Recently in New Mexico Laws Category

April 5, 2014

New Mexico Federal Court Rejects Defendant's Attempt to Disqualify Plaintiff's Witness in Slip-and-Fall Case

In a recently released ruling by the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico, the Court rejected a defendant's motion to prevent an expert witness from testifying for the plaintiff in a New Mexico personal injury lawsuit. In Coll v. BNSF Railway Company, the Court agreed with the arguments made by the plaintiff that the testimony of an expert in floor safety would be relevant in the slip-and-fall accident lawsuit that they had filed.

attention-521304-m.jpgThe Accident

On March 18, 2009, an employee of the Defendant Railroad Company slipped and fell down the steps of a locomotive and severely injured his elbow and shoulder. The employee was unable to continue working after the injury. By September of 2009, he had recovered and was able to return to work. When he requested compensation from the company, they offered him only $800 and he refused. The Plaintiff in this case was the appointed trustee of the injured employee, and pursued a personal injury claim against the Railroad Company.

The Lawsuit

As the case made its way toward trial, the Plaintiff proposed to present the testimony of an expert on floor safety. He would testify that the Railroad Company had not constructed or maintained the steps on the locomotive up to the relevant standard of care, and were therefore responsible for the employee's injuries. The Defendant argued that because the proposed expert testimony was from an expert on floor safety, and not train safety, that his testimony would not be relevant or helpful to the fact finder.

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March 5, 2014

"Dram Shop Laws" in New Mexico

Drunk driving accidents occur at a startling rate across New Mexico, injuring hundreds of New Mexicans each year. While the reasons behind drunk driving accidents vary, many times people over consume alcohol at clubs or bars and then get in their car and cause an accident. Awhile back, the State Legislature of New Mexico decided that it needed to hold these establishments liable for the over serving of their customers. These laws are called "Dram Shop laws," and they allow the victims of New Mexico drunk driving accidents to sue the establishment that over served the person who caused the accident.

wine-glasses-1245416-m.jpgNew Mexico's Dram Shop Laws: Madrid v. Brinker Restaurant Corporation

In a recent case in front of the Court of Appeals of New Mexico, the court had the opportunity to explain Dram Shop laws and how they apply in personal injury cases. In the case of Madrid v. Brinker Restaurant Corporation, Madrid was the passenger on a motorcycle that Sanchez was driving. At some point, the motorcycle got into an accident with a van, when the van failed to stop at a stop sign. The driver of the van, whose blood-alcohol content was above the legal limit, pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter and causing great bodily injury with a motor vehicle while driving under the influence was sentenced to six years in prison.

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February 27, 2014

New Mexico Appellate Court Opinion Discusses the Adoption of the Doctrine of Circuity in a Recent Negligence Case

The doctrine of circuity is a legal doctrine that some state and federal courts across the country have adopted to conserve valuable judicial resources. At its heart, the doctrine serves to prevent a plaintiff from seeking damages from a defendant with whom that plaintiff does not have a valid course of action. The recent case of Loper v. JMAR illustrates the principle well:

animals-grazing-1431466-m.jpgLoper, a dairy farmer, hired JMAR to build a new dairy. In turn, JMAR sub-contracted out all of the electrical work to Snyder. After the dairy was built and Loper began operations, he noticed that milk production was much lower than it should have been. Loper looked into several potential causes of the low milk production with no luck, until he hired a different electrician to examine the fences. According to Loper's expert, the way in which the dairy farm was wired resulted in stray electricity that adversely affected the herd's milk production. Loper filed a lawsuit against both JMAR and Snyder claiming negligent construction of the dairy.

As the lawsuit commenced, JMAR sent a letter to Snyder demanding indemnification from the lawsuit. Essentially this letter demanded that Snyder admit that the error was on his part, and that JMAR had nothing to do with the improper wiring of the fence. Soon thereafter, Loper settled out of court with Snyder, who was then dismissed from the suit.

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February 4, 2014

Distracted Driving Accident Claims the Lives of Two New Mexico Men

Last week, a tragic head on collision left two dead and one injured just outside Carlsbad, New Mexico. According to a report by the Carlsbad Current-Argus, the accident occurred on Eddy County Road 605 shortly after 6 a.m. Apparently, a Toyota Tundra was heading southbound on the highway and a Ford Focus was heading northbound. The accident occurred in the northbound lane, when the driver of the Tundra veered over the center line.

mobile-phone-in-hand-1307593-m.jpgBoth the driver and the passenger in the Ford Focus were pronounced dead at the scene of the crash. The driver of the Tundra was also taken to the hospital with undisclosed injuries.

According to the driver of the Tundra, he was getting over to pass a water truck when the accident occurred. However, police could not find a water truck at the scene and the driver's story could not otherwise be verified. Police determined that inattentive driving was a contributing factor to the accident and cited the driver for careless driving and for driving without a seatbelt. Police also determined that alcohol was not a factor in the fatal accident.

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January 23, 2014

New Mexico Man Dies in Iowa Accident Involving Slippery Roads

Earlier this week in Iowa, two men were killed in a rollover accident on Highway 30. According to a report by Omaha.com, one of the men was from Corrales, New Mexico and the other from Plant City, Florida. Apparently, shortly after 7 a.m. the driver of the vehicle lost control of the vehicle and it ended up in a ditch. Both men were pronounced dead at the scene. The cause of the accident is still under investigation; however, police believe that icy winter roads played a part.

icy-conditions-1-929304-m.jpgEven in New Mexico, Slippery Roads Can Be a Hazard

Snow-covered, icy roads are not what most people think of when they think about New Mexico. However, the truth is that parts of our beautiful state do see some significant winter weather for several months out of the year. During these times, it is critical that drivers reassess their driving strategies to account for the condition of the roads and their decreased ability to control their vehicles and come to a complete stop.

When roads are wet, slippery, icy, or snow-covered, the responsible driver will slow down to account for differences in the car's handling. This may mean to drive at a speed that is less than the posted speed limit. In fact, in New Mexico a driver can be cited for traveling the speed limit, if the conditions do not warrant such a speed.

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September 19, 2013

New Mexico Supreme Court Rules Medical Malpractice Caps Apply to Doctors' Professional Businesses

file0001110988167 morguefile username mensatic.jpgThe New Mexico Supreme Court has ruled in three separate cases that businesses formed by physicians are subject to the same medical malpractice caps as individual doctors. According to the high court, professional corporations and limited liability companies established for business or tax purposes meet the definition of a health care provider under the 1978 Medical Malpractice Act (MMA). The 15-page opinion of the court stated that deciding otherwise would thwart the law's purpose of ensuring that doctors and other medical providers in the state had access to malpractice insurance. Prior to the MMA's enactment, some private insurers reportedly began refusing to write medical malpractice policies in New Mexico.

In 2011, the New Mexico Legislature passed a measure that would have made clear such corporate entities were in fact subject to the provisions of the MMA. Governor Susana Martinez later vetoed the bill that would also have increased medical malpractice damages caps across the state.

In New Mexico, medical malpractice occurs whenever a doctor, nurse, hospital, or other health care provider fails to adhere to a reasonable standard of care and a patient is harmed. Medical negligence may also arise from a medical provider's failure to take a medically necessary or appropriate action in addition to an intentional or unintentional act. For example, malpractice may occur when a medical professional fails to offer a patient appropriate treatment, improperly diagnoses an illness, or unreasonably delays medical treatment.

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February 21, 2013

New Mexico Supreme Court Orders New Trial in Wrongful Death Case

1158482_road_blur%20sxchu%20username%20arinas74.jpgThe Supreme Court of New Mexico has reversed a lower court’s holding that the New Mexico Department of Transportation (DOT) is immune as a matter of law from being sued for negligently failing to remedy a purportedly dangerous road condition. In Martinez v. N.M. Dep’t of Transp., the family of a couple who was killed in a 2004 head-on traffic accident on NM 502 near Los Alamos filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the DOT claiming the agency committed negligence when it failed to construct a barrier between oncoming traffic near mile marker 9. In the 1980s, a concrete barrier was reportedly installed on other stretches of the roadway in order to keep similar accidents from occurring but one was not installed where the fatal collision occurred.

Prior to trial, the DOT filed a motion for summary judgment claiming the agency was not responsible for the crash pursuant to the New Mexico Tort Claims Act. According to the DOT, the decision to install a two-way turn lane instead of a barrier despite that there were reportedly no intersecting roads onto which traffic could turn was a design decision that provided the agency with immunity under the Act. At trial, the victims’ family was not permitted to introduce evidence regarding a number of other accidents that occurred at the same location or the numerous citizen complaints that were filed with the DOT regarding the allegedly unsafe roadway. After a jury returned a verdict in favor of the DOT, a New Mexico Court of Appeals affirmed the verdict. The victims’ family then appealed the case to the Supreme Court of New Mexico.

New Mexico’s high court stated that although the DOT was initially granted immunity related to barrier placement on NM 502, notice regarding a dangerous condition could trigger a maintenance issue that the agency may be held responsible for. The court continued by stating the safety of New Mexico motorists would be thwarted by providing the agency with perpetual design immunity. The court also said whether the DOT had sufficient notice of the allegedly dangerous road condition to trigger the maintenance exception to design immunity was a question for a jury. Finally, the Supreme Court of New Mexico reversed and remanded the case for a new trial.

Sadly, motorists and passengers are killed on highways and other roads located throughout New Mexico each day. Although traffic wrecks may be caused by impaired, careless, or simply distracted drivers, they may also result from hazardous or poorly maintained roadways. Car accident victims may be eligible to receive compensation for their medical bills, lost wages, pain, suffering, and any disability that resulted from the wreck. Additionally, those who lost a close relative in a New Mexico traffic crash may be able to collect damages for loss of support and funeral expenses. If your beloved family member was killed in an automobile collision, you should contact a qualified wrongful death attorney.

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October 27, 2011

How Will Federal Gun Policy Impact New Mexico's Medical Marijuana Policy

In September, the federal government sent letters to gun dealers nationwide informing them that medical marijuana card holders in states that have legalized the use of medical marijuana fell within the category of "unlawful drug users"/"addicts", to whom it was illegal to sell a gun. Outrage ensued, and what appears to be the first lawsuit challenging the federal policy was filed law week by a woman whose local gun dealer refused to sell to her because he knew her to be a medical marijuana user. The medical marijuana community has taken solace in the fact that, unless a gun dealer has personal knowledge that an individual is a medical marijuana cardholder, the only apparent way to be identified as such is through self-disclosure. At present, there do not appear to be any mechanisms or requirements for a gun dealer to determine whether the name of a would-be purchaser appears on a list of state medical marijuana card-holders. Thus, if a gun license applicant does not check the "unlawful drug user/addict" box on the gun license application, he or she may be able to purchase the gun notwithstanding his or her use of medical marijuana.

One big question that remains unanswered, however, is how, if at all, the federal government will choose to prosecute the possession of a gun by a medical marijuana cardholder or producer. The unlawful possession of a firearm is one of the more aggressively prosecuted federal offenses, particularly when that possession arises in connection with controlled substances. And while the federal disruption of medical marijuana programs has thus far been sporadic, the federal government seems less likely to exercise similar restraint in prosecuting unlawful possession of a firearm. New Mexico's medical marijuana program, which attempts to disperse licensed marijuana cultivation among non-profit producers and users alike, appears to be especially exposed to the chilling effect of the federal medical marijuana/gun policy since federal penalties for possessing a gun while distributing controlled substances are exponentially higher than those for the simple illegal possession of a gun. It seems likely that we will soon see a high profile federal prosecution of a medical marijuana user and/or producer who was found in possession of a firearm.

February 12, 2011

Changes in New Mexico Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Law

Critical developments in New Mexico uninsured motorist law could provide substantial assistance to people who have suffered serious personal injuries cause by uninsured or under-insured drivers. This could be true even for injured persons who have already settled their uninsured or under-insured motorists claim.

Uninsured motorist coverage is a type of insurance coverage which is purchased from your automobile insurance company. It protects you from damages which may be inflicted by an uninsured driver because your company will step-in and compensate you for all of the damages the uninsured motorist is legally liable for, at least up to the amount of coverage you purchased.

Under-insured motorist coverage is similar; it applies in situations where you have purchased more coverage to protect yourself than the amount of coverage carried by the person who hurt you. For example, let's say that a New Mexico drunk driver causes an accident in which you are injured. Even if he has liability insurance, he may only carry the required minimum coverage of $25,000.00. But if you were hospitalized for even a few days, your medical bills could exceed that amount. And there are, of course, other types of losses, such as lost wages, pain and suffering, etc. This is why it is a good idea to purchase sufficient uninsured motorist coverage. If you have purchased more than $25,000.00 of protection for yourself, you would be able to ask your insurance company to step in and cover the damages which exceed the amount of the at-fault driver's coverage—up to the amount of insurance you purchased for your own protection.

Many people do not even know if they have uninsured motorist coverage, although most do, or understand how it protects them.

The new development in New Mexico law have to do with rules governing how this protection must be offered and presented by insurance companies to their customers. Any person who has suffered serious damages which exceed the amount an at-fault driver's insurance coverage should contact a lawyer if the amount of their own uninsured motorist coverage is less than the amount of their own liability coverage. For example, if you have $100,000.00 in liability coverage, but only $25,000.00 in uninsured/underinsured coverage, you should contact an attorney if you were injured by either an uninsured motorist or by a driver who carried insufficient insurance to cover your damages.

November 19, 2010

Clovis Police Officer Causes Fatal Accident

A recent Clovis, New Mexico car accident, in addition to being a tragic story, highlights New Mexico government liability law, specifically, New Mexico's Tort Claims Notice requirements.

The fatal New Mexico accident occurred when a Clovis police officer ran a stop sign near Grand and Sycamore and struck another vehicle. The driver of the other vehicle was taken to University of New Mexico hospital and is listed in critical condition. Sadly the passenger died as a result of the injuries.

Under New Mexico law, each accident victim is entitled to pursue a New Mexico wrongful death claim. However, under the letter of the law, there is immediate action taken. Depending on the severity of her injuries, the accident survivor may have only three or six months to place the government on notice that there may be a potential claim. With respect to the deceased accident victim, her family and loved ones may only have six months.

These limits arise from the New Mexico Tort Claims Act that requires near immediate notice to the correct branches of the government. Although some New Mexico wrongful death lawyers have been successful in challenging these requirements, there nonetheless remains various legal requirement that must be followed while New Mexico accident victims must also cope with their injuries.

November 7, 2010

New Mexico Class Action Law - Going Extinct?

Are New Mexico class action cases soon to be banned. That is the questions the Supreme Court will answer next week as they decide the future of not just New Mexico class action cases, but all class action matters across the entire nation.

The case going before the Court involves AT&T and the essential question they must decide is whether companies can prohibit class action lawsuits with language embedded in there contracts. If successful, large business will likely all add such language preventing any court from allowing a consumer to take on a massive corporation.

The decision, whichever way it goes, is going to be one of the more monumental cases to address the so called “tort reform” movement.

November 3, 2010

Recovering from a Single Vehicle Accident

News of a recent Albuquerque car accident on Golf Course Rd raises the question of whether New Mexico law allows for a recovery in single vehicle accidents.

Just as the name sounds, single vehicle accidents are those in which only one vehicle is damaged. Under New Mexico law, passengers involved in single vehicle accidents will almost always have a case to pursue. In some situations the driver may also have a claim. This arrises in situations where the accident was caused, or contributed to by: an unknown vehicle, a dangerous condition of road, or a defective vehicle.

Very often these claims go un-pursued when the injury victims mistakenly believe there is nothing that can be done. To the contrary, single vehicle accidents, just like all Albuquerque car accidents, may allow for the injured victims to recover.

For example, in the recent Albuquerque car accident on Golf Course Rd, initial media reports suggest that the vehicle made contact with a guardrail. Regardless of what caused the vehicle to lose control, if it is found that the guard rail was maintained defectively, there may be a viable claim for those injured to pursue.

October 31, 2010

Recovering Money for Rape and Sexual Assault

Various jails have been on the news lately for being home to various sexual assaults and rapes. Similarly, a news story recently surfaced that college professors in Florida kept an off campus apartment specifically to bring young co-eds to. With all this sexual assault news, the questions arises, when can a victim recover money damages for a sexual assault or rape?

At the Fine Law Firm, our New Mexico sexual assault attorneys have handled numerous cases in which our clients were the victims of violent sexual attacks as well as inappropriate sexual relationships. In many of these New Mexico sexual assault cases, the questions is not so much whether the plaintiff can win, but rather whether the plaintiff can recover.

This is because unless the attacker has substantial assets, it is necessary to she that he or she performed inappropriate acts while acting in another capacity. Typically, this means sexual relationships between teacher and student, jail guard and inmate, police officer and suspect, etc... This means that in addition to numerous other factors, one primary issue is whether the wrongdoer has the ability to be financially responsible for the harm caused.

October 26, 2010

New Mexico Jail Abuse - Sexual Conduct is Always Misconduct

New Mexico jail sexual abuse is at the forefront recently with KOB.com reporting that an MDC guard was discovered to have had a "sexual relationship" with an inmate. There is no such thing as a guard having a "sexual relationship" with an inmate. Under the laws of the country and this State, that is rape. There is no such thing as consensual sex between a guard and an inmate, period. As legislatures have universally agreed, a guard having a "sexual relationship" with an inmate is one the most abhorrent abuses of power in the long history of mankind. There are, however, procedural hurdles that powerful private prison lobbies have succeeded in placing between prison rape victims and the judicial system. If this has happened to you, or someone who looks to you for advice, contact an experienced prison abuse law firm.

October 22, 2010

A Homerun!!! - For New Mexico Premises Law

Albuquerque%20premesis%20liability.jpg
New Mexico premises liability, or New Mexico slip and fall cases, whatever name they go by, they generally involve injury of a customer or guest that the property owner is responsible for. Most often these cases involve dangerous conditions or hazardous obstacles that cause injury. Generally, in these cases, it is necessary for the plaintiff to prove that the owner failed to keep the property reasonably safe for use by the visitor.

The New Mexico Supreme Court recently applied premises liability law to America’s pastime, a trip to the ballpark. The case arose when a young child was seated in a picnic area and was struck by a ball during batting practice. Although errant foul balls are commonplace in American ballparks, the plaintiff argued that the stadium should be held responsible for constructing an unprotected picnic area where people sit facing away from the field.

Initially, the District Court judge stated that what is affectionately known as the “baseball rule” applies requiring in limited duty of only screening out the areas immediately behind home plate. Accordingly, the case was dismissed.

On appeal, the New Mexico Supreme Court held that a baseball stadium is not allowed to simply protect the fans behind home plate to satisfy its legal obligation to spectators. At the same time, the Supreme Court did not say that the conduct by the baseball stadium was in fact negligence. Rather the court said that New Mexico’s typical approach to premises liability cases should apply to injuries at the ballpark. This means that the duty owed by this stadium is that of ordinary care to keep the premises reasonably safe for the visitor regardless of whether or not a dangerous condition his obvious. More importantly, the Supreme Court opinion means that this is an issue worthy of discussion before a jury.

As a baseball fan, I’m admittedly mixed. Alarmists will suggest that now all stadiums will be enclosed in glass, and that it is another example of plaintiff’s avoiding personal responsibility. By the same token, it seems reasonable to allow a jury to decide if it is negligent to hold parties where backs are turned to batting practice bombs flying over walls.

Wither way, the Supreme Court decision places additional value on premises liability analysis and law, and if anything limits property owners’ ability to avoid taking resonable action to protect visitors.