Selfie Torts: Maine Driver Allegedly Takes Selfie With Passengers Just Before Wrapping Car Around Tree

635764834292659337-100-0723Jordan Toner, 29, allegedly not only engaged in reckless drive-in in front of witnesses, but may have created the world’s worst record of the it with a selfie while driving . . . just before he hit a tree in Maine.

Police say that Toner was driving with seven passengers when he leaned over to participate in a selfie. The two females in the front seat suffered a fractured nose, cuts, and a possible back injury. Neither were wearing seat belts. Two male passengers also suffered cuts and injuries. The passengers were identified as Jesse Toner, 31, Adam Toner, 35, Elizabeth Toner, 28, Katharine Ferrill, 28, Kyle Ferrill, 28, Chris Dean, 29, and Meaghan Brown, 28.

Toner is facing a charge of failing to maintain control of a motor vehicle due to being distracted.

What struck me about this case is the question of whether the passengers could sue. It is clearly negligence for a driver to engage in a selfie. However, the selfie included at least some of the passengers. That raises a serious Plaintiffs’ conduct question of comparative fault or contributory negligence. Maine Code Revised Title 14, Section 156 establishes a comparative negligence standard under the modified or partial model where a plaintiff’s own negligence only bars recovery if the judge or jury find he or she was 50% or more responsible for the accident, injury, or death. Would participation in the selfie constitute a 51% contribution? I think that it would, but such things are often left to the jury. The two women without seat belts would clearly be barred under such a standard in my view.

What do you think?

Source: WCSH6

16 thoughts on “Selfie Torts: Maine Driver Allegedly Takes Selfie With Passengers Just Before Wrapping Car Around Tree”

  1. I’m convinced that smart phones are addictive. The more you use them, the more you need them. I saw a cartoon the other day about St Peter complaining that none of the new angels will talk to anyone. They just stare hopelessly at their hands and pretend to text.

    Maybe it would be a good idea to put the phone in the center console when driving, to remove the temptation.

  2. When people fail to obey the laws of Mankind, the laws of Nature will apply, since they can be neither repealed nor ignored. In this case, they are lucky the laws of motion and centrifugal force didn’t send a couple of them through the windshield. Anyone who messes with a cell phone while driving is a candidate for the Darwin Awards. The most stupid eventually eliminate themselves, thereby allowing the smarter and stronger to survive.

  3. Graduated driver’s licenses are a valuable tool in preventing deaths. They restrict the number of passengers a 16/17 year old driver can have, the hours of the day they can drive, etc. Limiting the number of passengers cuts down on the distractions and possible victims. Maybe they need to keep the driving restrictions for some idiots like this 29 year old until they’re 50.

  4. There are two issues here. Firstly and most importantly, laws were broken by the negligent driving of the person in control of the car. He should be nailed to the ‘prevention’ cross as an example of what can happen with stupid people and cell phones. Punishment to set an example is the most important part of the justice system. Secondly the passengers should all jump on a major lawsuit bandwagon, for the same reason. If the results of this sort of activity become more severe then perhaps the nonsense will subside, a little.

  5. Can’t these kids count their lucky stars nobody was killed, learn from the incident, and move on with their lives?

  6. In another article posted by JT, where the driver fails to signal 100 feet prior to the turn, JT mentions that it is something that most drivers do repeatedly. The officer in that story actually did his job and stopped the driver, initially only wanting to hand him a warning. That officer was roundly criticized for doing his job. Why not use that same justification here? What’s the big deal about taking a selfie while driving? Sure, it’s distracted driving, but hell, everyone does it! Wonder if that will be used as part of the defense? Any officer, who would have noticed the conduct, prior to the accident, and dared to stop the vehicle, would have been vilified for doing his job–check out the story about the Ohio officer.

  7. If there are two passengers in the selftie and one driver then they contributed 66% to the accident, including taking off their seatbelts.

  8. Ship of fools….I mean car of idiots.

    I think they need to take another try at the tree.

  9. Well, this is interesting. I see JT as leaning toward plaintiffs in civil cases. And, while I worked for plaintiff’s attorneys in some cases, my specialty was working for the defense. That said, if a passenger sued the driver, even though the passenger was in the selfie photo, I would find them less than 50% contributory. The driver is the captain. He/she must maintain control of the vehicle. The driver initiated the reckless act of taking a selfie while driving. The driver took the selfie. As a juror, I would rule for the plaintiff.

  10. mr. turley wrote, “What struck me about this case is the question of whether the passengers could sue.”

    of course they can sue. in this country, just about anybody can sue for just about anything.

    under those state laws where the modified comparative negligence standard is used, the finder of fact (either judge or jury) will allocate proportionate responsibility among all participants in the event (including, in the appropriate situation, non-parties). i can’t imagine any scenario where the driver will be found to be less than 50% responsible. so if any of the passengers sue the driver (and owner), they will certainly win some recovery since their proportionate share will necessarily be less than 50%.

  11. The first names sort of tell a story of dork America. But the rain in Maine stays mainly in the plane. I would suggest that the tree jumped out in front of them to get itself in the photo. On the other hand, the tree should have standing to sue in Maine and it should sue for its damages or its relatives should sue if the tree died.

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