Articles Posted in Relevant Personal Injury Case Law

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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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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The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently issued an opinion regarding a personal injury lawsuit brought against a popular coffee chain. The opinion is important for New Mexico accident victims to understand because it shows how the same standard can have different exceptions and ultimately different outcomes, depending on the jurisdiction where the case arises.

Coffee ShopThe Facts of the Case

In 2013, two parents and their two young sons were visiting a popular newly opened coffee shop in Chicago. Apparently, the coffee chain used stanchions that were connected by heavy chains welded to the base to encourage line formation. The base was not affixed to the floor; the reason for this was not made clear. However, the risk of the stanchion falling was noted, since an employee suffered a bruise to her leg when the stanchion previously fell.

On the day of the accident, the two young boys were playing on the ropes when the parents went to the second floor to use the restroom. When the parents came down, they heard one of their sons screaming. The parents immediately rushed the boy to a local hospital. The boy was transferred to a children’s hospital in the hopes that his crushed finger could be saved, but unfortunately it had to be amputated.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a case involving a defendant-turned-plaintiff who claimed that his own insurance company failed to settle a case against him in bad faith. The case raises the broader issue, prevalent in many New Mexico car accident cases, of an insurance company’s duty to settle a case, and what should happen when an insurance company acts in bad faith.

Wrecked CarThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in this case was the estate of a man who was killed when he caused a car accident that resulted not only in his own death but also in the injuries of several others. This case only tangentially involves the case against the plaintiff for causing the accident.

Several of the injured parties filed a personal injury lawsuit against the estate of the man who caused the accident, seeking compensation for their injuries. The attorney for these victims reached out to the plaintiff’s insurance company, inquiring about settling the case.

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Recently, a court issued an opinion in a recreational use injury case that may be applicable in New Mexico personal injury cases. In that case, the Supreme Court of Georgia ruled that summary judgment should be granted to a city-owned stadium after a six-year-old girl was injured after falling through the bleachers.

StadiumFacts of the Case

In 2012, two parents were attending a youth football game with their six-year-old daughter. The parents purchased two tickets for themselves, but the young girl was able to attend for free because children under the age of six were not required to pay an admission fee.

When the girl was walking to the concession stands, she slipped and fell through the bleachers and sustained serious injuries. The family brought a personal injury lawsuit against the city, but the city moved for summary judgment. The city argued that the state’s recreational use statute protected it from liability because the injured party did not pay a fee to attend. At trial, the family argued that the exception should not be applied because the parents were charged an admission fee. The lower court agreed, denying the city’s motion for summary judgment. The city appealed.

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Recently, a state court issued an opinion in a personal injury lawsuit filed by a tenant against her landlord, stemming from an incident in which the plaintiff was injured on the landlord’s property. The case presents an important issue that often arises in New Mexico premises liability cases. Specifically, it addressed what must be shown by a tenant to recover damages for injuries sustained on a property rented from a defendant landlord.

Wooden StepsThe Facts of the Case

In 2012, the plaintiff fell on the steps of a property she was leasing from the defendant landlord and suffered a torn ligament as a result. The plaintiff filed a negligence lawsuit against the defendant landlord, asserting that the landlord was negligent in failing to maintain the property and notify the tenant of the defect in the steps.

The landlord responded that the plaintiff was contributorily negligent and that her recovery should be barred or reduced due to her own actions having a role in causing her injuries. The plaintiff presented evidence showing that prior to the beginning of her lease, a housing code inspector notified the landlord that the step was a violation of local code, and they told the landlord that the home could not be leased until it was fixed.

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