Great Hang Up: Texter not liable for driver's crash

6:53 AM, May 31, 2012   |    comments
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Morristown, NJ (AP) -- A judge in New Jersey says a woman who texted her boyfriend while he was driving can't held liable for a car crash he caused while responding to her, seriously injuring a couple on a motorcycle.  

The judge on Friday dismissed claims against Shannon Colonna in lawsuit filed by the injured couple, David and Linda Kubert. 

The Kuberts' lawyer says Colonna's text messages to Kyle Best played a role in the September 2009 wreck in Mine Hill. Stephen Weinstein says he'll appeal the decision. 

Colonna's lawyer says she had no control over when Best would read and respond to the message.

The case is believed to be the first of its kind in the country. 

A lawyer for the injured couple argued that text messages from Shannon Colonna to Kyle Best played a role in the September 2009 wreck in Mine Hill. But Colonna's lawyer argued she had no control over when or how Best would read and respond to the message.

State Superior Court Judge David Rand agreed with Colonna's lawyer, dismissing claims against the woman in a lawsuit filed by crash victims David and Linda Kubert, who are also suing Best. David Kubert had his left leg torn off above the knee, while his wife eventually had her left leg amputated. 

Stephen Weinstein, the Kuberts' attorney, has argued that Colonna should have known Best was driving and texting her at the time. He argued that while Colonna was not physically present at the wreck, she was "electronically present" and asked for a jury to decide Colonna's liability in the case. 

But Colonna testified at a deposition she didn't know whether Best was driving at the time.

Best has pleaded guilty to distracted driving, admitting he was using his cellphone and acknowledging a series of text messages he exchanged with Colonna around the time of the accident; the content of the messages is unknown. Records show Best responded to a text from Colonna seconds before dialing 911. 

Best was ordered to speak to 14 high schools about the dangers of texting and driving and had to pay about $775 in fines, but his driver's license was not suspended. 

Lawyers for Best and Colonna declined to comment after the hearing, and neither couple was in court.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved