top of page


“What Time Will You Be Home?” Distracting a Driver Via Text Could be Actionable in PA

May 5, 2016

Share to:

In a case of first impression, Judge John W. Hodge of the Lawrence County Court of Common Pleas allowed negligence and wrongful-death claims to go forward against a defendant involved in a fatal car accident.  In<em> <a href="">Gallatin v. Gargiulo</a></em>, defendant Laura Gargulio was texting while driving and hit plaintiff on his motorcycle, dragging him approximately 100 feet.  The complaint included claims against Joseph Gargulio and Timothy Fend, alleging that Laura was reading and/or responding to text messages sent by either Joseph or Timothy.
Fend filed preliminary objections on the basis that plaintiff had no cause of action to recover against him. However, Judge Hodge noted a 2013 ruling by the New Jersey Court of Appeals, <em>Kubert v. Best</em>, which held that as a matter of civil common law, the sender of a text can potentially be liable if an accident is caused by texting and the sender knew or had reason to know the text would distract the driver. Judge Hodge allowed for the possibility that defendants Timothy and Joseph could not be held to the standard established in <em>Kubert</em>, but felt that the law weighed in favor of keeping the men as parties at least through the discovery period.
Although this ruling currently has limited precedential weight, it could signify a major change in motor vehicle liability law. It would provide additional avenues for a plaintiff to recover and could have a significant effect on motor vehicle coverage in the future.  We will continue to follow this case to determine if it denotes a larger trend in Pennsylvania jurisprudence.
Given the Court's ruling that the texting / non-driving defendants would remain active defendants "through the discovery period," we suspect these defendants will be able to seek dismissal if they can demonstrate they were not aware the driving defendant was actually driving at the time.  Thanks to Remy Cahn for her contribution to this post.  Please email <a href="">Brian Gibbons</a> with any questions.


bottom of page