November 2011 Archives

November 11, 2011

Judge Awards $4.25 Million In Wrongful Death Lawsuit Involving Police Shooting

Following a New Mexico police misconduct Judge Theresa Baca awarded $4.25 million to the family of a man fatally wounded by an Albuquerque Police Department officer in 2009 and criticized the department’s training methods as “designed to result in unreasonable use of deadly force.”

Andrew Lopez was nineteen years old and unarmed when he was shot and killed by an APD officer on February 8, 2009. The Lopez family, who was represented by the Albuquerque personal injury attorneys, Fine Law Firm, received no offers of settlement before trial.

The Albuquerque Police Department had contended that Andrew Lopez had an automobile ashtray in his possession and that the APD officer who fired the fatal shot believed that the ashtray was a gun. In addition, at least one Albuquerque Police Department officer contended that Andrew Lopez was in the process of “committing suicide by cop.”

It the hope of the Lopez family and the Fine Law Firm that the verdict will result in better training of Albuquerque Police Department officers and a policy of being more careful before using deadly force.

November 6, 2011

Family Receives $950,000 in Officer Involved Shooting

On December 4, 209 Rodrick Jones was shot in the back by an APD officer who was subsequently fired by APD as a result of his conduct involving the shooting.

Police shooting attorneys representing the family, Joe Fine and Brad Goodwin, pointed out that APD’s suggestion that Rodrick Jones was involved in a robbery was not supported by the fact that his fingerprints were not at the residence; there was an absence of stolen property in his possession; and Mr. Jones was in possession of any burglary tools. Rodrick Jones was a forty-two year old father of seven, a former US Air Force Security Officer and a security guard at Kirtland Air Force Base.

The $950,000.00 settlement is, to the family, recognition that APD made a serious mistake and that APD will attempt to improve its practices and procedures regarding the use of deadly force.

November 3, 2011

Commodification of an Injury - Putting a price to pain

One of the greatest challenges for an Albuquerque injury attorney is the task of placing a monetary value, or commodifying, serious injury or death. In wrongful death cases, for example, we represent families for whom no amount of money could even approximate making them whole. Nevertheless, even in these catastrophic cases, it is our professional duty to pursue the prospect of a monetary settlement. It is difficult for our clients to avoid feeling that commodifying their loss is commodifying their loved one's life.

In an article entitled "Commodification in Law," Philosophy Professor Nick Smith discusses the moral and ethical questions raised by the valuation of injury in the legal system. Much of his article is devoted to the theoretical impact of legal commodification on social and political systems, but he identifies two issues that apply directly to plaintiffs in wrongful death cases.

1. According to Professor Smith, commodification tends to reduce or oversimplify human life by "translating concrete particulars into abstract classifications." The danger here is that the character and nuance of someone who dies wrongfully--the very aspects of a life that make it so precious--wash away in the effort to convert the loss of that life into a dollar amount.

2. On a related note, Professor Smith suggests that the reduction of the loss of a life to a dollar amount diminishes the spiritual meaning we attribute to that life. "It seems as if our very sense of wonder dulls," Smith writes, "when we view the world through economic lenses." Professor Smith goes on to observe that:

"Just as the natural sciences chip away at our self-understanding as beings somehow spiritually distinct from the rest of the material in the universe and we begin to look like merely another physical system, commodification drains metaphysical meaning from our lives, bodies, thoughts, and loves."

Thus, there is a danger that even when a family obtains a favorable monetary result after a New Mexico wrongful death case, the result feels like an erosion to the memory of the loved one, a secondary loss. Here are some suggestions for avoiding that feeling:

-Recognize the limitations of a wrongful death case. It is not an attempt to make you whole, or to place a value on the life that was lost. If you view your case with either of these goals in mind, you will surely be disappointed. A wrongful death case is simply an effort to obtain some monetary compensation for the loss--it should not define the legacy of your loved one.

-Choose a lawyer with a genuine curiousity about you, your family, and your lost loved one, one who will celebrate and be motivated by his or her memory.

-Choose an attorney who will work with you on setting and achieving non-monetary goals that may include, for example, educating the public and/or institutional reform.

-Communicate with your personal injury lawyer about any discomfort you feel with the impact of commodification, and the legal process as whole, on the memory of your loved one.