The first time I saw this story, I thought it had to be a joke. It was some mid-August prank. But, after doing some checking, it turns out that it is real!
Two judges in New Jersey's court of appeals said "texters could be held responsible in civil court for distracting a driver, provided they had a good reason to believe that the driver would actually respond." Read that again. Yes, a court decided that you could be held responsible for distracting a driver if you have a reason to believe the driver will respond to your text.
So, if your neighbor sends you a text that says "The house is on fire," under this ruling, your neighbor could be held responsible if you respond with "Call 911" since most people would respond to that text. This seems like an unnecessary increase in potential liability.
We all agree cell phones can be dangerous. They have their time and place. Texting and driving is not something we should do. But, the onus is on the driver to know when to use his phone and when to put it away. It would be almost impossible for someone to know that their friend or spouse is driving at the time a text is sent to them. This case sets a bad precedent in New Jersey.
Be careful with your cell phone usage. Use it only when necessary and only when safe. Do not text and drive.