Articles Posted in Slip & Fall

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury lawsuit discussing an essential aspect of New Mexico premises liability cases. The case required the court to determine whether the plaintiff established that the defendant grocery store owed him a duty of care. Finding that the store did not owe the plaintiff a duty of care in this particular situation, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s claims.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was seriously injured as he attempted to obtain a shopping cart from a corral of carts near the entrance of the defendant grocery store. The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the store, claiming that the store’s greeter was negligent in that he failed to provide a staged shopping cart for the plaintiff’s use.

In support of his claim, the plaintiff cited the store’s standard operating procedures, which stated that when a store greeter had the opportunity, he should stage three or four shopping carts at the end of a line by separating them from each other and loosely nesting them. The store responded that the staging of shopping carts was a secondary duty of a store greeter, whose primary purpose was to greet all customers and assist them as needed.

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A state appellate court recently issued an opinion in a case discussing an important and underutilized doctrine that can help New Mexico personal injury victims prove their case against an allegedly negligent defendant. The case required the court to determine if the plaintiff properly presented a claim under the res ipsa loquitor doctrine after an elevator door inexplicably closed on her as she was exiting the elevator.

The Case Facts

Per the court’s opinion, the individual filing as plaintiff sustained an injury while exiting an elevator at the defendant condominium association. Evidently, the plaintiff was walking off the elevator when the doors repeatedly and unexpectedly closed on her. A few days after the accident, the elevator was inspected and one of the elevator’s electric eyes – a standard safety feature – needed repair. The elevator’s electric eye was later repaired.

The woman in question filed a personal injury lawsuit against the condo association. Specifically, the plaintiff claimed that under the doctrine of res ipsa loquitor she was entitled to proceed with her case because elevator doors do not randomly close in the absence of negligence.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an interesting opinion in a personal injury case involving a slip-and-fall accident that occurred in a vacation rental home. The case required the court to determine whether the duty owed by the owner of a vacation rental home was equivalent to that of a landlord, or whether the owner owed the higher duty that is imposed on innkeepers. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff’s rights and responsibilities under the vacation rental contract were more similar to that of a rented property; thus, the court determined that the owner owed the same duty as a landlord owes her tenants.

The case is important those who have been injured in a New Mexico slip-and-fall accident because it illustrates the varying legal standards that may apply depending on the relationship between the parties, as well as the reason why the plaintiff is visiting the defendant’s property.

Case Facts

The plaintiff and her family rented a home from the defendants for a week-long vacation. The home was located in a popular beach destination, and was rented fully furnished. The owners rented out the home for about half the year, and used the home for personal uses the remaining portion of the year. The home was managed by a property management company, who maintained the home in between rentals, handled the security deposit, and provided renters with the keys upon check-in.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an interesting opinion in a personal injury case discussing an issue that frequently arises in New Mexico personal injury cases that are filed against government agencies or others who allow for the free use of their land. The case presented the court with the issue of whether the defendant city was entitled to immunity in a case filed by a plaintiff who was injured when he struck a pothole while riding his bicycle in a public park.

Ultimately, the court held that the plaintiff failed to establish that the city had knowledge of the pothole, and thus was unable to establish that the city acted “willfully or maliciously.” Thus, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s case.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was riding a bicycle in a park that was maintained by the defendant city. As the plaintiff was riding along a paved path in the park, he struck a pothole and fell of his bike. The plaintiff sustained serious injuries as a result of the fall, and filed a personal injury lawsuit against the city.

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In a recent opinion, a state appellate court discussed whether a casino could be held liable for injuries sustained by an independent contractor when while crossing a small gap between the casino’s main building and a stationary gaming boat. The case presents an interesting issue that frequently arises in New Mexico personal injury cases involving the negligence of a party that was acting as an independent contractor.

The General Rule Involving Independent Contractors

In general, companies that retain the services of an independent contractor are not liable for the contractor’s actions. However, there are exceptions when a company can be liable either to a contractor or for a contractor’s negligent actions.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was employed as a maintenance worker for a company that was contracted to clean the ducts for the defendant casino. The ducts were accessible from the roof of the casino. However, the casino consisted of a main building as well as a floating casino vessel where patrons could gamble. These two structures were not connected in any way, and they were separated by a gap of two or three feet.

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When someone is injured on another’s property in a New Mexico slip-and-fall accident, or other type of premises liability accident, the injury victim may be entitled to monetary compensation for their injuries. However, in order to succeed in a New Mexico premises liability lawsuit, a plaintiff must be able to establish the elements of their claim.

A New Mexico premises liability claim is a type of negligence claim. Thus, a plaintiff must establish the same four elements of duty, breach, causation, and damages. In New Mexico, all landowners owe a reasonable duty of care to those who enter their property, with the exception of trespassers. Thus, for all invited guests to whom a duty is owed, landowners must take action to protect guests against both known and foreseeable harms.

When it comes to establishing that a breach occurred, courts look to whether the landowner had knowledge of the hazard that caused the plaintiff’s injury. If the defendant landowner did not know of the hazard that caused the plaintiff’s injuries, then the plaintiff’s claim will fail. However, even in situations where a defendant landowner does not have actual knowledge of the hazard, a plaintiff may still be able to succeed by establishing that the landowner had constructive knowledge, or “should have known” of the hazard’s existence.

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As a general rule in New Mexico personal injury cases, while an employer may be held liable for the negligent acts of an employee in some circumstances, companies are not normally responsible for the negligent acts of independent contractors they hire to perform work. However, there are certain exceptions to this, including when the task assigned to the contract involves a non-delegable duty.

A non-delegable duty is one which a party cannot delegate to another party. For example, in a recent premises liability case, a grocery store was held liable for the negligence of an independent contractor who was paid to clean up the store after hours.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was shopping at the defendant grocery store when she slipped on a puddle of soapy water. Evidently, the man responsible for mopping the aisles the night before forgot to clean up the puddle of water.

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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.

The 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.

These 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.

The 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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