Articles Posted in Relevant Personal Injury Case Law

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.

Car AccidentThe 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.

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Recently, a federal court of appeals issued an opinion in a personal injury case that presented an issue that commonly arises in New Mexico slip-and-fall cases. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss whether a gas station could be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries that were the result a slip-and-fall accident. Ultimately, the court concluded that the hazard causing the plaintiff’s fall was open and obvious, and that the gas station did not have a duty to warn her of the allegedly dangerous condition.

Gas StationThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was riding as a passenger in a car that stopped to get gas at the defendant gas station. As the driver exited the vehicle to pump the gas and then go to pay, the plaintiff got out of the car in search of a squeegee. As the plaintiff was looking for the squeegee, the heel of her right shoe got caught in a small groove in the pavement. The plaintiff was unable to maintain her balance and fell to the ground.

As it turns out, the grooves in the pavement were actually part of a positive limiting barrier (PLB). PLBs are a series of grooves in pavement that are designed to trap fuel in the event of a spill. The PLBs are required under state law, and these particular PLBs conformed with all state requirements.

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In all New Mexico personal injury lawsuits, the plaintiff must commence their lawsuit within a certain amount of time. Under New Mexico Statutes section 37-1-8, the statute of limitations for a New Mexico personal injury lawsuit is three years. Section 41-5-13 provides the same three-year statute of limitations for New Mexico medical malpractice cases.

HourglassThese deadlines are of critical importance to all New Mexico personal injury plaintiffs because a plaintiff’s failure to file their case by the relevant deadline will result in the case being dismissed. There are, however, exceptions to the general rules that govern when a case must be filed. For example, if the plaintiff is a minor, the plaintiff’s injuries are not immediately discovered, or the defendant has concealed some aspect of their own potential negligence, the statute of limitations may not begin to run until a later date.

Another interesting issue involving statutes of limitations is whether the parties can contractually reduce or extend the amount of time they have to file a lawsuit against each other. States vary on whether this is permitted, and the determination is very fact-specific. However, in a recent case, a court dismissed a plaintiff’s case based on her agreement to a reduced statute of limitations.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case brought by a customer of a grocery store after she fell in one of the store’s aisles. The court discussed an important issue that frequently arises in New Mexico slip-and-fall lawsuits.

Grocery StoreThe Facts of the Case

The case stemmed from an accident that occurred about six years ago at a grocery store. The plaintiff was shopping at a grocery store with her husband when she went to use the restroom. As she was returning, she slipped on a brownish liquid and was immobilized as a result of the fall. At the same time, a store employee was mopping up similar liquid in an adjacent aisle. The plaintiff’s husband stated that, coincidentally, he noticed one of the bottles in his cart was leaking.

The store manager testified that the bottles in the plaintiff’s cart arrived at the store and were then transported to pallets. After that, the bottles were taken out of the shrink-wrap in which they arrived, and they were inspected by the store manager to verify the number and quality. Store policy requires that if an employee sees a spill, the employee must stand at the spill until they can get the attention of a maintenance person to clean it up.

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The New Mexico Supreme Court recently issued an opinion finding that the plaintiffs were unable to appeal a jury’s verdict because they did not object to the verdict prior to the jury’s discharge.

ScaffoldingFacts of the Case

An ironworker fell off a wall while he was in the middle of a construction project in Las Cruces. The worker fell off a 30-foot wall and landed on his head. Sadly, he was pronounced dead within a few minutes of reaching the hospital.

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case requiring the court to determine if the jury was improperly instructed and, if so, what the remedy should be. The case is relevant to New Mexico car accident victims because it illustrates the importance of jury instructions, and what can be done to preserve an appellate issue in the event a judge provides the jury with an adverse instruction.

Head-On CollisionThe Facts of the Case

In 2012, two motorists were driving in opposite directions on the same road when one of the drivers lost control of his vehicle, crossed the center line, and crashed into the other driver. The exact cause of the accident was disputed; however, it was clear that the defendant’s vehicle experienced some kind of steering malfunction prior to the collision. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendant, arguing that his negligence resulted in the serious injuries she sustained to her hand in the car accident.

Negligence Per Se

The plaintiff argued that the defendant knowingly operated his vehicle on a roadway while the vehicle was unsafe. She claimed that this constituted negligence per se because his actions were a direct violation of a law that was enacted to protect the public from unsafe and improperly maintained vehicles.

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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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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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