Many courts have ruled that persons operating motor vehicles, who are distracted due to the use of a cell phone for calls or messaging, can be liable on the basis of negligence for accidents they cause. They also may face criminal liability for manslaughter. And, if the driver is operating a vehicle in the course of employment, his or her employer may be vicariously liable for the accident. This is an important reason for churches, like any employer, to adopt a cell phone policy.
A recent New Jersey case recognized an entirely new form of liability associated with the use of cell phones. A New Jersey court ruled that a person sending a text message to another may be legally responsible for injuries caused by the recipient's distracted driving, if the sender knew that the recipient was driving a vehicle at the time of the communication. This article will summarize the facts of this extraordinary ruling, explain the court's ruling, and assess its significance to churches and church leaders.