A plaintiff whose foot was allegedly broken by a repo-man will not be able to take her personal injury case to trial because her legal team did not designate an expert witness for trial before a scheduling deadline that was set by the Court. In the case of Duke v. Garcia, U.S. Dist. Ct. D. New Mexico, 2014 (Docket No. 11-CV-784-BRB/RHS), a New Mexico federal court granted the defendants’ motions for summary judgment, ruling that the plaintiff’s failure to designate an expert witness on the issue of medical causation before an April 17, 2013 deadline required that the case be thrown out. This will cost the plaintiff her opportunity for relief.
On April 15, 2011, the defendant repossession company was repossessing the plaintiff’s car in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. The plaintiff alleged that an employee of the defendant pushed her during the repossession and broke her foot. According to the complaint, the injury prevented the plaintiff from serving in the military, caused her to endure medical expenses, pain and suffering, among other things. After suffering the injuries, the plaintiff sued the defendant in federal district court.
Making a New Mexico personal injury claim can be extremely complicated. The plaintiff must prove not only that she was injured, but also that the injury was caused by the defendant’s wrongful act. To ensure that cases run smoothly, deadlines are set in the preliminary stages of the suit for the submission of witnesses and exhibits. In this case, the Court set an April 17, 2013 deadline for the plaintiff’s disclosure of expert witnesses. For one reason or another, the plaintiff did not submit any expert witnesses that would testify on her behalf by that deadline.
The Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment
When the deadline passed, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment to decide the case in their favor. The defendants argued that under New Mexico law, an expert witness is always required to show causation of an injury, and since the plaintiff has not designated an expert witness on that issue, that the plaintiff cannot obtain relief. The plaintiff responded that New Mexico law does not require an expert witness when the issue is one of common knowledge, and that it would not take a medical expert to determine that one person shoving another would lead to a broken foot.
New Mexico Law Regarding Medical Causation
To make a ruling on the case, the U.S. Federal Court needed to apply New Mexico state law regarding the necessity of an expert witness to show the causation of an injury. The Court determined that New Mexico law generally requires an expert witness as to medical causation, but such testimony is not necessary when exceptional circumstances that are within common experience or knowledge of the average person are present. Considering this along with the evidence, the Court found that “the record reveals multiple causes for Plaintiff’s alleged injury,” and that “at the time of the repossession, she had a pre-existing medical condition potentially causing pain and swelling near the area of the alleged injury.” Applying New Mexico law, the Court determined that this case was not an “exceptional circumstance” where medical causation is within common experience or the knowledge of the average person, and they granted the defendants’ motion, preventing the plaintiff from getting her case to a jury.
The Importance of a Sound Legal Strategy
It appears that the plaintiff may have had a valid claim in this case, and could have received substantial damages if she was able to get it to trial. Whether her attorneys forgot to find and designate an expert witness, or they believed one was not needed, her legal strategy resulted in her case being thrown out. Because New Mexico personal injury cases can be so difficult to try, it is important for plaintiffs to have competent legal counsel at their side from the beginning.
Have You Been Injured?
If you or someone you know have been injured as the result of someone’s wrongful act, it is important to obtain quality legal representation as soon as possible after the injury occurs. The Fine law firm has New Mexico personal injury attorneys with experience in all sorts of personal injury claims. Our competent and professional attorneys know what it takes to win cases. We will make sure that every deadline is met, and that you have the best chance to get the award that you deserve. Call us at (505) 889-3463 for a free consultation to speak with a New Mexico personal injury lawyer today. Or access us online.
More Blog Posts:
Recent New Mexico Appellate Court Decision Harmful to Medical Malpractice Plaintiffs, Increases Importance of Quickly Consulting an Attorney, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, March 13, 2014.
New Mexico Federal Court Rejects Defendant’s Attempt to Disqualify Plaintiff’s Witness in Slip-and-Fall Case, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, April 5, 2014.