Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande announced yesterday that she will introduce legislation that will protect the sender of a text message from civil liability if the receiver of the text is involved in a car accident while reading the message.
Thank goodness, and let’s hope that legislation get fast tracked
In what can only be considered a gift to the overpopulated legal community, the Appellate Division of New Jersey’s Superior Court last week ruled that senders of text messages could be liable for accidents that occur while the receivers are reading them “when a texter knows or has special reason to know that the intended recipient is driving and is likely to read the text message while driving, the texter has a duty to users of the public roads to refrain from sending the driver a text at that time.”
What is a “special reason to know?” That is new legal distinction that will have to be defined in another expensive court decision, unless Casagrande’s common sense legislation is passed and signed into law before the next ambulance chaser gets his law school buddy on the bench to define it.
Imagine the cases, and legal fees, this new legal liability will create. Imagine the increases in insurance premiums, auto, homeowner’s, and business liability, this will cause.
If a spouse texts “pick milk” to his or her significant other during rush hour, and the receiving spouse gets into a car accident, the couple’s homeowner’s insurance company will get dragged into the law suit filed by the ambulance chaser.
Imagine the deposition questions asked at $250+ per hour per attorney:
Ambulance Chaser: Do you have children?
Texting Spouse/Defendant: No
Ambulance Chaser: Why did you need milk?
Texting Spouse/Defendant: I didn’t (this defendant was well prepared for the deposition by the homeowner’s insurance company’s $250+ per hour attorney)
Ambulance Chaser: Why did you text “pick milk”
Texting Spouse/Defendant: I didn’t
Ambulance Chaser: How do you explain that text?
Texting Spouse/Defendant: Auto correct
Ambulance Chaser: What did you mean to text?
Texting Spouse/Defendant: pink silk
Ambulance Chaser: Why did you text “pink silk”?
Texting Spouse/Defendant: I was responding to an earlier text
Ambulance Chaser: How much earlier was that text?
Texting Spouse/Defendant: 2 hours
Ambulance Chaser: Why did it take you 2 hours to respond to that text?
Texting Spouse/Defendant: I was driving
Ambulance Chaser: What did that text say?
Texting Spouse/Defendant: way du wearing ;;)
Ambulance Chaser: Way du wearing ;;)?
Texting Spouse/Defendant: Auto correct
Ambulance Chaser: What did you think it meant?
Texting Spouse/Defendant: wat r u wearing?
And so goes the questioning for several billable hours.
After reviewing the $1500 transcript of the deposition for six billable hours, the homeowner’s insurance company attorney files a motion to dismiss the case against the texting spouse on the basis of his/her testimony that he/she waited two hours to respond to a text, which proves that he/she is a responsible texter and it is reasonable to assume he/she thought her/his spouse was also a responsible texter.
The ambulance chaser opposes the motion on the grounds that reason for the text was “extra special” and that is what the Appellate Court meant by “special reason.” The auto insurance company’s attorney concurs with the ambulance chaser.
The ambulance chaser files suit against the smart phone manufacturer, the auto correct software company, and the phone carrier/retailer on the grounds that they didn’t program the smart phone not to send texts when the phone was moving at more than walking speed.
The Judge schedules a hearing and oral arguments. The lawyers spend numerous billable hours doing research and writing briefs.
The hearing is adjourned three times in seven months. The Judge calls a settlement conference but the auto insurance company refuses to settle because the “injured party,” the ambulance chaser’s client, who had claimed permanent disability from the injuries caused by the accident, posted pictures of herself dancing at a wedding on her facebook page.
The Judge orders discovery to be reopened to investigate the extent of the plaintiff’s injuries, given this new information.
Let’s hope that Casagrande’s legislation gets fast tracked.