ladder injuryIn a recent opinion, a state appellate court discussed whether a casino could be held liable for injuries sustained by an independent contractor when while crossing a small gap between the casino’s main building and a stationary gaming boat. The case presents an interesting issue that frequently arises in New Mexico personal injury cases involving the negligence of a party that was acting as an independent contractor.

The General Rule Involving Independent Contractors

In general, companies that retain the services of an independent contractor are not liable for the contractor’s actions. However, there are exceptions when a company can be liable either to a contractor or for a contractor’s negligent actions.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was employed as a maintenance worker for a company that was contracted to clean the ducts for the defendant casino. The ducts were accessible from the roof of the casino. However, the casino consisted of a main building as well as a floating casino vessel where patrons could gamble. These two structures were not connected in any way, and they were separated by a gap of two or three feet.

Continue reading

police officerHistorically, the state and federal governments were presumed to be immune from liability involving the negligence of government employees. Over time, however, this broad grant of immunity left many injury victims without any way to recover for their injuries, and the injustice of the rule became evident. Thus, the federal and state governments passed a series of laws called “tort claims acts,” under which government entities could be held liable in some situations.

The New Mexico Tort Claims Act allows for those who have been injured due to the negligence of a government employee to recover for their injuries through a New Mexico personal injury lawsuit in many situations. However, a plaintiff must be able to establish that their case fits within an exception to the general grant of immunity.

A recent case discusses the difficulties one plaintiff had when pursuing a case against a police officer she claimed was responsible for causing a car accident.

Continue reading

product liabilityWhen someone is injured while using a product for its intend purpose, they may be entitled to compensation for their injuries through a New Mexico product liability lawsuit. As is the case with other claims, there are several different types of product liability claims, and a plaintiff should know which claim they are bringing in order to best present the necessary elements.

In short, there are three types of New Mexico product liability claims: design defect claims, manufacturing defect claims, and failure-to-warn claims. These claims are, for the most part, self-explanatory. A design defect claim alleges that a product was designed in a way that rendered regular use of the product dangerous. A manufacturing defect claim alleges that a product is unreasonably dangerous based on a manufacturing error that may not be present in all of the company’s products. Finally, a failure-to-warn claim alleges that a company provided an insufficient warning for a product that was in some way dangerous.

A recent federal appellate opinion discusses the plaintiff’s failure-to-warn claim against a manufacturer of heavy construction equipment.

Continue reading

Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing an interesting issue that arises in many New Mexico personal injury cases. Specifically, the case required the court determine what standard the defendant’s conduct should be held to in determining whether he was liable for the plaintiff’s injuries.

In New Mexico personal injury cases, in order for a plaintiff to be successful, they must establish that the defendant violated a standard of care that was owed to them by the defendant. In most New Mexico personal injury cases, the negligence standard is applied. However, in some limited situations, other standards can apply. The case mentioned above involves the application of the “reckless misconduct” standard. Importantly, New Mexico law differs from that applied in the following case, however, the case does offer a good illustration of how courts approach this analysis.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was golfing with the defendant when, on the eighth hole, the defendant struck the defendant with the golf cart the two had been using to get around the course. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant.

Continue reading

Legal News GavelWhen someone is injured on another’s property in a New Mexico slip-and-fall accident, or other type of premises liability accident, the injury victim may be entitled to monetary compensation for their injuries. However, in order to succeed in a New Mexico premises liability lawsuit, a plaintiff must be able to establish the elements of their claim.

A New Mexico premises liability claim is a type of negligence claim. Thus, a plaintiff must establish the same four elements of duty, breach, causation, and damages. In New Mexico, all landowners owe a reasonable duty of care to those who enter their property, with the exception of trespassers. Thus, for all invited guests to whom a duty is owed, landowners must take action to protect guests against both known and foreseeable harms.

When it comes to establishing that a breach occurred, courts look to whether the landowner had knowledge of the hazard that caused the plaintiff’s injury. If the defendant landowner did not know of the hazard that caused the plaintiff’s injuries, then the plaintiff’s claim will fail. However, even in situations where a defendant landowner does not have actual knowledge of the hazard, a plaintiff may still be able to succeed by establishing that the landowner had constructive knowledge, or “should have known” of the hazard’s existence.

Continue reading

In a recent federal appellate opinion, the court dismissed a plaintiff’s case against the U.S. government based on the plaintiff’s failure to timely file her case after her initial claim with the United States Post Office (USPS) was denied. The case presents an important issue for New Mexico car accident victims because it involves the application of the Federal Tort Claims Act filing requirements, which may be implicated in any case against the U.S. government.Legal News Gavel

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was driving her car when she was struck by a USPS vehicle. The plaintiff claimed that the driver of the USPS vehicle was responsible for the accident. Two weeks after the accident, the plaintiff filed a claim with the USPS, seeking compensation for her injuries.

The USPS processed the plaintiff’s claim, ultimately denying the claim seven months after the plaintiff sent it in. Eight months later, the plaintiff filed a personal injury case in federal court against the USPS, as well as the USPS driver.

Continue reading

In many New Mexico car accident lawsuits, the case is actually defended by the insurance company that provided coverage to the at-fault driver. Indeed, one of the major benefits of obtaining sufficient insurance coverage is that, by virtue of the policy agreement, the company agrees to defend any claims against the insured.Legal News Gavel

When it comes to interpreting their own policies, however, insurance companies have a vested interest. Thus, motorists are routinely frustrated by an insurance company’s denial of their claims. In a recent case, the plaintiffs’ case against an insurance company that provided underinsured/uninsured motorist (UIM) coverage to a car dealership was dismissed after the plaintiffs were rear-ended by another motorist while test-driving a vehicle.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were on a test-drive when another motorist rear-ended them. The plaintiffs sustained serious injuries as a result of the accident and filed a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver. However, that driver did not have sufficient insurance coverage to fully compensate the plaintiffs for the injuries they sustained.

Continue reading

Legal News GavelAs a general rule in New Mexico personal injury cases, while an employer may be held liable for the negligent acts of an employee in some circumstances, companies are not normally responsible for the negligent acts of independent contractors they hire to perform work. However, there are certain exceptions to this, including when the task assigned to the contract involves a non-delegable duty.

A non-delegable duty is one which a party cannot delegate to another party. For example, in a recent premises liability case, a grocery store was held liable for the negligence of an independent contractor who was paid to clean up the store after hours.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was shopping at the defendant grocery store when she slipped on a puddle of soapy water. Evidently, the man responsible for mopping the aisles the night before forgot to clean up the puddle of water.

Continue reading

Recently, a state appellate court rejected a plaintiff’s claim against a defendant employer after the plaintiff was injured in an accident caused by one of the defendant’s employees while the employee was on his way home from work. The case presents an interesting issue for New Mexico car accident victims who were injured in an accident that was caused by someone who was on-the-job at the time of the accident.

Legal News GavelThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was walking along the sidewalk when he was struck by a car that had just been hit by an employee who was attempting to turn into the post office on his way home from work. The employee was employed by the county, and while he was not required to have his own car, the realities of his position made having a car a near-necessity. This was because he had to visit various locations across several cities, and because public transportation was not a particularly convenient option based on where he lived. The employee did, however, occasionally take public transportation, and testified that he would have taken it more if it was more convenient.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the employee as well as the employer. The plaintiff’s argument was based on the theory of vicarious liability, under which an employer can normally be held liable for the negligent actions of an employee, if those actions are taken in the course of his employment.

Continue reading

An insurance policy is essentially just a contract between the insured and the insurance company. The insurance company agrees to provide certain coverage, detailed in the policy, and the insured agrees to pay a stated premium. In some New Mexico car accidents, an insurance company’s obligation to provide coverage is clear. However, in many cases insurance companies dispute coverage.

Legal News GavelA recent opinion issued by a state appellate court illustrates the difficulties a plaintiff may encounter when attempting to file a claim with an insurance policy. In that case, the plaintiff was the estate of a man who was killed while mowing his lawn by a motorist that was driving while under the influence. The at-fault driver did not have car insurance.

The employer of the man who was killed in the accident, however, maintained an insurance policy with uninsured motorist (UIM) protection. Thus, in hopes of obtaining compensation for the loss of the decedent’s life, the estate filed a claim with his employer’s insurance policy.

Continue reading