New Jersey Woman Who Texted Found Not Liable for Friend’s Crash

A woman who texted her boyfriend as he drove isn’t liable for his car crash that injured a couple riding on a motorcycle, a state judge in New Jersey ruled.

State Superior Court Judge David Rand yesterday dismissed claims against Shannon Colonna, who had argued that her texting played no role in the crash that injured David and Linda Kubert. The Kuberts sued Colonna and her boyfriend, Kyle Best, blaming her texting in part for his crash on Sept. 21, 2009.

Rand, who sits in Morristown, rejected arguments by the Kuberts that Colonna knew Best was driving and her texting aided and abetted his violation of motor vehicle laws, according an attorney for the Kuberts, Stephen “Skippy” Weinstein. The case appeared to be the first of its kind in the nation, he said.

“The Kuberts are extremely disappointed,” Weinstein said in a phone interview. “The Kuberts did not seek the publicity that this case generated. They simply wanted to have something done so that others don’t get injured, killed or brain damaged as a result of young people texting while driving.”

Both Kuberts had a leg amputated after the accident in Mine Hill, according to Weinstein. The couple will appeal the ruling on Colonna and proceed to trial against Best, who remains a defendant in the negligence lawsuit, Weinstein said.

$760 Fine

Best, who was 18 at the time of the crash, pleaded guilty to careless driving, failure to stay on his side of the road and texting while driving. He was fined $760 and ordered to speak at 14 high schools about the dangers of texting while driving, according to Weinstein.

Maryann O’Donnell, an attorney for Best, declined to comment. Joseph McGlone, an attorney for Colonna, who Weinstein said was 17 at the time of the accident, didn’t immediately return a call yesterday seeking comment.

McGlone had argued in court papers that Colonna had no duty of care to the Kuberts. He argued there was no evidence that Colonna knew Best was driving when she texted him, and it wasn’t foreseeable that Best would read her message while driving.

“While it may be foreseeable that a person who is reading or composing a text message might become distracted and get into an accident, it is a leap of logic to argue that it is likewise foreseeable to the remote sender of the message that sending an electronic message to another would cause a car accident,” McGlone argued in a filing on March 28.

“There is no way for a person that sends a message to know or control where and when it will be read,” McGlone argued. “Drivers frequently receive electronic messages while driving that they do not read until stopped.”

Weinstein said that the judge agreed with the argument that Colonna had no duty of care to the Kuberts.

The case is Kubert v. Best, MRS-L-1975-10, Superior Court of New Jersey, Morris County (Morristown).

To contact the reporter on this story: David Voreacos in Newark, New Jersey, at dvoreacos@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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