25th Jan 2019

Plaintiff, a motorcyclist who was injured when a young woman rear ended him, sued an individual who was miles away from the accident scene in a case handled by Novara, Tesija & Catenacci attorney Kaitlyn A. Cramer. Plaintiff claimed that NTC’s client improperly texted the young woman when he knew she would be driving, thereby distracting her and causing the accident. NTC immediately filed a Motion for Summary Disposition pursuant to MCR 2.116(C)(8), arguing that Plaintiff had failed to state a claim for automobile negligence since the client’s conduct did not actually arise out of the ownership, use, or maintenance of a motor vehicle. Plaintiff responded, citing a New Jersey case where the sender of a text message was actually held liable for causing a distraction to a drive. Plaintiff also cited several Michigan cases where passengers were held liable for negligence and argued that Plaintiff was like a passenger, “electronically present” in the vehicle and posing an unreasonable risk of distraction. In a reply brief, Ms. Cramer indicated that New Jersey’s law was not binding on a Michigan Court, and, in fact, several jurisdictions had already declined to follow New Jersey’s unique precedent. Moreover, holding an individual who is not at the scene of the accident liable for distraction would pose a significant overreach, even if it was desirable to discourage texting while driving. Ultimately, the judge heard oral argument on the motion and then issued a detailed opinion dismissing Plaintiff’s case, echoing many of the arguments made by Novara, Tesija & Catenacci’s attorneys, thereby stifling a potential new stream of claims based on distractions.