NJ judge mulls suit vs. woman sending messages to driving boyfriend
By CHUCK BENNETT
7:14 AM, May 21, 2012
2:15 AM, May 21, 2012
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In a case believed to be the first of its kind in the country, a New Jersey college student could be held liable this week for texting her boyfriend — knowing he was behind the wheel — and allegedly causing him to crash into a couple riding a motorcycle.
“She texts. Instantly, he texts back, and, bang, the accident occurs,” said Skippy Weinstein, attorney for motorcycle enthusiasts David and Linda Kubert, both 59, who lost their left legs in the horrific 2009 accident in Mine Hill.
It’s now up to a Superior Court judge in Morristown, NJ, to decide whether Shannon Colonna can be added to the suit against driver Kyle Best.
LETTERS OF THE LAW:
Crash victims David and Linda Kubert claim the sender of a distracting text is partly responsible for their accident.
LETTERS OF THE LAW: Crash victims David and Linda Kubert claim the sender of a distracting text is partly responsible for their accident.
A decision is expected May 25. Weinstein said neither he nor lawyers on the other side could find a similar case.
“If you know somebody is operating a motor vehicle, if you know it is illegal to text and drive because it violates the law, if you know it’s dangerous, if you know all this and knowingly send a text, then a jury should decide,” Weinstein said.
Colonna, now a college student in Florida, didn’t return calls for comment.
“She alluded to the fact that she knew he was driving,” David Kubert said, citing depositions Colonna has given. “Our lives have changed dramatically. Besides the pain every day, I lost my job and we lost our health insurance.”
New Jersey is among 19 states with laws banning drivers from texting. But those laws have no penalties for people who knowingly call or text drivers.
Weinstein argues that the numerous text messages between Colonna and Best — more than 60 throughout the day — made her “electronically present” in the car.
The two traded texts as he drove his pickup truck home from teaching swimming at a YMCA, he said.
Best, who admitted to three violations in traffic court, testified he wasn’t texting but was glancing at Colonna’s message when he crossed a lane of traffic and hit the Kuberts.
Passengers in cars involved in accidents have been found liable for encouraging drivers to ignore traffic regulations, Weinstein said.
Best, who was 18 at the time, pleaded guilty to using his cellphone while driving, paid a $775 fine and agreed to speak publicly about the dangers of texting while driving.
Even if Colonna is found liable, her insurance company is expected to handle the legal damages, Weinstein said.
Still, her attorney, Joseph McGlone, had earlier said she shouldn’t be involved in the suit at all.
“It’s not fair,” he told The Daily Record. “It’s not reasonable. Shannon Colonna has no way to control when Kyle Best is going to read that message.’’
Read more: NJ woman may be held liable for car crash because she sent text message to driver - NYPOST.com