Common Pleas Court Allows Car Accident Case To Proceed Against Person Texting The Driver Who Caused The Accident
Posted on Tuesday, May 17th, 2016 at 3:51 pm
Have you ever texted a friend or family member whom you knew to be driving a car at the time? I would venture a guess that most of us have, and probably were not concerned at all at the time about potentially being sued in the event the person we were texting was involved in a car accident. A recent Court of Common Pleas decision in Lawrence County Pennsylvania suggests that perhaps we should be.
Pennsylvania Court Overrules Preliminary Objections Filed By Sender Of Text Messages
In Gallatin v. Gargiulo, the Court of Common Pleas Judge overruled preliminary objections and allowed negligence and wrongful death claims to proceed against two defendants on the basis that they had been texting a driver as the driver crashed into a motorcyclist, resulting in the motorcyclist’s death.
While this decision has no precedential value, meaning that it is not binding on other courts in Pennsylvania, it nonetheless represents an interesting development in the area of tort law and is something that everyone with a smartphone should be aware of. Additionally, the judge relied upon a 2013 decision out of the State of New Jersey, Kubert v. Best, wherein an appellate level court specifically allowed such a cause of action to proceed.
The NJ Appellate Court Created A Standard For Liability In These Circumstances
In Kubert, the New Jersey case, the appellate court held that in order to proceed with a claim against the sender of a text message a plaintiff must prove that the sender of the text knew, or had special reason to know, that the recipient was driving and would view the text while driving and be distracted by it.
The Pennsylvania judge specifically relied upon the New Jersey case in allowing the Pennsylvania action to move forward.
The Future Of Pennsylvania Law Involving This Issue Is Unclear
It is important to note that the court’s holding does not mean that the plaintiff will prevail with respect to the lawsuit filed. Rather, it simply means that the court refused to grant the motion filed by the sender of the text messages to dismiss the claim against that person.
This means that the case will move forward with discovery and the plaintiff will have the opportunity to prove the above.
It remains to be seen how the law will evolve in Pennsylvania and whether or not the appellate courts, who will undoubtedly be presented with this issue in the near future, will allow such cases to proceed.
New Jersey courts have already allowed such cases to move forward. Will Pennsylvania courts follow their lead?
If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of a car accident, contact one of the Philadelphia car accident lawyers at Zavodnick, Zavodnick & Lasky, LLC today for a free consultation or call (215) 875-7030.