Pennsylvania law prohibits a driver’s use of "an interactive wireless communications device to send, read or write a text-based communication while the vehicle is in motion". Since it takes two people to text, is there any liability for someone who sends a text to someone who is driving a motor vehicle? After all, they knowingly may be contributing to the distraction of the driver who is the recipient of the text message.
We may have an answer to this question in the recent case of Gallatin v. Gargiulo. Gallatin was operating a motorcycle and he was slowing to make a right turn. At that time, Gargiulo was driving a vehicle and she was traveling behind Gallatin. As Gallatin slowed his motorcycle, Gargiulo was distracted because she was reading or responding to a text message from her boyfriend, Fend. As a result of her distraction, Gargiulo did not notice that Gallatin was slowing down, and she collided with the rear of his motorcycle, dragging him about 100 feet. Gallatin died as a result of his injuries.
Gallatin’s estate filed a lawsuit against both Gargiulo and Fend. The claims against Gargiulo included violations of the Pennsylvania statute that prohibits texting while driving. The claims against Fend were based upon the theory that he aided and abetted Gargiulo’s violation of the law against texting and driving. It was alleged that Fend knew, or should have known, that Gargiulo was driving when he sent her the text. Furthermore, it was alleged that Fend knew or should have realized that Gargiulo would read or respond to his text while she was driving. The Court of Common Pleas ruled that if these allegations are proven, Fend may be held liable for contributing to Gargiulo’s distraction and for the resulting collision that killed Gallatin.