I blogged sometime ago about a New Jersey case where a Court found that someone sending a text to someone else who he knows is driving can be held liable — along with the driver — for the resulting crash and injuries caused to others. What was new was the Court extending liability to include the outsider – who may be thousands of miles away — who is participating in the texting with the driver.
A Pennsylvania court soon followed New Jersey’s lead. In that case, a volunteer firefighter was stopped to make a turn on his motorcycle. A texting SUV driver rammed him from behind, causing him to die. The man’s family sued not only the driver, but also the person who had sent the driver the text. (The police obtained a search warrant and found the text still open on the texting driver’s phone). A Pennsylvania judge allowed the legal theory that the sender of the text was also liable to go forward to a jury.
In Pennsylvania, however, sending texts to a driver can now be a crime. Last week Gov. Tom Wolf (D) signed a bill that criminalizes the practice, and allows courts to mete out penalties of up to five years behind bars for a non-drivers texting with drivers involved in fatal crashes. So we are talking not only about civil liability, but criminal liability as well.