Counsel for Defendants: We call Mr. Riley Gardner.
Judge: Mr. Gardner, please come up to the witness stand.
Clerk: Raise your right hand. Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?
Riley Gardner: Yes, sir.
Counsel for Defendants: Please state your name and age for the record.
Riley Gardner: My name is Riley Gardner. I'm 18.
Counsel for Defendants: Could you tell us about yourself and your family?
Riley Gardner: I'm a high school senior now. I live with my mom and three younger sisters. I watch my sisters after school until Mom gets home from work, then I go to my job and get back by 10 p.m. I do homework, then go to bed. My dad died in a car accident about six years ago, so it's just the five of us at home.
Counsel for Defendants: Tell us what happened on the evening of May 11, 2007.
Riley Gardner: Well, our soccer team had just won regionals. Mom let me have the car, so my next-door neighbor Alex Williams and I picked up my friend Javier and his cousin Sid, and we all went to a party. I promised to meet Taylor Bowling — another friend of mine — for coffee later at The Wireless Café. I figured she'd be doing homework there, like usual, and wouldn't care when I showed up.
Counsel for Defendants: What happened at the party?
Riley Gardner: We played pool and hung out and, at one point, a couple of us decided to go get something to eat at Chandelier's. Javier, his cousin Sid, and my friend Alex were in my car, and we were on the Parkway when my cell rang with a text message from Taylor. It said, "ADN . . . CB NOW."
Counsel for Defendants: And what did you understand that to mean?
Riley Gardner: That meant "Any day now . . . ! Call back now!" All-caps means the message is serious — it's like yelling. She was driving me crazy. She knew I needed some space to be with my friends and that we were going to meet up later.
Counsel for Defendants: What did you do then?
Riley Gardner: I text messaged her back: "soon." But a minute later, my cell rings again and she's texting, "NOW!" — in all-caps. I'd had it. It was late, and raining, so I just hit reply, then tossed the phone to Sid and asked him to type "n-t-w-d," which means "no texting while driving." I wanted Taylor to get the picture that I'd be in touch with her as soon as I could.
Counsel for Defendants: What happened after that?
Riley Gardner: Next thing I know, the car is skidding out of control and hits a pole. I'm very sorry about Sid getting hurt, and I know he and his parents and Javier will always blame me for everything, but I don't think it really was my fault. That's why they call them accidents. The road was slippery — and actually, we saw several cars that had skidded out of control that night.
Counsel for Defendants: Thank you. Nothing further, Your Honor.
Judge (to Counsel for Plaintiff): Counsel?
Counsel for Plaintiff: Mr. Gardner, how many times in your life would you estimate that you have sent text messages while operating a motor vehicle?
Riley Gardner: I have no idea.
Counsel for Plaintiff: Would it be fair to say that you've sent at least 100 text messages while operating a motor vehicle?
Riley Gardner: I don't keep count, but yeah, that's probably true. I've got a lot going on. It's not a big deal, 'cause I can text without looking down at the cell.
Counsel for Plaintiff: Isn't it true, Mr. Gardner, that texting requires glances at the keyboard and screen — even for the most proficient users?
Riley Gardner: Well, yeah, but I can glance down and back real quick.
Counsel for Plaintiff: Did your mother ever see you texting while driving?
Riley Gardner: Maybe a few times.
Counsel for Plaintiff: Did she approve of it?
Riley Gardner: She just said that I should focus on the road.
Counsel for Plaintiff: Mr. Gardner, you've just admitted that you've probably sent more than 100 text messages while driving. I would remind you that you are under oath. Do you expect us to believe that, right before the accident in question, you asked Sidney Young, whom you'd just met, to intervene in an argument with your girlfriend and text message her "n-t-w-d"— "no texting while driving"?
Counsel for Defendants (standing, outraged): Objection, Your Honor!
Counsel for Plaintiff: I withdraw the question. Nothing further.
Judge: Any redirect?
Counsel for Defendants: Yes, Your Honor. Mr. Gardner, were you sending a text message at the time the vehicle collided with the light pole?
Riley Gardner: No, I was not. By then, I had already tossed Sid the phone.
Counsel for Defendants: Thank you. No more questions.
Judge: Mr. Gardner, you may step down. Defense Counsel, your next witness?