Recently in Personal Injury Verdicts Category

August 6, 2015

State Supreme Court Addresses Defendant's Motion To Compel Arbitration in Personal Injury Suit

Late last month, the Supreme Court of Utah released their opinion regarding a personal injury suit that involved a car accident. A woman was driving in Logan, Utah when she crashed into another vehicle. The man and his wife brought a suit against the woman, alleging loss of consortium in addition to a traditional negligence claim.

Thumbnail image for white-semi-truck-1465662.jpgWhen they filed their lawsuit, the couple requested arbitration under a specific judicial code. This choice had a rewards cap and barred certain types of recovery, such as punitive damages. However, they likely opted into this because of the efficiency of arbitration. It should be completed within 150 days of its election. In order to opt out of arbitration, a rescission should be made within 90 days of the election and no less than 30 days from the hearing. The couple did not file this notice, yet they moved to change their election and avoid arbitration because they became privy to certain important information and wanted to add a defendant.

The defendant opposed this motion and instead wanted to compel arbitration. The lower court denied the defendant's motion. The court went on to explain that, although the motion would circumvent the election terms, it was appropriate because of pertinent information that was discovered after the fact. In the released opinion, the Supreme Court reversed the lower court's finding in part and affirmed in part. The Court found that the couple needed to comply with the arbitration deadlines, but it allowed them to add the additional party without mandatory arbitration.

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May 12, 2015

State Supreme Court Remands Truck Accident Case For New Trial Due to Evidentiary Issue

A decision has been issued by the Supreme Court of Texas in regard to a personal injury case brought by a woman who was injured in two car accidents just a few months apart. According to the decision, the woman was driving in Zapata County, Texas when a truck rear-ended her vehicle. The woman claims that her aunt took her to the hospital. However, the record does not show any medical records from that visit to the emergency room. Shortly after the accident, the woman went to see a surgeon after she began experiencing neck and back pain. She began physical therapy for approximately two months.

i-haul-299523-m.jpgShortly after her physical therapy ended, the woman was involved in yet another car accident. This time, she was transported to the hospital in an immobilization board. She told the doctors that she was having pains in her head, neck, and chest. She then went back to the doctor at the end of the month, when it was discovered she had two herniated discs.

The woman then sued the employer of the truck driver from the first accident, claiming that his negligence caused her injures. Both she and the defendants called different doctors as expert witnesses. The defendants claimed that the woman was not suffering from a trauma-related injury and the second accident could have been the cause of her pain. The lower courts dismissed the plaintiff's pretrial motion to exclude all evidence of the second accident. However, the Supreme Court of Texas found that evidence from that accident was relevant and remanded the case for a new trial.

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April 11, 2015

New Mexico Appeals Court Reverses Large Punitive Damages Award Against Insurance Company

In a recent case, the New Mexico Court of Appeals reversed a jury verdict that found an automobile insurance company liable for acting in bad faith. The case involved Progressive Casualty Insurance Company (Progressive), which alleged that a family's insurance had expired when one of the family members was involved in an accident.

gavel-3-1409593-m.jpgIn 2002, the family contacted Progressive to add a car to its existing policy. Progressive then provided conflicting information about the date in which the policy premium was due to be paid. A notice from the company indicated one date, but in a follow-up call the company's automated phone system provided another date. The family then paid the premium, but only after one of the family members was involved in an auto accident. One person was killed and another severely injured in the accident.

Progressive sued the family, alleging that its policy had lapsed by the date of the accident. The family countersued, believing that the company was acting in bad faith by refusing to provide coverage. A jury sided with the defendants, finding that the family was covered when the accident occurred and that Progressive had acted in bad faith. The jury then awarded the family $37,000 in compensatory damage, $11.7 million in punitive damages, and $1.4 million in attorney fees.

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January 20, 2015

Hospital Attempts to Get Case Dismissed Because of Statute of Limitations

In a recent case, the Supreme Court of Mississippi affirmed a lower court's decision not to dismiss a case against a hospital because of a statute of limitations issue. A woman died at a hospital in June 2007, and in October of that year her beneficiaries provided a notice of claim against the hospital with the county chancery and county attorney. The beneficiary did not provide any notice to the hospital's CEO at this point. The following year, the beneficiary sued the hospital and at that point provided the hospital's CEO with the complaint.

fractured-time-1435044-m.jpgThe hospital's attorney moved to dismiss the complaint. They argued that the plaintiff did not follow legal protocol and provide the hospital with notice of the suit, and therefore the suit was now barred by the statute of limitations. The Supreme Court found that when a plaintiff files a complaint, the statute of limitations is tolled, and the presuit notice was sufficient because the suit was filed within a year of the second complaint.

Importance of Statute of Limitations in New Mexico

Every state has certain enumerated rules and regulations regarding when specific civil lawsuits can be brought. These time limits are referred to as the statute of limitations, and they must be strictly adhered to. In New Mexico, the time period on the statute of limitations begins to run when the claim arises. Sometimes this is when the accident occurred or when an injury is discovered.

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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 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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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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May 20, 2014

New Mexico Supreme Court Finds That Lack of Foreseeability Does Not Prevent a Premises Liability Claim from Going to Trial

The New Mexico Supreme Court recently handed down a decision that may significantly impact the ability of plaintiffs who are injured on another's property to have their claims heard by a jury. In the case of Rodriguez vs. Del Sol Shopping Center Associates LLC, NM 2014(Docket Nos. 33,896 , 33,949) the Court reversed a lower court's judgment that threw out the plaintiffs' suit and instead sent the case back down to go to trial.

slip-hazard-1429630-m.jpgThe Facts

In March of 2006, a woman who had previously been diagnosed with epilepsy had a seizure while driving her car in the parking lot of the defendant's shopping center. The woman lost control of her vehicle and crashed through the window of a medical clinic, killing three people and seriously injuring several others. The injured parties and families of the deceased filed a New Mexico premises liability lawsuit against the shopping center, alleging that they failed to properly protect the patrons from the danger of a vehicle driving through the windows and that the failure resulted in the injuries and deaths.

A New Mexico Premises Liability Lawsuit

To be successful in a New Mexico premises liability lawsuit, a plaintiff must first show that the defendant owed them a duty. Second, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant breached that duty, and third, the plaintiff must show that the defendant's breach of that duty was the cause of an injury or damages. Generally, business owners owe their customers, or "invitees," what is called a duty of ordinary care under the circumstances. The breadth of this duty varies with the facts of each case.

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June 22, 2011

Drug Companies Liable For Fatal DWI Crash

A drunk driver caused a New Mexico car accident on Interstate 25.  A child died.  The child’s mother filed dramshop claims for wrongful death and personal injuries against three liquor establishments.  She also filed wrongful death and personal injury claims against three drug companies.  Drug company employees had treated the drunk driver to eight hours of free drinks. 

In the early evening of April 29, 2005. a mother was driving southbound on Interstate 25 in Albuquerque with her three young children.  An SUV was speeding southbound at a speed in excess of ninety miles per hour.  The SUV collided with the rear of the mother’s vehicle.  Her seven year old child suffered fatal injuries.  The mother and two other children suffered serious injuries. 

The SUV driver was arrested after leaving the scene of the accident.  A test for alcohol showed that she had a blood-alcohol concentration of .21.  That was more than two and a half times greater than the DWI level of .08.  The driver was later convicted of aggravated DWI, leaving the scene, and fatal child abuse.  On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed the conviction for fatal child abuse.  The court noted that the driver could have been prosecuted for vehicular homicide.

The driver had spent the afternoon drinking alcohol in a restaurant and two bars in the Northeast Heights.  Pharmaceutical company employees had invited the employees of an Albuquerque doctor’s office to lunch.  The lunch included alcohol.  After lunch, the hosts and the driver spent the rest of the afternoon drinking in two bars in Uptown.  When the driver left the second bar, she was “thoroughly intoxicated.” 

The mother made claims for wrongful death and personal injuries against the restaurant and the two bars where the driver had spent the afternoon drinking.  The mother also made claims against the pharmaceutical companies and their employees who had sponsored the lunch and the drinking.  The trial court dismissed the claims against the pharmaceutical companies and their employees under the Liquor Liability Act.  The trial court held that the companies and the employees were not liable as “social hosts” under the Act. 

The mother appealed the dismissals to the New Mexico Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court held that the drug companies and their employees had been properly sued as “social hosts” under the Liquor Liability Act.  The mother’s claims for wrongful death and New Mexico personal injury damages against the drug companies, the drug company employees, and the three liquor establishments will now be adjudicated in the trial court.

November 11, 2010

Kick in the Face Ends in Slap in the Face

Our New Mexico personal injury lawyers, have seen hundreds upon thousands of cases. Nonetheless, every once in a while a personal injury case arises that results not only in shock, but a bit of a smile.

One such case involves a resent Florida resident who settled a $650,000 claim for a traumatic injury to his face that caused double vision and broke numerous bones. Clearly this is not funny. However, the humor exists when the cause of the injury comes to light.

Apparently, the plaintiff sustained his serious injury while a patron at a strip club. The broken bones did not occur from an overzealous bouncer, but rather a stripper who incorporated a kick move into the routine. The problem is that the kick move landed her metal healed shoe into the man's face.

Just makes you think...

November 9, 2010

Wrongfully Prisoned Lawsuit

Currently the based-on-a-true-story movie Conviction is circulating in theaters. Elsewhere, it is becoming abundantly clear to many that the wrongfully-accused and wrongfully-convicted stories continue to emerge all over the place. ABC News' Steve Weinberg, recently ran a story about Joshua Kezer. Kezner's story begins in 1992 following a Missouri murder. After a delayed investigation, Kezner was charged, tried, and convicted of the crime and jailed nearly 16 years.

Without any physical evidence the conviction hinged on a handful of prison inmates claiming to have heard Kezer confess. Following a shift of political landscape and a new sheriff, the case was reopened and evidence discovered in the police file that cleared Kezer. After his release from prison, Kezer filed a civil suit against the law enforcement officers that put him behind bars. Prohibited from filing civil suit against the prosecutor, Kezer and his lawyers pursued a case against the law enforcement agents who withheld evidence in federal court under a well known government liability statute, 1983.

Qualified immunity cases, or 1983 lawsuits, enable the wrongfully charged and prosecuted to seek compensation when law enforcement exceed constitutional limitations or act in bad faith.

Although the final settlement of the case is confidential, it is likely in the millions.

August 18, 2009

Large New Mexico Medical Malpractice Reversed

Albuquerque medical malpractice verdicts are hard to come by. Heck, New Mexico medical malpractice lawyers will tell anyone that these case are some of the most hardly fought for anywhere in New Mexico. It is because of this that a recent New Mexico Court of Appeals decision is rippling through the state.

A while ago there was a large multi-million dollar jury verdict that was awarded in a New Mexico nursing home abuse case. The decision set various records and sent a strong message to New Mexico nursing homes on how that had to treat their patients. The case was reversed on what some may consider a legal technicality, while other may recognize as a material issue. As a result of the appellate court's ruling, the massive verdict has disappeared like a David Copperfield assistant.

The claim was based on part on the trial court's ruling that the nursing facility, under a legal theory of agency, was responsible for the conduct of the nursing home staff. Rather than present this particular issue to a jury, the trial judge decided that it was essentially an issue of law rather than fact. Unfortunately, the New Mexico Court of Appeals thinks differently and has ruled that the jury should have been allowed to decide if the New Mexico nursing home was responsible for the conduct of every staff member. As a result of the decision, the multi-million dollar verdict is gone, and the case is back to where it was years ago.

November 22, 2008

Can Civil Law Stop Hate Crimes?

A Kentucky jury recently awarded $2.5 million to the victim of a hate crime beating. The victim, mistakenly believe to be an immigrant was beaten by the Ku Klux Klan. The attack left the boy, now 19, with constant nightmares and nerve damage. Although the attackers also went through the criminal system, the civil trial created a unique opportunity that was the focus of the plaintiff lawyer's goal. To obtain a high enough verdict to bankrupt the organization.

It is amazing that an organization so wrapped in violence and hatred can be brought down by the civil legal system. It is similar to Al Capone being apprehended not in the course of a heinous robbery or crime, but rather for not paying taxes on time.

The ability to connect the organizations and assets to the conduct of its numbers is similar to recognize liability principles that will hold an employer responsible for the negligent conduct of an employee. By personal injury lawyers, this is known as "respondeat superior."

Applying this unique employer/employee theory of liability against organized crime opens the door to other applications. In the right circumstances there may be possible cases against gang violence or other hate crimes.