Recently in Slip & Fall Category

December 18, 2014

Update: Family Bringing Wrongful Death Suit against New Mexico School District

There have been updates on the death of a New Mexico student that a previous blog entry addressed. Earlier this year, a New Mexico student was fatally injured in her high school's parking lot. According to a new report, apparently there were some dangerous conditions in the school's parking lot that led to the student falling out of a moving vehicle. The student hit her head as she fell and was flown to University Medical Center in Lubbock. Unfortunately, she passed away at the hospital.

parking-lot-1092981-m.jpgThe student's family is bringing a suit based on premises liability. The family is alleging that the school knew about the dangerous conditions in the parking lot but failed to remedy them. Additionally, other reports stated that the school did not have any sort of security in its parking lot. The family is currently asking for damages in the amount of $2.5 million or more.

Premises Liability in New Mexico

In New Mexico, there are two major types of premises liability claims. Choosing the appropriate kind is dependent upon whether the accident occurred on private or commercial property. In New Mexico, if the owner of the property was a business owner, it should ensure that the property is safe for those that will be on its property. Laws concerning private owners vary depending on the jurisdiction.

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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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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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November 27, 2010

Lawsuit Paranoia Works

Earlier today I went to a local gym. While walking past a main hallway I saw two employees carrying a cooler full of water. Moments later I saw them wiping up water they had surely spilled. While it was nice to see their concern for their customers, I overheard one say to the other, "Now we won't have to pay a $50,000 settlement."

The comment made me think. As an Albuquerque personal injury law firm, we have handled hundreds of slip and fall cases. I have also heard countless lawyer jokes and slurs about the legal system. But in this situation, it became clear that the motivation to protect customers from personal injury stemmed not from concern for their safety, but rather concern for a lawsuit. Sadly, this seems to suggest that the legal system, specifically the New Mexico personal injury system, despite its shortcomings, truly does help protect people. And until the concern for safety takes second stage to lawsuit paranoia, the system does in fact make the world safer, or at least my gym.

October 22, 2010

A Homerun!!! - For New Mexico Premises Law

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.

November 25, 2008

New Mexico Slip and Fall Cases Worth More Than Peanuts

In the middle of I-25 in Albuquerque are numerous chain restaurants. One such restaurant is the Texas Roadhouse. Anyone who has been to the restaurant is aware of the unique signature of the restaurant. Peanuts. Lots of peanuts. Considered a torture chamber to anyone with peanut allergies, the restaurant encourages patrons to not only eat the free peanuts, but to scatter the shells throughout the restaurant all over the floor.

Recently, a premises liability or slip-and-fall claim arose out of Texas from an injury that occurred at one of the restaurants. After eating, a woman slipped and fell on some of the shards and sustained a serious injury. The case went to trial and the jury recently awarded over $96,000 for the injury. Aside from housing one the same restaurants, the case brings to light New Mexico premises liability law.

Generally in New Mexico, the owner of a property is responsible if a visitor is insured due to a dangerous condition of defect that the owner created, or should have known about yet did nothing. As with the Texas verdict, juries often focus on comparative fault and essentially ask why the victim didn't look where they were going. However, this is not enough to avoid responsibility. Even with comparative fault, a New Mexico slip and fall attorney may be able to recover damages for their client in such cases.

Pardon the pun, but client's the recovery is New Mexico slip and fall cases is often more than just peanuts.

December 12, 2007

Government Liability: Maximum Limits

Generally when people are injured through the negligence of any government entity, they do not need to worry if there is enough insurance. However in certain situations, the government may not be responsible for the full value of someone’s injury.

The New Mexico state Legislature has imposed a limit on the amount of money that any branch of government would have to pay an injured victim. Only $300,000 can ever be awarded to cover medical expenses, and only $400,000 can cover the value of the injury itself including pain and suffering, lost wages, disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life, etc. This means that, in New Mexico, somebody can die as a result of the New Mexico government’s gross negligence and still only recover $400,000. Throughout the legal community this is known as a cap, meaning that the New Mexico government’s exposure to pay somebody for their injury is capped at $400,000 for the injury itself.