about opening the text.”