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Judge denies that "electronic presence" via texting is enough to hold woman accountable for motor vehicle accident

Judge denies that

A woman who repeatedly texted her boyfriend, while she knew he was driving, and who ultimately crossed traffic and crashed into motorcyclists, cannot be added to a civil lawsuit according to a Superior Court judge in Morristown, New Jersey.

The plaintiffs' lawyer argued that the girlfriend's conduct contributed to the accident that cost his clients their legs. The woman's lawyer argued that while she sent the messages, it was ultimately her boyfriend's responsibility to control when he looked at them and when he responded to them.

The boyfriend plead guilty to three violations of the motor vehicle code, including driving while using a mobile device. He's now being sued in civil court.

Skippy Weinstein, the Kuberts' lawyer, argues Colonna was "electronically present" in the crash. He says she should have known Best was driving home as they exchanged text messages leading up to the crash. She says she "may have known" he was driving.

"What I find interesting was her testimony at depositions was that she answered by saying, 'This is what teenagers do,'" Weinstein said.

The judge disagreed. This time. But the term "electronically present" is going to be something interesting to watch in the coming years.

Can you be "electronically present" at an accident? At a robbery? At a homicide? During civil disobedience? As a witness?

We've often discussed how our devices know who we are, where we are, and often what we're doing. They allow us to communicate almost instantly from across the room or halfway around the world. You can text significant others, FaceTime grandparents, Skype colleagues.

How soon will it be before that technology becomes par for the course in civil and criminal matters?

This week, in New Jersey, a judged ruled a woman couldn't be sued for texting her boyfriend while she new he was driving, and when he ultimately drove his truck into two motorcyclists, What about in the months and years ahead? How long until the law and technology becomes such that "electronically present" is held as the equivalent to "physically present"?

Source: KKTV via @philnickinson

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, The TV Show, Vector, ZEN & TECH, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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There are 10 comments. Add yours.

stewm says:

Well that was a no-brainer, only an idiot would have used sending a text message as the justification to charge a person as a contributor to the outcome of the person that acted on the receipt of the text message.

c_hack says:

Oops, I was reading this post and spilled coffee on myself. I think I'll sue iMore. It couldn't possibly be my fault.

Dave81j6 says:

well put. an unfortunate example of why we all shouldn't txt and drive.

Dave says:

She "new" she was driving? Dude, get an editor or just read your stuff. That is painful and amateur.

Rahul says:

He never proof_reads his stuff. Errors like this are par for the course.

Lou says:

Don't celebrate yet. There are more cases like this pending and scumbag ambulance chasing lawyers will continue until they win and then the cases will increase 10 fold or more. We live in a society where NO ONE is responsible for their own actions.

BZ says:

Woah woah woah. Don't just blame the lawyers. It takes 2 to file a lawsuit: a lawyer and a client. Lawyers don't file anything until their client tells them to. Stop bashing lawyers.

dafish says:

"How soon will it be before that technology becomes par for the course in civil and criminal matters?"
Probably when you can jack into people's cybernetically enhanced and wired brain like ghost in the shell :)

Roger says:

That's plain stupid. Like blaming anyone in the car for talking with the driver. Or singing, sneezing, whatever.

Icebox says:

Renee, electronic presence won't be treated like physical presence until e-presence is the same thing. When your e-presence can interact physically with the remote place, then you may face liability. but the claim that the texter was liable for an accident was just laughable because there are too many factors in the chain of causation that basically insulate the texter from being liable for the accident. The driver made 100% of the decisions that led to the accident. That, for better or worse is the proper defendant.