Recently, a state appellate court issued a personal injury opinion discussing an issue that is applicable in many New Mexico premises liability lawsuits. In this case, the court was presented with an appeal that granted Wal-Mart summary judgment after a woman was injured when she slipped and fell on a puddle of water inside the store.

Grocery StoreThe Facts of the Case

About five years ago, a woman went to a Wal-Mart store to pick up some gardening supplies. Along the way to the gardening section, the woman passed by a kiosk that rented carpet cleaning machines. The carpet cleaning company and Wal-Mart had entered into an agreement allowing the company to place their machines in a self-service kiosk in the Wal-Mart store. There was no stipulation that any Wal-Mart employee or carpet cleaning company employee was required to manage or supervise the area.

The requirements of filing a personal injury lawsuit are generally the same throughout the United States, but the outcomes of similar cases can vastly differ, depending on where the case is filed. The reason for this discrepancy is due, among other things, to the various rules surrounding the apportionment of fault and liability, subrogation, and allowable defenses.

PassengerDetermining another party’s fault is the core objective in any New Mexico personal injury lawsuit. Most states use one of four models for establishing fault and recovery. The four systems are: pure contributory negligence, pure comparative fault, modified comparative fault, and slight/gross negligence.

The strictest, and least favorable to plaintiffs, of the models is pure contributory negligence. This model provides that if a plaintiff is at all responsible for their injuries, they are totally barred from recovery.

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Many states impose liability on individuals who provide or serve alcohol to an intoxicated person when that person goes on to cause an accident or injury. This liability is normally outlined in a state’s “dram shop” law.

CocktailsNew Mexico’s dram shop law allows an injured person to hold an alcohol vendor liable for injuries in certain circumstances. Normally, a dram shop law requires that a plaintiff prove that the vendor served or sold alcohol to a person who the vendor knew was drunk or when their intoxication was reasonably apparent. Generally, an injured party who was hurt by the intoxicated person in a New Mexico drunk driving accident can seek to impose liability on the vendor; however, the intoxicated person themselves cannot shift liability off themselves and onto a vendor unless the vendor acted grossly negligently or recklessly.

New Mexico’s dram shop statute also provides for recovery from social hosts in comparable situations. The statute applies to social hosts in instances in which the host served alcohol while recklessly disregarding the rights of others.

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Recently, a state court issued an opinion in a car accident case in which the driver was acting in the course of his employment for the defendant employer when the accident occurred.

Oil WellFacts of the Case

An energy company hired a drilling company to drill oil and gas wells on a property they owned. During similar projects, the drilling company would arrange for bunkhouses to be placed on the property for their employees, but in this instance, the energy company did not permit these bunkhouses. Instead, they agreed to pay the drilling company $50 a day to compensate one of the drilling company employees for driving other employees to off-site housing.

One of the employees volunteered for this position and would routinely drive other employees to the bunk site or to his home. On one occasion, the driver was transporting his coworkers to the bunk site when he was involved in a devastating accident. He hit another vehicle, which resulted in the death of two of his coworkers and serious injuries to himself and an additional coworker. The driver filed a claim before the Texas Department of Workers’ Compensation. The drilling company argued that the accident occurred while the driver was acting within the course and scope of his employment. The department found his injuries to be compensable.

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Earlier this year, a federal appellate court issued a ruling in a negligent entrustment lawsuit filed by two individuals against a rental car company, whose patrons injured the plaintiffs in a New Mexico car accident.

Desert HighwayFacts of the Case

In 2014, a group of 21-year-old men from Turkey rented a car from a rental company in Lake Powell. The individual who rented the car was able to provide the company with a Turkish driver’s license and a credit card; another person in the group also provided his Turkish license, and another positively affirmed that he possessed a license. Although all of the individuals were under 21, the rental car employee still permitted one of the individuals (D1) to rent both a caravan and a convertible, and he authorized the other person in the party to be listed as an authorized driver. However, no one in the group completed the additional driver application, including the third individual in the group (D2). Renting a car to an individual under 21 was noted to be a departure from company policy and contrary to policies followed by most other rental car companies.

During the rental, D2 was driving the convertible, turned left without yielding to traffic, and ran into the plaintiff. The collision resulted in the plaintiff suffering severe injuries, including broken bones and a punctured lung.

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In 1978, New Mexico lawmakers enacted the New Mexico Tort Claims Act (NMTCA) in an attempt to protect the rights of individuals injured by New Mexico government employees while still preserving the government’s ability to function without the constant risk of lawsuits.

Hiking TrailLawmakers decided that the most efficient and practical way to take into account both of these issues was to grant the government and their employees certain immunities, while enumerating certain exceptions. The NMTCA specified the duties of public employees and which behavior would fall into an exception of governmental immunity.

In order for a plaintiff to file and win a New Mexico personal injury lawsuit against a governmental employee, they must make sure that the entity or employee falls into one of the very specific exceptions. Although New Mexico seems to have a significant number of exceptions, there is still a heavy burden on the plaintiff to ensure that the defendant directly falls under one of these.

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A state court recently released an opinion in a premises liability case brought by a man who was injured when he grabbed a package of precariously placed insulation, despite a sign advising him not to reach for the items. The case is important for New Mexico premises liability plaintiffs because it illustrates how courts view premises liability claims involving noticeable hazards.

WarehouseFacts of the Case

In 2014, the plaintiff and his adult son went to a home improvement center that he frequented on a monthly basis to purchase some insulation for his home. The plaintiff purchased about two dozen rolls of insulations and was advised to drive to the center’s self-service warehouse to pick up the materials. The warehouse had signs that read, “For your safety, caution, do not cut bandings, do not open packages, to not pull, do not climb, and if you need assistance, please call.”

The plaintiff noticed that the stack of insulation did not seem straight and was leaning off to one side, but he decided to go ahead and pick up the insulation they needed. After about 15 minutes of loading, the leaning stack fell and landed on the plaintiff’s shoulder. The plaintiff and his son returned to the main store and notified them of the incident; they indicated that they did not notice an employee and did not ask for assistance.

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Dog bites and attacks can be truly traumatizing. The long-term effects of a New Mexico dog attack can include psychological, physical, and emotional damage. Managing oneself after a dog bite can be difficult because the victim may need to deal with severe physical damage, including scarring and surgery, and psychological issues. In addition, a victim may need therapy or psychiatric treatment for the trauma sustained. This can consume a large amount of time, money, and energy. Insurance companies may willingly cover some medical bills, but that is not guaranteed, and initial insurance settlements rarely cover the extent of the damages that a victim sustained.

PitbullState Supreme Court Finds that Strict Liability Should be Imposed in Dog Bite Cases

Recently, a court issued an opinion in a personal injury case that illustrates an issue that commonly arises in New Mexico dog bite cases. In 2009, a woman and her boyfriend were squirrel hunting on a property owned by the woman’s boyfriend. The woman decided to leave early and proceeded to walk to her car through a tract of property owned by the defendant.

As she was walking, she was attacked by several dogs owned by the defendant. She suffered a series of substantial injuries, including severe bites and bruises. Luckily, a motorist saw the attack as he was driving by and was able to help the plaintiff. She did, however, suffer serious injuries as a result of the attack.

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Spa services are often considered a luxury that are designed to leave the recipient feeling relaxed and satisfied with their experience. Spa services vary greatly in terms of location, methodology, and intended effect. This can present a problem to clients who may not necessarily understand the experience or background of the particular esthetician. Moreover, the rules and regulations regarding training and education may vary greatly as well. This disparity can result in devastating effects when chemicals and certain processes are used on a person’s body.

MassageTo prevent negative reactions, clients are generally required to fill out some sort of prescreen form indicating any health concerns that should be noted or considered during the service. This paperwork is crucial to preventing unintended consequences or damaging results. If this questionnaire is not read or taken into consideration by the person performing the service, and an injury ensues because of that negligence, the injured party may commence a New Mexico personal injury lawsuit for the damages they sustained.

Court Finds Day Spa and Esthetician Responsible After Client Sustains Serious Skin Reaction

Recently, a court affirmed a lower court’s ruling that a day spa and esthetician were negligent in performing a spa service on the plaintiff. Evidently, the plaintiff and her husband visited the spa in 2013, and prior to their service, they were asked to fill out a medical questionnaire. The plaintiff noted that she had rosacea, which is a chronic skin condition. The esthetician performed the service on the plaintiff. During the service, the plaintiff felt as if her face was burned, and subsequently she experienced bruises and oozing blisters.

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Earlier this month, New Mexico’s Supreme Court issued an opinion regarding a complex dispute between a driver and an insurance company. The case was the subject of two jury trials and two appeals. Two specific evidentiary issues were appealed to the Supreme Court.

Law BooksFacts of the Case

The case stems from a dispute between two drivers and their insurance company. Apparently, the driver, who was covered under his parent’s insurance, was involved in an accident at around 1:30 a.m. on November 4, 2002. The insurance company claimed that the policy expired at 11:59 p.m. on November 3, 2002 – approximately 90 minutes prior to the accident.

The insurance company filed for a declaratory judgment, asserting that the parties were not insured at the time of the accident. The driver and his parents filed a counterclaim, arguing that they should be covered because the insurance company was acting in bad faith. During this time, the driver was sued by an injured third party. The insurance company paid a settlement but reserved its right to be reimbursed by the driver.

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