Drunk driving has long been a major problem on New Mexico roads. Despite the strict criminal sanctions that drunk drivers face, the fact remains that New Mexico is among the states with the highest death rate due to drunk driving. In hopes of curtailing the drunk-driving epidemic, one New Mexico lawmaker has proposed a bill that would act to completely prevent repeat DUI offenders from purchasing alcohol.

Beer MugAccording to a local news source discussing the recently proposed bill, a second-time DUI offender would be prohibited from purchasing alcohol. Specifically, the bill states that “an offender shall forfeit the privilege to purchase, possess or consume intoxicating liquor in the state for one year.” Those who continued to re-offend may face lifetime alcohol restrictions under the newly proposed bill.

If the bill is passed into law, all second-time and subsequent DUI offenders will be provided driver’s licenses that are visually distinct from regular adult driver’s licenses and resemble licenses for those under the legal drinking age of 21. The impetus for the bill is the lack of DUI enforcement on New Mexico roads. The article claims that New Mexico has one of the lowest arrest rates for drunk drivers, despite having one of the highest rates of drunk driving per capita.

Continue reading

All property owners, including businesses and governments, have a duty to make sure that their premises are kept reasonably safe. The level of duty that an individual, government, or business has to a person entering their land depends on the relationship between the parties. Generally speaking, there are three categories that a relationship can fall into:  trespasser, licensee, and invitee.

Operating RoomFor the most part, trespassers are those who are not invited onto the owner’s land, licensees are social guests, and anyone invited onto an owner’s property to conduct business is an invitee. A property owner owes an invitee the highest duty of care. In a recent case, a doctor recovered a significant damages award after sustaining a career-ending injury at the defendant hospital where he was performing a surgery.

A Doctor Slips and Falls in the Operating Room

The plaintiff in the case was a doctor who routinely performed surgeries at the defendant hospital. After surgery one day, the doctor went to sit down on a stool to complete some post-operation paperwork. However, as the doctor placed his weight on the stool, it slipped out from under him, causing him to fall to the ground.

Continue reading

Earlier this month, an appellate court in Georgia issued an opinion in a premises liability case in which the court tweaked previous case law because of the unjust result that would have occurred had the law been applied as previously interpreted. In the recent case, the court determined that the general rule that where a plaintiff in a premises liability case must prove that the defendant had superior knowledge of the hazard when the plaintiff is presented with an “untenable choice”,  a relaxed interpretation may be appropriate.

Gas StationThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a fuel delivery driver who would occasionally make deliveries to the defendant’s gas station. The defendant required all fuel delivery drivers to manually measure the level in the tanks prior to filling them, as well as after they had been filled. The plaintiff had told the defendant that the post-fill measurement was unnecessary because the tank had a computerized system that displayed the current level of fuel. The plaintiff also expressed concern that manually measuring the tank was dangerous, because it had to be done in the middle of the station’s parking lot and customers often came close to hitting him.

Continue reading

Late last month, an appellate court in Georgia issued a written opinion affirming a $40 million jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff in a wrongful death case against car-manufacturing giant Chrysler. In the case, the court rejected all of Chrysler’s alleged claims of error, finding that the lower court’s decisions were sound and that the jury’s award amount was not excessive.

Jeep The Facts of the Case

This tragic case involves a young boy who was killed when the car in which he was riding as a rear passenger was struck from behind by another motorist. In 2012, the young boy was with his aunt in her Jeep Grand Cherokee when a pick-up truck rear-ended them. The force from the collision caused the Jeep’s gas tank to rupture. Gas began to leak, and the vehicle caught fire. The boy’s aunt was able to escape the burning vehicle, but she was unable to rescue the young boy in the back seat.

The boy’s parents filed a wrongful death case against Chrysler, the manufacturer of the Jeep Grand Cherokee. The parents claimed that the placement of the gas tank was negligent, increasing the chance that it would rupture when the vehicle was struck from behind. Additionally, the parents claimed that Chrysler knew of the dangers associated with the gas tank’s location but continued to manufacture Jeep Grand Cherokees without making any design changes.

Continue reading

Hit-and-runs can be some of the most devastating accidents. Often, victims are unable to get the necessary medical care in a timely manner and suffer more serious injuries as a result of this delayed response. Furthermore, even if a victim survives, they may face a series of hurdles when dealing with all of the various entities that are involved in these cases, such as police officers, investigators, and insurance companies.

Car Off RoadHit-and-Run Accidents

A hit-and-run accident is an accident when a driver is involved in a collision with another person or object and leaves the scene of the accident without rendering assistance, calling for assistance, or providing identifying information. Even if the fleeing driver was not responsible for the accident, they may still be held liable for leaving the scene.

In New Mexico, a driver must not leave the scene of the accident until authorities have been notified and information has been exchanged. It is required that the driver provide appropriate help immediately following the collision, and if they do not, they will likely suffer serious repercussions, including criminal charges. Under New Mexico law, a driver involved in an accident must first stop their vehicle and move to a safe location as close to the scene of the accident as possible. They must then provide assistance to any injured motorists, passengers, or bystanders, including transporting them, if necessary. Additionally, drivers must immediately notify emergency personnel. In New Mexico, if there is personal or property damage over $500, the New Mexico police must be notified.

Continue reading

Late last year, an appellate court in New York issued a written opinion in a bicycle accident case, affirming a lower court’s decision not to apply governmental immunity. In the case, Turturro v. City of New York, the court determined that the alleged negligence was regarding a “proprietary function,” rather than a governmental one, and therefore government immunity was not appropriate.

City IntersectionThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff, a 12-year-old boy, was riding his bike on a four-lane New York street at 6:30 in the evening when he was struck by a vehicle traveling at an estimated speed of 54 miles per hour. The speed limit was 30 miles per hour. The driver was cited for reckless driving in a criminal case, and he pleaded guilty.

The plaintiff then filed a civil lawsuit against the driver as well as the City of New York. Evidence was presented that several citizens and lawmakers had written to the Department of Transportation, asking the city to do something about the dangerous road. Specifically, citizens were concerned that drivers were speeding and drag-racing. The city presented evidence that in response to the letters, it had commissioned a study on motorists’ speed and notified the police of the findings. However, the plaintiff pointed out that no traffic-calming measures – such as road bumps, rumble strips, or raised crosswalks – were implemented. After a jury trial, a verdict was issued in favor of the plaintiff. Specifically, the jury determined that the driver was 50% at fault, the city 40% at fault, and the plaintiff 10% at fault.

Continue reading

One can easily imagine a world in which a defendant fearful of an upcoming lawsuit destroys internal company documents that the defendant knows may be harmful to its case. This fear of the destruction of evidence in anticipation of litigation gave rise to the doctrine of spoliation. Essentially, the doctrine of spoliation allows for a judge to impose sanctions on a party if they destroy or alter relevant evidence in anticipation of an upcoming case.

TireThere are several sanctions available to a court when it finds that a party has engaged in spoliation. Most commonly, the judge will prevent certain evidence from being admitted. Alternatively, the judge may provide the jury with an instruction regarding the missing evidence and how, if preserved, it would likely disfavor the party that was responsible for its destruction. Moreover, in some extreme circumstances, a court can enter judgment against the spoliating party.

Not all pre-trial destruction of evidence, however, will be considered a violation of the spoliation doctrine. As a recent case illustrates, sometimes a party destroys evidence without thinking about an upcoming case.

Continue reading

Recently, the Supreme Court of the State of North Dakota released an opinion in a personal injury case against a city in charge of the maintenance of a park where the plaintiff fell while rollerblading. The case stemmed from an incident in which a young woman was injured while rollerblading over a soft patch of material used to repair a crack on a park pathway.

Cracked PavementThe city moved to dismiss the claim, arguing that it was not properly served. In turn, the plaintiffs then properly served the defendants. However, proper service was made just after three years from the date of the accident. The park district moved for summary judgment, claiming that the plaintiffs’ claims were barred due to the three-year statute of limitations for claims against a political subdivision. The lower court dismissed the case and agreed that the case was barred by the statute of limitations.

The plaintiffs appealed and argued that the claim did not accrue until a later date, when they were informed by an attorney that there was a reasonable negligence claim against the city. However, the appellate court determined that, despite the discovery rule, the statute of limitations begins to run from when the negligent act occurs. Unfortunately, since the city was improperly served, the case did not abide by the requirements of the statute of limitations. Thus, the court affirmed the lower court’s decision.

Continue reading

An ongoing investigation into the deadliest hot air balloon accident in United States history has revealed that the pilot of the balloon had seven different potentially mind-altering drugs in his system at the time of the crash. According to a National Transit Safety Board press release noted in a recently published national news article, several drugs were found in the blood of the balloon operator after he died, along with all 15 passengers on board the craft, when it struck high-voltage power lines during a descent, caught fire, and ultimately crashed into a field near Lockhart, Texas. Although authorities have not determined the exact cause of the tragic event, it appears that drug intoxication may have played a role in the deadly accident.

Hot Air BalloonsA Dangerous Combination of Psychoactive Substances Was Present in the Pilot’s Blood

According to the report, the substances found in the man’s system included drugs used to treat anxiety, severe pain, depression, muscle spasms, attention deficit disorder, and insomnia, among other ailments. Even though the report states that the pilot was legally prescribed the drugs found in his system, several of the substances he had consumed would prevent an airplane or helicopter pilot from legally operating an aircraft, although hot air balloon operators are not subject to the same regulations as other pilots. Taken individually, these types of drugs could impair a pilot’s ability to safely control a hot air balloon, but when several different psychoactive drugs are taken together, the effects can multiply, and a dangerous level of impairment becomes even more likely.

Continue reading

Earlier this month, an appellate court in West Virginia issued a written opinion in a personal injury case filed against the state’s department of transportation by the son of a woman who was killed in a car accident. In the case, Department of Transportation v. King, the court determined that the Department of Transportation (“the Department”) was entitled to governmental immunity and reversed the lower court’s decision that had allowed the plaintiff’s case to proceed against the government agency.

Smashed CarThe Facts Giving Rise to the Case

The plaintiff’s mother was killed in a car accident that was caused by another driver. The at-fault driver possessed a valid license at the time of the accident that was issued by the Department. However, the driver’s license had been suspended several years prior and had only recently been reinstated.

Evidently, when the at-fault driver applied for reinstatement, the Department issued the license without submitting relevant medical forms to the Department’s medical advisory board. There were rules in place governing when a referral was proper, but those rules allowed for the Department to use its discretion in making referrals. The plaintiff’s claim was that the Department’s failure to refer the at-fault driver’s application to the review board was negligent.

Continue reading