Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

The New Mexico Court of Appeals recently decided in favor of a plaintiff in a loss of consortium case stemming from a March 2010 accident. Apparently, several Albuquerque police officers responded to a report of a stolen car in a parking lot. The officers parked in various locations around the parking lot in unmarked cars.

Police SirensThe decedent and his children drove into the parking lot and parked next to the stolen car, and one of his children got out of the car and walked up to the stolen vehicle. The officers then parked one car behind the father, and as the father was backing out of the spot, he hit the police car. The officer then shot at the father’s car and hit him in the chest. Tragically, the unarmed father died from the gunshot wounds.

About four years later, the children’s guardian brought a lawsuit against the city for loss of consortium under the Tort Claims Act, arguing that the defendant shot the father in violation of City policy, and the father did not pose a threat. Furthermore, they contended that the city was also responsible for the death in the negligent hiring, training, and retraining of the officer who killed the father.

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When individuals are injured or killed in an accident that was the fault of another party or parties, there are many hurdles that they or their families must overcome before they can be compensated for the injuries they endured. When there is only one culpable party involved, the case may be more straightforward, but often there are multiple parties that may be held liable. This may be because they were directly or proximately responsible.

Carnival SceneNew Mexico law follows the theory of contribution in these joint and several liability actions. These at-fault parties have the right to contribution, which allows them to only be responsible to the victim for the part that they actually played in the accident. In these cases, the victim will only be entitled to damages relative to the amount of fault for which the specific tortfeasor was responsible. They will need to collect separately from each responsible party. Under New Mexico law, if the plaintiff is found to have partly caused their own injuries, they will not be barred from recovery, but instead their recovery will be lessened relative to their percentage of fault.

As is the norm across jurisdictions, there are some very specific exceptions to the rule discussed above. First, this does not apply to intentional tortfeasors, vicariously liable defendants, some product liability cases, and even some cases involving inherently dangerous activities. It is important that individuals involved in these types of cases contact an experienced and dedicated attorney to help them understand their rights.

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At the end of last month, the opinion and decision in a negligent infliction of emotional distress in relation to medical malpractice claim was released by the Supreme Court in Connecticut. Like New Mexico, Connecticut allows claims of negligent infliction of emotional distress to be brought in certain very limited circumstances.

hospital-1385736-m.jpgThis case revolves around a tragic incident when a family called the police department because their son was expressing suicidal ideations. Their son was detained by police and taken to the emergency room for a psychiatric evaluation. The medical staff at the hospital evaluated the son and left a message with his parents to notify them that the son would be released because he was not a danger to himself. The son left the hospital and proceeded to find an electrical cord and hang himself outside his parent’s home. Unfortunately, the attempts to resuscitate him were futile, and he subsequently suffered a brain injury and was taken off life support.

The family brought a claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress and a medical malpractice claim. The court held that in certain very limited situations a bystander claim may be brought in a medical malpractice action. However, they also held that the family did not suffer severe and debilitating emotional distress, which is the requirement in negligent infliction of emotional distress claims. The Supreme Court subsequently affirmed the lower court’s finding.
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An Albuquerque man was shot and killed by police back in 2013, and his family is bringing a wrongful death suit against the city. According to a New Mexico news report, the suit is alleging that the officers violated the man’s civil rights by using excessive force. Apparently, the incident stemmed from a police search of individuals who were involved in a theft at a music store. The police officers were searching for the alleged offender for many hours when they finally located him. The police officer named in the suit claims that he only shot at the man after he pointed a gun at the officer and the other officers who were there to arrest the man.

law-and-order-7-977051-m.jpgThe family of the man contends that the officer’s account of the situation was not accurate, and they have camera footage to substantiate their claim. The family alleges that the man never pointed a gun, and he was actually running away from the officials.

No criminal charges have been brought by the County District Attorney’s Office, but the family is still going forward with the civil suit. The amount of damages they are seeking has not been disclosed, but in the past few years the City has spent over $11 million in judgments, legal fees, and settlements because of these types of incidents.
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A 17-year-old Lovington student was killed after the student fell out of a moving vehicle on school grounds. A local news report explained that the lawyer for the family filed a suit in federal court. They are alleging that the Lovington School District was negligent because they did not supervise a parking lot that they knew was dangerous.

cn-tower-1008466-m.jpgThe family’s attorney explained that the school knew that the parking lot was dangerous, and even after they were told about the problem they did not fix the condition. Furthermore, the complaint alleged that the school did not have any security officers in the parking lot. The principal of the school reportedly explained that staff attempted to direct traffic in the parking lot, but they were told that the district was immune from any liability if they hurt themselves while conducting the traffic. Apparently, the family is suing the district for more than $2.5 million in legal fees and damages.
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A tragic helicopter crash occurred earlier this month in Guadalupe County, about three miles north of Interstate 40. The helicopter, a hospital aircraft out of Santa Fe, was traveling to Tucumcari to pick up a patient in the early morning on July 17 when it slammed into the geological formation known as Mesa Rica. All of the occupants were killed, including the pilot and two crew members. There was no patient in the chopper at the time of the crash. According to a report, the flight crew did not issue any distress calls or a mayday before the crash, and the crew on the ground had no indication that the aircraft was in trouble before the helicopter went down.

helicopter-1365864-m.jpgWhat Causes Aircraft to Go Down?

When a plane or helicopter is involved in a serious crash, the consequences can be tragic. The high speed and altitude that these vehicles travel at multiply the danger from a crash, and survival is unlikely. Without survivors or witnesses, it can be difficult to determine the cause of an aircraft accident. Some accidents are caused by pilot error, while others are the result of mechanical or equipment failure. A crash can be the result of a mistake by the ground crew, caused by a flock of birds, or even the result of something else. When an aircraft goes down, no cause should be ruled out too soon.

Who Can Be Held Responsible for a Crash?

With so many possible causes for plane and helicopter crashes, it is important that victims and their families have a complete and thorough investigation performed on the cause of the crash before accepting an offer of compensation from a potentially responsible party. Depending on the facts surrounding a crash, victims and their families could be entitled to a substantial award to help compensate them for the expenses related to the crash. If a crash victim is a customer or invitee of the pilot or party operating the flight, the passenger may be entitled to additional protections under the law, and someone may be financially responsible for the crash, even when it seems like a complete “accident.” It is best for a victim or family member to contact a skilled attorney and start preparing to file a New Mexico wrongful death lawsuit as soon as possible after an accident occurs.
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A plane crash in New Mexico killed three students from a charter school in Silver City, devastating the community and the students’ families. The three students were eco-monitors for the school, and they were on a flight to witness the damage caused by a nearby wildfire. According to an article by the Silver City Sun-News, it was May 23, and the plane was flying near the Whiskey Creek Airport outside the city when a resident of a mobile home park witnessed the plane flying upside-down directly toward the trailer homes. The plane turned away from the mobile home park at the last minute and crashed into a field. All four occupants of the plane were killed in the tragic accident, the exact cause of which remains unknown.

landing-1443370-m.jpgIt is unclear whether the students were simply taking the flight together, or if they were on a school-sponsored trip, which would affect the legal implications of this accident. When a plane crashes, it is safe to say that something went wrong. It is not always easy to tell if the problem was caused by somebody’s intentional or negligent behavior, or just the result of an accident. In this case, the mobile home park resident’s statement that the plane was flying upside-down before the crash occurred raises the specter of negligence or human error, and it appears that someone may be legally responsible for the students’ deaths.

A New Mexico wrongful death claim is a way for the families of those killed by the conduct of another person to seek compensation. It was not known at the time the article was published whether the pilot, who was killed, was the owner of the plane that crashed. If the pilot was at fault for the accident and was killed, there may still be parties that could be held responsible for the teenagers’ deaths. The plane likely carried liability insurance, which could help to compensate the victims’ families for their loss. The owner of the plane, if he was not the pilot, could also be legally responsible in some way. If the students were on a trip that was somehow sponsored or supported by their school, the school could be held responsible. Since the school that the students were attending was a charter school, a civil claim for damages may succeed more easily than if the claim was against a regular public school.
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In a tragic accident last month, one woman was killed and three others were injured when their car clipped another vehicle and smashed head-on into a light pole. According to a report by a Fox affiliate KFOX15, the driver was speeding and drove through a red light at an intersection in Anthony, New Mexico, when he struck a car that was stopped at the traffic light and veered into a light pole. None of the occupants had their seat belts on, and the front seat passenger was ejected from the car and died on the scene. The other occupants were severely injured and airlifted to a hospital in El Paso, Texas.

According to the report, the car was speeding by at least 15 miles an hour when it entered the intersection, and there was no evidence that the driver applied the brakes before crashing. Police believe that the driver was drunk at the time, and that his intoxication played a role in the accident.

old-power-1306782-m.jpgDrunk, Negligent, and Reckless Driving in New Mexico

In New Mexico, drivers face various penalties for driving recklessly and causing injury, death or property damage. The driver from last month’s accident can face criminal penalties for drunk or reckless driving, battery, and manslaughter. Additionally, the driver may be financially liable to the injured passengers and the family of the deceased woman. If the driver of the car had auto insurance, his insurance company could also be liable for damages. Accidents caused by drunk or reckless driving result in significant costs, and unfortunately the victims of these accidents can rarely afford the expense.
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1381283586mxllq morguefile username DodgertonSkillhause.jpgA Bakersfield, California man was recently sentenced to 15 years to life in prison for second degree murder in connection with a fatal traffic collision in a construction zone. 32-year-old Jerad Cross was convicted of killing a 45-year-old Clovis man when he rear-ended his stopped vehicle while under the influence of prescription medication and other drugs. According to authorities, the force of the impact forced the deceased man’s pick-up truck underneath the trailer of a semi-truck.

The local District Attorney’s Office apparently chose to pursue a rare murder charge because Cross was driving on a suspended motor vehicle operator’s license at the time of the collision. Previously, Cross was charged with driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, speeding on at least five occasions, and he was allegedly involved in at least three other at-fault crashes. Immediately prior to the deadly accident, Cross purportedly crushed and snorted prescription medication in an effort to increase the effect of the drugs. He also apparently smoked methamphetamine the night before the accident.

At trial, Cross argued he was not guilty of second degree murder because he failed to understand he was endangering others when the wreck occurred. Prosecutors claimed Cross was well aware of the risks because the label on the drugs he took cautions against driving while taking the medication. Following two weeks of testimony, jurors convicted Cross on the murder charge as well as gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, possession of drug paraphernalia, and operating a vehicle with a suspended driver’s license.
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file0001300605042 morguefile username click.jpgIn mid-December, a Santa Fe jury issued a $2.25 million wrongful death verdict against Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in connection with the death of a young woman in 2008. In Christopherson v. Christus Health, et al., a 20-year-old woman sought emergency medical treatment for stomach pain that was purportedly related to pancreatitis at the Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe. The hospital apparently transferred Mercedes Christopherson to an Albuquerque hospital where she was treated for about one week. Four days after Chistopherson’s release from the Albuquerque hospital, she again sought treatment for severe stomach pain at Christus St. Vincent.

After she returned to Christus St. Vincent, Christopherson was treated with a short course of antibiotics. Although the young woman suffered a fever during her hospital stay, she was reportedly discharged without any further antibiotics treatment after only one week. At the time of her discharge, Christopherson’s oxygen-saturation levels were apparently dangerously low. In addition, the 20-year-old was released despite that she purportedly tested positive for an inter-abdominal infection.

According to the lawsuit, Christopherson was given a prescription for a pain relief patch when she was discharged from Christus St. Vincent. The drug provided through the patch is a narcotic that may depress a patient’s respiratory system. About 18 hours after she was released, Christopherson reportedly became unresponsive. The young woman was taken by ambulance to Christus St. Vincent where she was unfortunately declared brain dead at despite efforts to resuscitate her. Less than two days after her discharge from the medical facility, Christopherson died as an apparent result of septicemia.
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