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Texter Not Responsible For Textee's Car Accident, Rules Judge 200

Posted by Soulskill
from the sdn-otbrk-of-cmn-sns dept.
linuxwrangler writes "After mowing down a motorcycling couple while distracted by texting, Kyle Best received a slap on the wrist. The couple's attorney then sued Best's girlfriend, Shannon Colonna, for exchanging messages with him when he was driving. They argued that while she was not physically present, she was 'electronically present.' In good news for anyone who sends server-status, account-alerts or originates a call, text or email of any type that could be received by a mobile device, the judge dismissed the plantiff's claims against the woman."
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Texter Not Responsible For Textee's Car Accident, Rules Judge

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  • The collision appears to be caused by negligence, and was not simply an accident. "Accident" is a euphamism, a weasel word designed to make the violation appear less severe.

    Please stop politicizing the headlines, Slashdot.

    • Well in law, at least in Canada accidents are described to something that is done by fault with no malice or direct negligence intended. Criminal negligence causing bodily harm is what this case amounts to.

      • Canada also has reasonable tort laws and malicious prosecution rules that would have prevented this case from ever getting before a judge in the first place.

        It was certainly negligence, and the people in question have every right to go after the insurance company of the driver for lost wages, hardship, etc. The insurance company can, in turn, go after the driver to recoup their losses, as you are correct that this is criminal negligence and the driver was not obeying the rules of the road. The driver's girl

        • by Mashiki (184564)

          Canada also has reasonable tort laws and malicious prosecution rules that would have prevented this case from ever getting before a judge in the first place.

          Yeah that doesn't stop people from going insane, and trying to make it like the US though. At least sanity rules the day.

    • by mooingyak (720677)

      The collision appears to be caused by negligence, and was not simply an accident. "Accident" is a euphamism, a weasel word designed to make the violation appear less severe.

      Please stop politicizing the headlines, Slashdot.

      I've generally heard (and used) the word accident to describe pretty much any collision other than one where the driver was deliberately aiming to hit someone.

      • by narcc (412956)

        I've generally heard (and used) the word accident to describe pretty much any collision other than one where the driver was deliberately aiming to hit someone.

        I've seen "deliberately caused an accident" a few times, as absurd as it sounds.

    • by whoever57 (658626)

      "Accident" is a euphamism, a weasel word designed to make the violation appear less severe.

      Admit it, you have been watching "Hot Fuzz" [imdb.com] haven't you?

    • by nxtw (866177)

      The collision appears to be caused by negligence, and was not simply an accident.

      The way I read the article, nothing suggests the collision was caused by negligence. I think the article would have been written differently if this was the case. An attentive driver might have resulted in a 25 mph collision instead of a 45 mph collision, or hitting a car in another lane to avoid hitting the motorcycle...

    • by Fjandr (66656)

      That's a word which has been used for a very long time, and does not in any way imply there was no fault. While it may lessen the impact of the concept, it's not really that much different than referring to a public toilet as a "bathroom" or "restroom." It is a common colloquial term, well-understood within this context (at least in the US). The cause for its use is much more likely to be as a result of the editor in question being a product of their culture than an actual intent to politicize the story.

  • by rts008 (812749) on Friday May 25, 2012 @06:00PM (#40114479) Journal

    I agree that the texter is not responsible for the accident, but the initial ruling:'the slap on the wrist' that the textee got, well, IMHO, $775.00 USD is way too small compensation for two innocent victims, both of which had to undergo leg amputations as a result of textee's 'distracted driving'.

    • by mazarin5 (309432) on Friday May 25, 2012 @06:04PM (#40114545) Journal

      IMHO, $775.00 USD is way too small compensation for two innocent victims

      That was a penalty, not compensation. They're still sorting that bit out.

      • by Hatta (162192)

        Funny how when we're talking about life and limb, the penalty is much less than the compensation. But when it comes to mp3s, the penalty is far far in excess of what would be compensatory.

        • by mazarin5 (309432) on Friday May 25, 2012 @06:15PM (#40114691) Journal

          Don't you understand why? If you watch a youtube video with a song in it, you're depriving the artist of money for their work. It's just like cutting off the hands that played the instrument. But in today's society, these rights are held by corporations which are made up of thousands of people. That's thousands and thousands of hands that you cut off on purpose. Of course there's a higher penalty than smashing off two legs accidentally!

          • by Galestar (1473827)

            If you watch a youtube video with a song in it...It's just like cutting off the hands that played the instrument.

            I have no idea where you crazy copyright-lobby-sympathizers come up with these absolutely ridiculous analogies, but seriously - no one is buying it!

            • I have no idea where you crazy copyright-lobby-sympathizers come up with these absolutely ridiculous analogies, but seriously - no one is buying it!

              That's the problem. They're downloading it for free instead.

            • by Kalriath (849904)

              You clearly have trouble identifying satire.

              At least, I hope that's satire.

        • by Lehk228 (705449)
          775 is the fine for texting and driving / reckless driving there is still a lawsuit going on and driver is going to (deservedly) get slammed on this, hard.
      • by rts008 (812749)

        Ahh...that was not mentioned in TFA.
        The few bits they did give out was the $775 fine and 50 hours community service.

        I would have linked to both rulings if I had submitted this one. :-)

        Thanks for the update/correction!

      • Can somebody with more knowledge ofthe US legal system explain what appears to be a tiny penalty for crashing into and permanently disabling two people? I would have expected a more serious punishment.

        Is this a typical punishment for this kind of crime?

        • by mazarin5 (309432)

          In my city, you have to keep the sidewalk clear of ice. You can get a $100 penalty for not doing it. It's rarely enforced unless they're trying to lay pressure on an absentee landlord, or if you live in a wealthier area.

          Anyway, if somebody slipped and hurt themselves because I didn't maintain my sidewalk, I would totally get slapped with a $100 fine. The city wouldn't pursue it further because that's all I've done wrong. On the other hand, the person who slipped could sue me for medical bills, etc.

          In this

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          >Is this a typical punishment for this kind of crime?

          This is america. As no corporations were harmed in the accident, they don't give a shit.

        • by nxtw (866177)

          FTA, the charge was "distracted driving", not something closer in meaning to "crashing into a vehicle/motorcycle and causing injury" or even "failure to control vehicle". The fine & speaking tour seems more reasonable to me considering it was for the distracted driving charge. I've known people to get more tickets in no-injury collisions.

          Reading the article, it looks like this happened in 2009, and no other charges or details were mentioned - so I'm guessing there is more to the story here. There are

        • by Burning1 (204959)

          The US legal system seperates civial law suits from criminal law.

          Criminal law applies punishment based on what laws were broken. This usually includes fines, and may include punishment such as license suspension and jail time. If he had been drunk when he hit the motorcyclist, he'd probably be in jail now. But texting isn't treated the same way, so the punishment isn't severe. The fines here are probably along the lines of 'distracted driving, resulting in bodily injury.' The facts of this case are probably

        • by blueg3 (192743)

          Penalties are generally small and systematic. For moving violations (driving offenses), you often don't even get much protection in the way of trial by jury. You speed, you get a penalty. They're independent of the damage caused. Since they're easily and often incurred, they're relatively cheap.

          Since they're systematic, they can be sorted out very early in the case. Damages are sure to come later (after someone is determined to be at fault). Damages in this cause are sure to be substantial.

        • by sco08y (615665)

          Can somebody with more knowledge ofthe US legal system explain what appears to be a tiny penalty for crashing into and permanently disabling two people? I would have expected a more serious punishment.

          Is this a typical punishment for this kind of crime?

          The US has a rather long history of tempered justice, going back to John Adams defending the British soldiers accused of deliberately firing into a crowd and killing civilians, the infamous Boston Massacre. The mob wanted hangings, but Adams famously said, "facts are stubborn things" and the jury agreed and acquitted most of them.

          The fines and jail time only ramp up when there is intent, or disregard for the law (e.g. hit and run). If you screw up accidentally, you're expected to pay damages equivalent to,

        • by JDG1980 (2438906)

          Can somebody with more knowledge ofthe US legal system explain what appears to be a tiny penalty for crashing into and permanently disabling two people? I would have expected a more serious punishment. Is this a typical punishment for this kind of crime?

          In the U.S. it is very easy to get a driver's license, and punishments for driving offenses is usually little more than a fine and some "points" on the license. (Too many points means you lose your license.) You will also be charged higher insurance rates

        • by dissy (172727)

          Is this a typical punishment for this kind of crime?

          Yes, it's fairly typical for the government fine.

          In cases like this there are two transfers of money. One to the government, and one to the victims of the crime.

          Generally the fine that goes to the government is in the 2-3 digit range, occasionally 4. Rarely is there ever a fine at the $10,000 level or above that goes to the government or courts.

          The next fine that will happen goes to the victims. This however will likely be huge, since he will have to pay for both medical bills, pain and suffering, and ot

    • by bitt3n (941736)

      I agree that the texter is not responsible for the accident, but the initial ruling:'the slap on the wrist' that the textee got, well, IMHO, $775.00 USD is way too small compensation for two innocent victims, both of which had to undergo leg amputations as a result of textee's 'distracted driving'.

      wow, that's brutal. he won't be able to afford an iPhone 4S without signing up for a new contract.

    • by Isaac-1 (233099)

      I see no one here has yet said, If your going to ride motorcycles you should accept at least some of the risk of injury. Cars hit each other all the time, human reactions are not perfect, sometimes they could be avoided, maybe even most of the time, but when a car hits another car at 20-30mph there is a fair chance that only minor injuries will occur, when a motorcycle hits (or is hit by something) something at 20-30 mph there is a fair chance major injuries will occur. Sure motorcycles can be fun, so can

  • if i get the sense i'm talking to someone who is driving, i will say "are you driving? i'll get off the phone"

    it's not about being a hyperactive boy scout, it's not about the law, it's about living with myself. because if i am on the phone with someone while they are driving and i am AWARE of it, then i am responsible for continuing the conversation, and helping to keep the driver distracted

    i have to live with myself. and i have to respect myself

    • by Technician (215283) on Friday May 25, 2012 @06:21PM (#40114765)

      If you don't answer the IM, it remains in your inbox just like an email. If you are unavaliable to take the call, IM, or Email while driving, let it go to voicemail, inbox, etc. I'll still be there when you have time to deal with it.

      In many places distracted driving due to phone use is illegal. My contacts know I don't take calls while driving, but I am aware I have a message, either voicemail or text.

      The illegal act or dangerous act was the driver's responsibility. I'm not sure if texting while driving is lillegal where he was, but it is still dangerous, which was demonstrated by the driver.

    • by JWSmythe (446288)

      It's not your responsibility to make sure the other person is behaving properly. Do you ask if they just put the baby in the bath, or put a pan full of oil on the stove? I kind of doubt it.

      On plenty of occasions, I have answered to say "I'm driving, I'll call you back in a few." If I'm of the belief that where I am driving is too difficult to even do that, I let the phone ring. It's the difference between a long straight empty highway, or navigating city streets with ot

    • by adolf (21054)

      it's not about being a hyperactive boy scout, it's not about the law, it's about living with myself. because if i am on the phone with someone while they are driving and i am AWARE of it, then i am responsible

      Only if you are Catholic.

      • by adolf (21054)

        Oh. And I almost forgot:

        And if you ARE Catholic, then you simply go to confession sometime afterward, and it's all cool.

        Morally, at least. As so-defined.

        YMMV (my own mileage certainly does vary).

  • Posting on FB is for everyone I think while texting is for a specific person so I think even if the judge had ruled otherwise it would not have applied to FB stuff. That said, it was the responsibility of the driver to not text while driving, unless he got a text message saying " I know you are driving lets sext chat"
  • by gl4ss (559668) on Friday May 25, 2012 @06:01PM (#40114505) Homepage Journal

    "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."

    would have been pretty far fetched if you'd be liable for sending txt's as distraction to someone though... quite ridiculous even. but as publicity stunt it works ok. anyhow, terrorists should just drive around in vans with gas containers texting each others it seems, it's a pretty low fine for putting two people on insurance living for the rest of their lives. (yay a card!).

    • by BronsCon (927697)
      Ok, the fines should have maybe been much MUCH higher, that much I definitely agree with. However, I don't see a problem with him being allowed to keep his license given that he has been ordered to carry out community service at locations that are likely outiside any reasonable walking distance from his residence; were he not ordered to perform this community service, I'd say he should lose his license for somewhere between 1 and 5 years, to be determined by a jury who spent enough time in the courtroom wit
      • by Faluzeer (583626)

        Hmmm

        He should have been banned from driving for 5+ years and been given a much larger fine. The community service is absolutely nothing, it is certainly not going to act as any form of deterrent for other morons that drive whilst texting.

        • by BronsCon (927697)
          As I said, a definite revocation of his license in lieu of the community service. However, since he was sentenced to carry out the community service, it would have been inappropriate to revoke his license.
          • by Faluzeer (583626)

            No, it is inappropriate to not revoke his license. Making his way to the schools on foot or public transport might give him sufficient time to reflect on his actions and the damage he has caused to these peoples lives.

          • by Kalriath (849904)

            No, it's really not inappropriate at all. He's proven that he can't be trusted to handle a motor vehicle, suspend his ass. Don't want his kind on the roads, and maybe having to pay a few bucks for bus fares might teach him a lesson.

            I don't see why punishment for committing a crime has to be convenient for the criminal. That's the sort of dumb shit that got him the pathetically low sentence in the first place.

      • by jamesh (87723)

        However, I don't see a problem with him being allowed to keep his license given that he has been ordered to carry out community service at locations that are likely outiside any reasonable walking distance from his residence

        Maybe forcing him to ride a motorbike would be better punishment?

        If I were the judge i'd definitely be making inquiries about banning him from holding a phone capable of any form of messaging for 5 years though.

      • The fact that he gets a light fine means nothing when the *CIVIL LAWSUIT* is prepared. Unless otherwise mentioned, I assume he has liability insurance. His insurance company will probably settle out of court with the motorcyclists. They have an open+shut case, and a jury will be very sympathetic to them, so the insurance company will probably pay very close to their initial demands.

        Going after his girlfriend is sleazy, however. That crosses the line.

  • by Faluzeer (583626) on Friday May 25, 2012 @06:14PM (#40114675)

    Hmmm

    The only person responsible for the accident was the driver of the car. He chose to read the text messages whilst driving. What I cannot understand is the reasoning from the courts as to the decision handed down to the driver of the car. Such a serious accident and he did not even get banned from driving? As a motorcyclist that has to contend with car drivers paying insufficient attention to the road on a daily basis, I have to state that the driver should have been penalised much more severely for his actions.

    • As a motorcyclist that has to contend with car drivers paying insufficient attention to the road on a daily basis, I have to state that the driver should have been penalised much more severely for his actions.

      I ride motorcycles too, out on the open road though, never in traffic... Punishing the absent minded drivers won't mean a damn thing when you finally win the Darwin award.

      • I also ride motorcycles. After reviewing many fatal motorcycle accidents, I"ve come to the conclusion that 99% of them can be avoided by careful riding on the part of the biker... even while sharing the road with brain-dead car drivers.

        #1 rule for avoiding fatal accidents is to slow the fuck down while crossing an intersection. In every single fatal accident involving a left-turning car that I've seen, even though technically the car is at fault, the biker was traveling at excessive speed. Most city streets

        • by c.r.o.c.o (123083)

          #2: avoid twisty two-lane canyon roads, and if cannot, go slow and keep to the right side of the lane. Disproportionately large number of accidents happen on these roads. Some because squids think they're Rossi and crash by themselves, and some because of oncoming cars crossing the center line. By simply not going to these type of roads, you reduce your chance of dying by several orders of magnitude.

          Then what's the damn point in riding a bike? Save on gas, crawl from point A to point B and claim "I rode 100

          • You didn't read the paragraph which said,

            "I personally will be violating this rule because I ride sportbikes, but if you ride Harleys or Goldwings you can do this."

          • by Isaac-1 (233099)

            This attitude just goes to show that as a bike rider you see the highways as your personal race course / play thing

        • by adolf (21054)

          #1, because I couldn't bear to read any further:

          In Ohio (at least), most city streets (as in, everything not otherwise-marked or a designated State Route) are restricted to 25 MPH.

          Navigating a turn at an intersection in any vehicle at 30MPH is likely to get one all-sorts of fucked up if the road is not abundantly clear, because nobody around expects that.

          In social aspects, it's also likely to alert your passengers to the fact that you're a madman, because you're going fast enough to scare them.

          In traffic as

  • by Karmashock (2415832) on Friday May 25, 2012 @06:45PM (#40115013)

    If you get found guilty of filing a frivolous lawsuit... you should be punched in the face.

    I'm not going to bother levying a fine. These idiots are litigious jerks and probably are broke anyway. Why bother with that. Just have the bailiff pop him in the face.

    Barbaric you say? Not at all. Barbaric would be one person randomly coming up to another person on the street and doing it. The difference between kidnapping someone for ten years and prison is the court system.

    So if the court determines you filed a frivilious lawsuit... one solid pop to the face. Nothing more or less. You want to file another suit? Go for it.

    I have no idea if this would cut down on bullshit lawsuits but I'd like to experiment with it.

    What about corporations? That's a little more complicated. I don't want to just punch the lawyer in the face because for all we know he's just some young legal grad they hired to be a punching bag. I'd probably go with the head of their legal department or possibly their CEO. God knows Steve Jobs should have been punched in the face a few times went he decided to touch off this patent Armageddon.

    Possibly a stupid idea... but it would make judge judy more interesting to watch. Can you just picture this in a tv court show? That would be delicious.

    • by Greyfox (87712)
      Ooh! Dibbs on that job! I was just thinking the other day, there are a lot of people out there who need to be punched in the face, and I'm just the person for the job! I need an Obama executive order creating the US Office of Face Punching and making me the director! We could issue a license to punch anyone in the face who needs it! After I got back from a week at the Fox studios, I could get to work on this sort of thing! I'd probably need some helpers though. There seem to be a lot more people who need a
      • No. This is for court ordered events and really it's best for the bailiff to do it. It reduces overhead that way. An immediate reaction after which the guilty party being duly punished in a court of law may go.

  • They tried this at a driving school in Belgium. Most people realised pretty quickly how dangerous it was [youtube.com].

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