October 27, 2014

New Mexico Supreme Court Reverses the Court of Appeals and Allows Plaintiff's Vicarious-Liability Claim to Proceed to Trial

In a decision released in September, the New Mexico Supreme Court reversed a state Court of Appeals decision affirming the dismissal of a plaintiff's medical malpractice claim against a hospital resulting from the death of a patient. The plaintiff's lawsuit, filed on behalf of the deceased patient, claims that a radiologist employed by the defendant hospital failed to communicate the results of a radiology report to the patient's doctor, preventing the patient from being diagnosed with the colon cancer that later took his life.

woman-in-hospital-1051476-m.jpgThis appeal focuses on the plaintiff's claim against the hospital where he was treated. The radiologist who allegedly failed to send the report to the man's doctor was a contract employee of the defendant hospital, but he wasn't directly employed by them. The district court made the decision, which was affirmed by the court of appeals, that the plaintiff failed to properly allege that the hospital was vicariously liable for the negligence of the radiologist.

The court ruled that the plaintiff's complaint failed to put the hospital on notice that it was being sued for the mistakes made by the radiologist, and it was therefore dismissed.

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October 20, 2014

Collision with Rail Runner Train Kills Driver and Passenger after Driving Around Rail Crossing Gate

It appears that a driver's poor decision has resulted in two deaths from a collision with a Rail Runner passenger train near Albuquerque last week. According to articles from krqe.com and koat.com, New Mexico State Police have determined that the driver of the car that was hit drove around another car that was stopped at the railroad crossing and then around the arms that were down and into the path of the oncoming train. Both the driver, a 35-year-old man, and the passenger, a 34-year-old woman, were killed in the crash.

train-1433332-1-m.jpgAccording to the article, the victims were a couple who had two children whom they had dropped off shortly before the crash and fortunately were not in the car during the collision.

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October 13, 2014

Federal Officials Confirm Breach in Safety Protocol Resulted in First Transmission of Ebola Virus within United States

A worker at a hospital in Texas has tested positive for the Ebola virus after having treated an African man for the virus earlier this month. According to an article from the Wall Street Journal, the original patient from Liberia who was in the United States to visit family was being treated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas for the virus last week.

virus-1295739-m.jpgThe man contracted the virus in Africa but began to show symptoms in the United States and died from the illness late last week. According to federal officials, the healthcare worker who has contracted the virus from him was exposed because of a failure to follow the proper safety protocol for treating a patient infected with Ebola, and an investigation continues.

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October 5, 2014

New Mexico Supreme Court Allows Unsafe Road Lawsuit against State to Proceed to Trial

Last year, the New Mexico Supreme Court reversed the dismissal of a case filed against the State of New Mexico by the families of two people killed in a December 9, 2004 head-on collision on New Mexico State Road 502 near Los Alamos.

road-to-krzywonoga-1-767715-m.jpgThe lawsuit alleges that the State was negligent in maintaining the road by failing to install a concrete barrier between the eastbound and westbound lanes of traffic on the two-mile stretch of SR 502 where the accident occurred. The plaintiffs claim that the State Department of Transportation knew of the unreasonable danger presented by the road, and they request that the State be ordered to pay damages to the families of the victims.

When the case was first heard in district court, the judge ruled that the State of New Mexico was immune from the lawsuit, and the case was dismissed. The plaintiffs appealed the ruling to the New Mexico Court of Appeals, but that Court agreed with the lower court's dismissal of the case, and the plaintiffs were forced to appeal to the New Mexico Supreme Court. The 2013 decision in Martinez vs. New Mexico Department of Transportation, 296 P.3d 468, demonstrated the Court's application of an exception to the doctrine of sovereign immunity, which protects the government and public employees from liability for negligence under certain circumstances.

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September 26, 2014

New Mexico Court of Appeals Refuses to Enforce Arbitration Clause in Nursing Home Neglect Case

Earlier this year in the case of Cecil v. Skilled Healthcare, the New Mexico Court of Appeals made a ruling that allowed a plaintiff's negligence and wrongful death lawsuit against a nursing home to proceed, rejecting a clause in the nursing home contract that mandated all claims be addressed only through arbitration. As a result of this ruling, the family of a man who died while in the care of the nursing home will be able to have their claims heard by the state court and potentially given the opportunity for a jury to find the defendants liable for the death of their loved one.

courtroom-1-1207444-m.jpgArbitration Agreements in Nursing Home Contracts

Many nursing home residency agreements require a prospective resident to agree that any civil claims against the nursing home can only be resolved through arbitration. Arbitration is an alternative form of dispute resolution in which the parties agree to have their dispute heard by an arbitrator, which is a private party that takes the place of the courts. In arbitration, the parties argue their cases in a court-like environment, and the decision of the arbitrator is final and enforceable, as if it were a court order. If a plaintiff has agreed to an enforceable arbitration clause, he or she must file any claim with the arbitrator and follow the rules and procedures of the arbitrator.

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September 19, 2014

Parents of Five-Year-Old Burned By Chemicals on School Toilet File Negligence Lawsuit

The parents of a five-year-old boy who allegedly suffered severe burns after he sat on a toilet seat at his elementary school filed a negligence lawsuit against the school earlier this summer. The family is seeking compensation for the damages that were caused by the chemicals. According to a statement from the boy's mother, she was "horrified to discover that her son had a strip of raw flesh and a burn-like injury with blisters on the back of his thigh" after he returned from school the day of the incident.

toilet-1006471-m.jpgAccording to the lawsuit, another teacher at the school complained about being burned from the toilet seats, although the school has denied the parents access to any reports related to the incident. The boy's parents have stated that their son was forced to miss two weeks of school after the incident, and they felt compelled to transfer him to a different school out of fear for his safety. This lawsuit is in its early stages, so it is impossible to know if the family will be awarded damages for the boy's injury, but so far the school district is denying any wrongdoing.

How Sovereign Immunity Can Play into a Lawsuit

Since the school involved in the incident was a public school, the lawsuit must first prove that the school is not immune to the claim under the doctrine of sovereign immunity. Sovereign immunity is a long-standing legal doctrine that gives the government and government agencies immunity from a variety of lawsuits against them, including many negligence and personal injury claims. There are, however, many exceptions to the sovereign immunity doctrine that allow private citizens to sue a government entity for certain damages.

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September 12, 2014

Number of Pedestrian Deaths in Albuquerque Hits Yearly Average with More than Three Months Remaining in 2014

A recent auto-pedestrian collision at the corner of Coors Boulevard and Iliff road in Albuquerque resulted in the 17th pedestrian fatality this year from traffic accidents in the city. According to an article from KOAT.com, there is an average of 17 pedestrian fatalities from Albuquerque traffic accidents every year, and it looks as if the number of deaths this year could easily surpass that average and then some.

crosswalk-sign-1431140-m.jpgPolice note that the accidents are generally caused by speeding and jaywalking, but a common contributing factor in both types of accidents is alcohol. Drunk drivers are more likely to speed and less likely to notice pedestrians in the roadway, and drunk pedestrians are more likely to jaywalk or step into the road in the path of oncoming traffic and get hit by a car. It can be difficult to reconstruct exactly what happened after an accident, but if the driver of the car was drunk at the time the pedestrian is hit, he or she is much more likely to be held accountable for the accident.

Drunk Drivers in New Mexico

A New Mexico drunk driver who hits a pedestrian can be held accountable for the accident in both criminal and civil court. The driver can be cited for DUI and possibly charged with assault or homicide, depending on the injury caused. In addition to serious criminal charges, a drunk driver who injures or kills a pedestrian can be held responsible civilly for the damages caused. An injured victim can file a New Mexico personal injury lawsuit against the drunk driver and seek compensation for the damages related to the accident.

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September 5, 2014

Alcohol Related Crash in Albuquerque Kills Woman and Baby, Injures 10-Year-Old

A tragic single-vehicle accident in Albuquerque earlier this summer resulted in the death of two passengers, a 30-year-old woman and a 1½-year-old baby, and severely injured the driver's 10-year-old child. The driver of the car, a 41-year-old, was treated at the hospital for minor injuries and booked into an Albuquerque jail in the early morning of July 27 on charges of vehicular homicide. CBS partner KRQE reported that police believe that both alcohol and speed were factors in the saddening crash, and the driver of the car could face serious jail time if convicted of the charges against him.

bar-1-774291-m.jpgDrunk Driving Endangers More than Only the Drunk Driver

This accident demonstrates the unfortunate reality that New Mexico drunk drivers are not only putting themselves at risk when they get behind the wheel, but also other people on the road as well as any passengers in their vehicles. Perhaps the most tragic part of this accident is that one of the children of the suspected drunk driver is now dead and another seriously injured as a result of his alleged conduct. These children were too young to decide for themselves whether it was safe to be on the road with their father driving, and it appears that he was not in a position to make the right decision that night either.

Drunk and Impaired Driving Laws in New Mexico

The New Mexico state legislature has passed laws against drunk driving in an attempt to reduce the number of New Mexico drunk driving injuries and deaths on the roads. If a driver is in control of a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or higher, he or she is considered to be driving under the influence of alcohol.

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August 26, 2014

Federal Court Clarifies Requirements for Slip-and-Fall Cases to Go to Trial

In a decision released earlier this year, a federal court for the District of New Mexico made a ruling allowing a plaintiff's claims against Wal-Mart, which arose out of her slipping and falling on a spilled liquid inside a Wal-Mart store, to be heard by a jury. The defendant had filed a motion asking the court to summarily dismiss the lawsuit because the plaintiff did not present sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the defendant could be legally liable for the plaintiff's injuries under New Mexico law, but the court sided with the plaintiff and allowed the claim to proceed.

caution-wet-floor-sign-1-1006453-m.jpgThe Laws for Premises Liability in New Mexico

Businesses generally have a duty to protect customers and other members of the public from hazards and injury caused by the business's negligence while the customer is on their property. In New Mexico, however, it is well established that negligence on the part of the business owner may not be presumed merely from the fact that an injury has been sustained by a customer while rightfully on the premises.

For a plaintiff to prove negligence in a New Mexico premises liability case, the plaintiff must present some affirmative evidence of negligence. Specifically, a plaintiff must do more than demonstrate the existence of a slippery spot on the floor near the location of the injury. In this case, the defendant used the plaintiff's deposition testimony to argue that because the plaintiff herself did not see the liquid even as she was standing in it, that the spill could not have existed long enough for the court to find the defendant was negligent leading up to the accident.

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August 20, 2014

Fatigued New Mexico Driver Kills Family of Four in Head-On Collision

A tragic head-on collision earlier this month killed a Texas couple and their two children near Bloomfield, New Mexico. A 24-year-old man apparently became drowsy at the wheel and crossed over the center line on US 550, crashing his truck into a van being driven by the family. According to a CBS article, all four occupants in the van were killed immediately on impact, and the driver of the truck was hospitalized with minor injuries. Authorities say the investigation is ongoing, but it is not yet known how many, if any, of the family members were wearing safety belts at the time of the accident.

motorway-at-twilight-1308588-m.jpgThe Dangers of Drowsy Driving

Across the nation, countless accidents are caused by drowsy driving annually. Most of these accidents occur at high speeds on highways and interstates. Because of the speed that is often involved, accidents related to drowsy driving can be more dangerous than other crashes, and proving that a driver's fatigue caused a New Mexico car crash is not always as easy as it should be.

Many drowsy driving accidents are caused by commercial drivers, who are supposed to keep a log of the hours they spend driving and sleeping every day. These logs can be used in a New Mexico personal injury lawsuit as evidence that the driver was dangerously tired at the time of the accident. Most accidents are caused by private drivers however, and it can be difficult to demonstrate that a private driver was not adequately rested leading up to an accident.

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August 13, 2014

New Mexico Man Nearly Loses Genitals in Vicious Dog Attack

Earlier this month in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a 35-year-old man was the victim of a severe dog bite in his groin when he was bitten by a pit bull that was attacking his eight-year-old daughter. According to an article from Reuters, the 90-pound dog bit the man's daughter in the face and lacerated her cheek. The man intervened to rescue the girl and was attacked by the dog, which latched onto his groin. The man was rushed to a nearby hospital and treated for severe lacerations and partial detachment of his genitals. The eight-year-old girl was treated at the scene for minor injuries and released.

black-dog-1437185-m.jpgThe Dangers of Dog Attacks

Dog attacks are common in New Mexico, and they are the cause of many hospitalizations every year. The dog involved in this attack had belonged to the man's grandfather, who had recently passed away. The man was not familiar with this dog, and the family is lucky that the eight-year-old child was not more severely injured in the attack. People should always use caution when they are around dogs that they are not familiar with, especially larger dogs and potentially dangerous breeds like pit bulls.

Small children should never be allowed near dogs that are not known to be safe, and they should be supervised when playing around any animals. Dog bites are extremely painful and more prone to infection than other types of cuts, due to the bacteria present in the animals' mouths. The scars and permanent injuries that are caused by dog bites can be debilitating and disfiguring to the unfortunate victims of an attack.

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August 5, 2014

New Details Emerge in New Mexico Woman's Death During Open Heart Surgery

New details are coming to light about the power failure at the University of New Mexico Hospital on August 11, 2011. The incident resulted in a loss of power in an operating room where a woman was having heart surgery performed. The surgery was aborted, and the woman ultimately died from cardiogenic shock. Last year, a wrongful death lawsuit was filed against the hospital on the woman's behalf. Now, the hospital has filed suit against three contractors who performed an electrical upgrade on the hospital in 2009.

operation-1389104-m.jpg"No Backup Generator Kicked In"

According to an ABQ Journal report, it was over an hour into Kathleen Williams' coronary bypass surgery at UNMH when the power to the operating room went out. Since the power interruption resulted from a rooftop circuit breaker problem, and not a larger power outage, the hospital's back-up generator did not go into effect, and the lights and most machines supporting Ms. Williams were without power for a full 10 minutes. After the power was restored, the operating team decided to abort the operation and sewed Ms. Williams back up. Unfortunately, the shock of the surgery was too much for Ms. Williams to handle, and she died four days later.

Who is Responsible for Ms. Williams' Death?

Last August, Ms. Williams' family filed a New Mexico malpractice lawsuit against UNMH, alleging that the hospital breached the standard of care that they owed Ms. Williams. The suit alleges that the hospital failed to maintain the systems that are critical for the operating room to function, and this malpractice resulted in Ms. Williams' death. Since the family has filed suit against the hospital, the hospital has filed a separate lawsuit against three contractors that installed an electrical upgrade in 2009. The hospital may divert some responsibility from themselves to the contractors, but whether the contractors or the hospital made the ultimate mistake has no effect on the hospital's duty to Ms. Williams.

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July 28, 2014

Medical Helicopter Crashes in New Mexico, Killing Three

A tragic helicopter crash occurred earlier this month in Guadalupe County, about three miles north of Interstate 40. The helicopter, a hospital aircraft out of Santa Fe, was traveling to Tucumcari to pick up a patient in the early morning on July 17 when it slammed into the geological formation known as Mesa Rica. All of the occupants were killed, including the pilot and two crew members. There was no patient in the chopper at the time of the crash. According to a report, the flight crew did not issue any distress calls or a mayday before the crash, and the crew on the ground had no indication that the aircraft was in trouble before the helicopter went down.

helicopter-1365864-m.jpgWhat Causes Aircraft to Go Down?

When a plane or helicopter is involved in a serious crash, the consequences can be tragic. The high speed and altitude that these vehicles travel at multiply the danger from a crash, and survival is unlikely. Without survivors or witnesses, it can be difficult to determine the cause of an aircraft accident. Some accidents are caused by pilot error, while others are the result of mechanical or equipment failure. A crash can be the result of a mistake by the ground crew, caused by a flock of birds, or even the result of something else. When an aircraft goes down, no cause should be ruled out too soon.

Who Can Be Held Responsible for a Crash?

With so many possible causes for plane and helicopter crashes, it is important that victims and their families have a complete and thorough investigation performed on the cause of the crash before accepting an offer of compensation from a potentially responsible party. Depending on the facts surrounding a crash, victims and their families could be entitled to a substantial award to help compensate them for the expenses related to the crash. If a crash victim is a customer or invitee of the pilot or party operating the flight, the passenger may be entitled to additional protections under the law, and someone may be financially responsible for the crash, even when it seems like a complete "accident." It is best for a victim or family member to contact a skilled attorney and start preparing to file a New Mexico wrongful death lawsuit as soon as possible after an accident occurs.

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July 20, 2014

Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office Cracking Down on Illegal Weekend Drag Racing

Residents of Bernalillo County may have noticed an increase in the amount and frequency of illegal drag racing that has been occurring in northeast Albuquerque during the summer of 2014, and the Bernalillo County Sherriff's Office is starting to take action. According to a report by Albuquerque CBS partner KRQE, the Sheriff's office has began to stake out the popular drag racing spots during the peak times for racing, and arrested 10 people for drag racing last weekend alone.

pro-street-169731-m.jpgThe Dangers of Illegal Racing on Public Roads

Car racing is an inherently dangerous activity, and people who choose to race usually make a conscious choice to put themselves at risk when they decide to participate in a race. Unfortunately, there are often passengers or bystanders that have no choice but to suffer the tragic consequences of a driver's choice to race; a resident interviewed for the article knew a person who was recently killed as a result of speeding on Montgomery road, one of the most popular drag racing spots. In last week's stakeout, sheriff's officers arrested one racer who had children in the car with him, and he was charged with child abuse. It is clear that the drag-racing trend endangers more than just the drivers who choose to race.

Legal Liability for Injuries Sustained in a Race-Related Accident

If someone is injured or killed in a car accident that is caused or worsened by drag racing, holding the responsible parties accountable can be difficult. There may be multiple parties at fault, and all of the insurance companies involved will be trying to divert liability from themselves and their clients. Because the racing (and the speeding that goes along with it) is illegal, making a case against a driver who is racing and causes an accident resulting in injury or death may not be difficult in every case. If the injury victim was involved or complicit in the decision to race, the case can be more complicated though the drivers may still be held accountable. Because of the various factors affecting potential liability for damages, when someone is injured or killed in an accident related to drag racing it is important for a complete and thorough investigation to be done at the scene of the accident and afterwards. It is best for anyone affected by a race-related accident to consult with legal counsel as soon as possible after any injury occurs.

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July 13, 2014

New Mexico Enacts Statewide Ban on Texting While Driving

The New Mexico State Legislature has passed a law that now prohibits drivers from texting or checking emails on phones or tablets, even if they are stopped in traffic or at a stop light. According to an article by the Daily Times, the ban went into effect on July 1 of this year. Some New Mexico cities and counties had already enacted similar bans, but with this law, passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Susana Martinez, the ban is now statewide. Drivers that are caught in the act of texting or surfing the web on their phone while driving will be fined $25 for a first offense, and $50 for each subsequent offense. Drivers are still permitted to use GPS devices while driving, and texting is allowed in emergency situations.

mobile-in-hand-704926-m.jpgThe Dangers of Texting While Driving

Although the distraction caused by looking at and using a phone while behind the wheel seems obvious, many New Mexico drivers do not care to stop the practice. According to the article, it appears that cell phone use while driving has contributed to a noticeable increase in collisions in which vehicles are rear-ended. Texting while driving presents a danger that is comparable to drunk driving. According to a study noted in the article, the police receive "a lot" of complaints from concerned drivers that another driver is drunk, but when they pull over the suspected DUI, it turns out the driver was sober, and "messing with their phone."

The New Law's Effect on Accident Lawsuits

This new law will likely make it easier for plaintiffs in New Mexico accident lawsuits to prove that the defendant driver was at fault, if it can be shown that that driver was texting at or before the time of the accident. It is possible to access phone and internet records to determine if a defendant was online at the time the accident occurred. If a defendant driver admits, is witnessed, or can be shown to have been texting at the time of an accident, it is now easier for a plaintiff to make a case that the driver was negligent, and that such negligence was the cause of the accident and any damage or injuries.

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