Articles Posted in Slip & Fall

grocery storeAs 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.

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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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.

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 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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Earlier this month, a Mississippi appellate court issued a written opinion in a premises liability lawsuit that should act as a warning to all New Mexico personal injury victims. The case involved a slip-and-fall case filed against three defendants, two of which the plaintiff excused through a pre-trial settlement agreement. However, the issue for the court to resolve was whether the plaintiff also unknowingly excused the third defendant as well. Ultimately, the court found that the third defendant was excused through the lawfully executed agreement between the plaintiff and one of the other parties.

SidewalkThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was walking on the sidewalk in front of an auto parts store when she tripped and fell after stepping in hole for a recessed utility box that was obscured due to fresh grass clippings that had covered the area. The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the auto parts store, the city where the accident occurred, as well as the utility commission responsible for the placement and maintenance of the utility box.

During pre-trial negotiations, the plaintiff entered two separate settlement agreements with the auto parts store and the city. The agreement with the city contained a clause whereby the plaintiff agreed to discharge the case against the city and any “successors, agents, attorneys, insurers, subsidiaries, sister or parent companies, assigns, employees, representatives, stockholders, [etc.]”

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