Texting Someone Who is Driving? You May Be Liable
December 31st, 2016 | Brian Q. McDonnell
July 12, 2016 - HKQ Law - We all know that texting while driving is dangerous, and it is against the law in Pennsylvania. A 4-6 second text while driving at 55mph is like driving a football field blind. Yet, incidences of distracted driving continue to increase. According to the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, citations for distracted driving increased 43 percent statewide between 2014 and 2015. As cited in a recent Times-Tribune article, PennDOT reported more than 14,800 crashes statewide involved a distracted driver in 2015 with 66 deaths resulting from those crashes.
In recent years, Pennsylvania courts have considered the issue of whether or not punitive damages should be allowed in cases where a motor vehicle crash may have been caused by a distracted driver using a cell phone. Punitive damages are intended to punish the wrongdoer and deter others from engaging in similar misconduct. Some jurisdictions, including Luzerne county, have allowed punitive damages to proceed against the distracted driver for cell phone use in a motor vehicle crash.
A trial court in Lawrence County, in the western part of the Pennsylvania, recently permitted negligence claims seeking compensatory and punitive damages against defendants who were not present in the motor vehicle crash, but were allegedly sending text messages to a driver who was allegedly reading and responding to the text messages at the time of the fatal crash with a motorcyclist.
In Gallatin v. Gargiulo, the Honorable John W. Hodge overruled preliminary objections and allowed the negligence claims to go forward based in part upon a 2013 case from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Kubert v. Best, that held that the sender of a text message can potentially be liable if a crash is caused by texting, but only if the sender of the text knew or had special reason to know that the recipient would view the text while driving and be distracted by it. The Complaint in Gallatin alleged that the Defendants knew or should have known that the recipient of the texts was operating a vehicle at the time. While recognizing that it was not yet proven that either defendant knew that the recipient of the texts was driving, Judge Hodge ruled that the facts as alleged asserted a sufficient cause of action for the case to go forward with discovery.
Distracted driving contributes to serious and sometimes fatal crashes on roadways throughout Pennsylvania and the U.S. If you are aware that someone is driving, please, do not call or text them. And, if you are driving, please do not text and drive. Always stay aware and safe. A few seconds of texting can change lives forever.
For additional information, contact:
Attorney Brian McDonnell
Hourigan, Kluger, & Quinn, P.C.
600 Third Avenue Kingston, PA 18704