Editorial: Court decision goes too far

Ridiculous text message ruling an overreach
Sep. 02, 2013 @ 12:01 AM

Everyone knows that it's not smart to text and drive. It's even illegal.

But, until recently, you didn't have to even consider what the person on the other end of your texts was doing.

A New Jersey Appeals Court accepted an argument this past Tuesday that the person sending a text to someone that they know is driving could be held, at least partially, responsible in a crash.

"We conclude 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," the court said.

Talk about judicial overreach.

While this case is a civil trial, where it's common to see partial blames assigned in accidents and misdeeds, it's only continuing a scary national trend.

At some point personal responsibility — in this case that of the driver — has to trump all.

Are we becoming, or have we already become, such a litigious society that we seek blood from every related party — no matter their actual responsibility — when an accident occurs?

Even New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, whose state has taken the forefront on punishing drivers who text, seemed to indicate punishing a non-driving texter for an accident was going too far.

"I think that's kind of stupid," Christie said on New Jersey 101.5-FM.

"Ultimately, it's still the obligation of the driver ... I still think the obligation's on the driver — you have the obligation to keep your eyes on the road (as a driver), your hands on the wheel and pay attention to what you're doing.

"I don't know why we can't just hold the people who really have the responsibility responsible."

Years ago, much ado was made about personal responsibility during a lawsuit over a cup of McDonald's hot coffee that badly burned a woman who spilled the steaming beverage causing significant bodily injury.

But that case is nothing compared to this.

Judging a separate party as liable for the irresponsible actions of another — texting while driving — is ridiculous.

Even if the texting party knows the driver is driving, how does that make the texter responsible for the driver picking up the phone, reading the text or answering, all clear violations of driving laws?

Will billboard owners now be responsible, at least partially, if someone has a crash and claims they were reading a billboard? Obviously the sign-maker and company that commissioned the sign knows the intended reader is driving.

The whole thing is a slippery slope that should be avoided. Unfortunately, we're already on it.