The Maine Supreme Judicial Court recently released its opinion in a case involving a personal injury lawsuit against a city. According to the facts outlined in the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was visiting the city hall when he tripped and fell down several steps. He ended up slamming into the concrete floor and then proceeded to crash into glass doors. City employees contacted emergency personnel, while other employees performed rudimentary first aid. The plaintiff alleged that one of the employees at the Clerk’s office asked him to sign some insurance paperwork in order to be transported to the hospital, but the city disputed this fact.

time-273857_960_720A few months after the fall, the plaintiff spoke with someone at City Hall and told them he had the intention to file a claim against the city. Approximately 197 days following the fall, the plaintiff’s attorney sent a letter of a claim against the city, and the plaintiff then went on to file the complaint with the superior court. The city moved for summary judgment and claimed that the plaintiff did not comply with the state’s Tort Claims Act because he did not submit a written notice within the 180-day timeline. The plaintiff argued that he substantially complied because the City knew he was injured on their property, and he verbally told them he would bring suit. Ultimately, the Supreme Court of Maine found that the plaintiff did not comply with the statute by providing verbal notice. Written notice was required.

The Importance of Complying with Negligence Statutes of Limitations in New Mexico

As the above case illuminates, it is extremely important that individuals comply with the various statutes of limitations that apply in New Mexico personal injury cases. No matter how strong a plaintiff’s case is, if those procedural requirements are not met, it is likely that the case will be dismissed.

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The Supreme Court of North Dakota recently released its opinion in a case in which a woman alleged she sustained injuries after attending a fireworks display. Evidently, the woman attended a fireworks display at a fairgrounds that was free of charge to the public. The woman was looking for a place to observe the fireworks show, but she stepped onto a floor board in the grandstand and fell to the ground. Apparently, the floorboards were rotted, so when her weight was placed on the boards, they were compromised and split.

ferris-wheel-1007910_960_720The woman went on to sue the fairgrounds, claiming that they were negligent in maintaining the grandstand. Both parties stipulated to what had occurred, but the defendant moved to dismiss the claim, stating that no genuine issues of material fact existed. The lower courts agreed with the defendant and found that the defendant was protected by the recreational use immunity statute of the state. The plaintiff argued that the statute was not applied correctly. However, the court found that was not the case. The plaintiff specifically argued that the fairgrounds still had a duty to supervise. The court determined that the supervision requirement does not override the recreational use immunity, and thus they affirmed the lower court’s finding.

Implications of New Mexico’s Recreational Use Statute 

Almost every state has a recreational use statute that is designed to educate the public on the responsibilities of public and private land and the implications if one is injured on that land. Most states immunize landowners if they permit the public to enter their premises for recreational activities. However, the states can vary drastically in regard to what land is protected and what is considered recreation.

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Over the past 18 months, auto manufacturers have announced numerous recalls, reaching into the millions of vehicles. These recalls have involved a number of issues, ranging from faulty ignition switches to airbags that sporadically deploy without warning. In a recent case brought by a couple who sustained minor injuries in a Saturn Sky, the jury found that although the vehicle was “unreasonably dangerous” because it contained a faulty ignition switch, that was not the cause of the accident, and GM should not be held liable as a result. However, the judge overseeing the trial warned followers not to read too deeply into the jury’s verdict, since it may not be an accurate prediction of how other cases may turn out.

keys-473462_960_720Dangerous Components Make for Dangerous Vehicles

Auto manufacturers have a duty to their customers to make safe vehicles. Of course, despite the best efforts of a manufacturer, a defective part may be included in a vehicle, making it dangerous to drive. Most of the time, when this occurs, a manufacturer will issue a voluntary recall in order to fix all the potentially dangerous vehicles. However, a recall may be issued too late to help all drivers. In these cases, injured motorists may be able to seek compensation for their injuries through a product liability case against the auto manufacturer.

Ignition Switch Claims

Over the past few years, drivers of various GM vehicles have reported problems with the ignition switches installed on the company’s vehicles. When the ignition switch is defective, it can slip out of place and cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle. In some cases, drivers have also reported that the vehicle becomes difficult to stop once the switch slips. The defective switches have resulted in hundreds of serious accidents, some fatal.

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Earlier last month, the Supreme Court of Utah issued a written opinion regarding whether a four-year-old child could be held liable for his own negligent actions. In the case, Nielsen v. Bell, the court ultimately concluded that a four-year-old child cannot, as a matter of law, be found negligent for his own actions. Only children above the age of five are capable of negligence under the state’s law.

kindergarden-569198_960_720Neilsen v. Bell:  The Facts of the Case

Neilsen was babysitting the Bell’s four-year-old son. At some point during the parents’ absence, the young boy picked up a plastic toy dolphin and threw it at Neilsen’s face. The toy struck her in the eye, and she ultimately lost all vision in that eye. Neilsen filed a lawsuit against the Bells, alleging two theories. First, she claimed that the Bells themselves were liable under the theory of negligent supervision. Second, she claimed that their son was individually liable to her under the theory of negligence.

The court hearing the case dismissed the negligent supervision claim, finding that there was insufficient evidence to submit the claim to a jury. However, the court did allow the case to proceed against the young boy on the theory of negligence. The Bells filed an immediate appeal to a higher court to review the decision.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Oregon issued a written opinion in a premises liability case filed against a city employee, holding that the employee was not entitled to immunity under that state’s “recreational use” statute. In the case, Johnson v. Gibson, the court determined that the employee was not properly considered an “owner” of the land, and therefore he was not entitled to the immunity afforded to landowners who allow the public to use their land for recreational purposes.

central-park-1389420The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff, Johnson, was injured when she stepped into a hole while jogging in a public park. The hole had been dug by the defendant, Gibson, in the course of his employment as the city employee charged with maintaining the park. Gibson dug the hole to fix a sprinkler that had previously malfunctioned. Johnson filed a lawsuit against Gibson, as well as his supervisor, Stilton, arguing that their collective negligence in leaving the hole unattended resulted in her tripping and getting injured.

The case was filed in a federal trial court. However, since the accident occurred in Oregon, the federal court was required to apply Oregon law. So the federal court paused the case and asked the Oregon court for advice on interpreting the Oregon recreational use statute that was at issue in the case.

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Pedestrian accidents have the potential to be some of the most dangerous types of accidents, given the complete lack of protection a pedestrian has from an oncoming vehicle. While pedestrian accidents account for about 10% of the total number of auto accidents nationwide each year, they represent 15% of the total number of auto-accident-related fatalities. Thus, on average, a pedestrian accident results in more serious injuries than an accident with just motor vehicles involved.

crosswalk-1532024Pedestrian accident cases present a number of potential legal issues that may come up in a trial between the injured pedestrian and the motorist who struck them. One of the most common issues is whether the pedestrian was at fault in the accident. This situation may arise if a pedestrian is hit while crossing the street where no crosswalk is present.

New Mexico is a “pure comparative negligence” state, meaning that a plaintiff will still be entitled to recover damages for their injuries even if they are partly at fault. This applies no matter what percentage of fault the judge or jury assigns to the plaintiff. However, the plaintiff’s recovery amount will be reduced by their percentage of fault.

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Although most people spend a great deal of time and energy trying to avoid accidents, sometimes getting into an accident is out of their control. In many accidents, it is quite clear who is at fault. However, many times, when multiple vehicles are involved, it can difficult to ascertain and apportion liability.
Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 1.18.34 PMGenerally, before a party commences a personal injury lawsuit they must be able to show that a named defendant owed them a duty of care, that they breached that duty, and that the breach resulted in actual or proximate injuries. However, a problem arises when the person who caused the actual injury puts forth a defense claiming that some event occurred after the defendant’s allegedly negligent act that ultimately caused the accident. This is called an intervening cause.

The only way this defense will be viable is if the defendant’s actions were interrupted by some unforeseeable event. However, even if there is an intervening cause, the defendant may still be liable if the event was foreseeable. Further, there are two distinct types of intervening causes: dependent and independent. A dependent intervening cause is when the defendant sets a series of events in motion. The only way the defendant will avoid liability in this situation is if a response was considered “extraordinary.” On the other hand, independent intervening causes are resulting events that occur completely independently of the original action by the defendant; this is considered unforeseeable.

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In New Mexico, in order to prove a case against a negligent driver, the plaintiff must show four main elements. Simply stated, these are: duty, breach, causation, and damages. The most often overlooked element of a negligence claim, surprisingly, is the damages element. However, it is also one of the most vital.

car-wrecked-845143_960_720Establishing that a defendant was at fault for an accident is a meaningless exercise unless there is something to be obtained as a result. In many cases, the injuries will speak for themselves. However, in other cases the injuries may be internal. Perhaps the stress and anguish of having been put through a traumatic event exists, or else the loss of companionship a family member experiences when a loved one is hospitalized for months on end. In any case, it is very important to a suit’s overall viability to be able to pinpoint what the damages were.

Recent Case Results in Zero Dollar Award for Plaintiff

Earlier this month, an appellate court in Nebraska upheld a jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff that consisted of zero dollars. In the case, Lowman v. State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance Company, the plaintiff was injured as a result of an accident with an underinsured motorist. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the underinsured motorist, which resulted in the plaintiff receiving some compensation; due to the low policy limit, it failed to cover the costs of any pain and suffering caused by the accident.

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Throughout someone’s life, it is very likely that they will be prescribed medication to treat a condition or illness. When a medication is prescribed, it is important that doctors explain the risks and course of treatment to the patient. In many situations, however, doctors do not fully disclose risks and assume that patients will read the lengthy warnings prepared by the pharmaceutical companies that often come attached to their prescriptions.

warning-1191935When an individual has been injured or killed because of a medication side-effect, they will often attribute negligence to the prescribing physician. Treating physicians are often thought to have the primary duty to warn patients of the risks of ingesting certain drugs. In some circumstances, physicians will try to shift responsibility onto the prescription manufacturer.

Many states follow the “learned intermediary” doctrine. This doctrine explains that the prescribing physician acts as the intermediary between the manufacturer and the patient. This means that the manufacturer is supposed to advise the physician of the risks and the physicians should convey these to the patient prior to prescribing them medication. Some steps physicians should take to make sure their patient is aware of all of the risks involve reading the FDA guidelines, reviewing the patient’s medical history to determine any risks, and advising patients of available alternatives.

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In a recently released ruling, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed a lower court’s decision in a personal injury case that had denied the plaintiffs any relief for their claim. The case was filed by two plaintiffs, who were struck by an out-of-control vehicle while standing at a walk-up window paying for fuel at a gas station owned by the defendant. Based on the high court’s ruling, the plaintiffs will be permitted to conduct further discovery on the issue of the foreseeability of the danger that resulted in their injuries, and they may be able to collect compensation from the defendant for their injuries.

gas-pumps-1-1447222The Plaintiffs Are Struck by an Out-Of-Control Vehicle Approaching the Gas Station

The case of Stanley v. Scott Petroleum Corporation was filed after the plaintiffs were injured while paying for gas near an exterior walk-up window at a gas station owned by the defendant. According to the most recent decision, the brakes malfunctioned on a car that was traveling on the highway adjacent to the station. The vehicle then entered the parking lot going 45 miles per hour and collided with a set of vending shelves, knocking them into the plaintiffs and causing injuries. The plaintiffs filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant, alleging that the walk-up window was in an unreasonably dangerous spot and that the defendant negligently failed to place a curb or barriers between the roadway and the walk-up window.

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