Stunned Residents Furious Over Appeals Court Ruling, Call It Unfair

TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Drivers in New Jersey were left stunned, after state Appeals Court judges found that when a driver is texting and causes an accident, the recipient of the texts can also be held liable for negligence.

As CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez reported Tuesday night, the decision stemmed from a 2009 accident where a 17-year-old girl texted a friend just before that friend crashed his pickup truck into a Morris County couple on a motorcycle.

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The man and woman on the motorcycle, David and Linda Kubert, both lost parts of their legs. They sued not only the truck’s driver, but also the girl who was texting him.

On Tuesday, a state Appeals Court ruled that the girl in that particular case could not be held liable. But it also ruled “that a person sending text messages has a duty not to text someone who is driving if the texter knows, or has special reason to know, the recipient will view the text while driving.”

Drivers told CBS 2 they simply could not believe the ruling.

“It’s just outrageous,” said Mike Grant of Bayonne. “The person texting that person should not be held liable because they don’t know what they’re doing at that time.”

“I wouldn’t know if they’re driving or not. I would have thought they would be at home,” said Carmen Gonzalez of Jersey City. “It’s their fault, who’s driving and answering the text.”

“He has no idea if you’re sitting at home, or you’re driving, if you’re in the bathroom. Whatever. That’s not right,” said Sam Kamel of Jersey City. “If he knows that you driving, that’s going to be a different story.

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Nelvar Pierre was one of the few people who agreed with the panel.

“I was the one who texted that person in the first place, and that person was driving, I shouldn’t text the person at that time,” Pierre said. “And I could blame myself. “

But the majority of those CBS 2 interviewed found the ruling unfair.

“At the end of the day, you’re basically asking somebody else to be responsible for your own behavior,” said Lauren Burns of Verona. “And you can’t control somebody else’s behavior. You can only control your own behavior.”

Judges hope that making a legal responsibility for texting to drivers will make the public more aware of the dangers of texting and driving.

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