Recently in Slip & Fall Category

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

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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.

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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.