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NJ Court Rules on Liability When Sending Texts to Drivers

By David Madden

TRENTON, N.J. (CBS) -- A three-judge appellate panel in New Jersey has made a decision that could affect anyone in the state who uses text messaging, whether you're driving or not.

The judges ruled in a Morris County case in which two motorcycle riders lost their legs to a texting driver who ran into them.   The panel ruled the other texter could be held liable for damages if he or she knew the recipient of the messages was behind the wheel while receiving the texts.

"It's a stern warning to those who know that the person they're texting may be distracted from driving," notes Rick DeMichele, an attorney in Haddon Heights, NJ.

And that's apparently the key here, according to DeMichele:  knowledge that the receiver of the texts was driving a vehicle at the time.

This case didn't cost the other texter, though.  The panel upheld a lower court that had dismissed the lawsuit against her, and the couple on the motorcycle settled with the driver.

It's possible the New Jersey Supreme Court could still consider the question, and DeMichele thinks the legislature will take up the issue at some point.

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