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Are you texting while someone else is driving?

A New Jersey woman was sued recently for texting her boyfriend while he was driving.  This is believed to be the first case of its kind in the country.  The woman, Shannon Colonna, was sued by other drivers who were involved in a car wreck with Colonna’s boyfriend. The boyfriend admitted he caused the wreck and pled guilty to distracted driving.  The reason for his distraction, he said, was the text message conversation he was having with his girlfriend, Colonna.

The injured drivers were hurt severely in the wreck.  The man’s leg was amputated above the knee and the woman eventually had one leg amputated.  They sued Colonna alleging she knew her boyfriend was driving at the time he caused the wreck.

While this is a new theory in personal injury law, the issue will never be heard by a jury.  The Judge in the case dismissed all claims against the woman last week.  The Judge’s ruling was based, at least in part, on Colonna’s testimony she did not know her boyfriend was driving while they were texting.

It is possible many similar cases will pop up across the country.  However, it seems unlikely the cases will actually be successful, unless there are changes in state law.  In Kentucky, for example, the law banning texting while driving went into effect in July 2010.  However, Kentucky law does not make provisions for suing the person with whom the driver is texting.

Usually an actor cannot be responsible for injuries to others unless their actions were intentional or the law imposes a duty on the actor.  Unless states specifically enact laws to allow this type of lawsuit, there is little chance of similar cases suceeding.  

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