New Mexico bought recently changed when the state Supreme Court gave its decision in Tafoya v. Rael. The case arose when the defendant contractor hired an inexperienced subcontractor to perform dangerous work. When the subcontractor died as a result of his own negligence, he attempted to pursue a case against the general contractor for asking him to do work for which it was not licensed or qualified.
Generally speaking, a general contractor is not responsible for the negligent acts of an independent contractor. The exception to this is negligent hiring in which the general contractor may be liable for injuries caused to a third party. This new case out of New Mexico changed the law to a certain extent in that it allows for a negligent hiring claim against a general contractor when it is the subcontractor that is injured.
Hopefully the decision will encourage employers to exercise greater discretion and involvement in their hiring processes rather than hide behind their independent contractors.
A recognizable problem in cases such as the Tafoya is the need to overcome a substantial amount of comparative fault on behalf of the plaintiff. It would seem that utilizing the recent New Mexico decision on work-related injuries is best reserved for claims involving substantial damages.