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Court Discusses Government Liability in Recent Personal Injury Case

Posted in Auto Accidents

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion that presents an important issue for many New Mexico car accident victims. This case discusses in which circumstance the government can be held liable when a government employee is involved in an automobile accident. Specifically, the case required the court to determine if a sheriff deputy could be held liable for an accident occurring during a high-speed chase.

The Facts of the Case

The case stemmed from a lawsuit commenced by two individuals who were injured in a collision that occurred while police were in pursuit of a man fleeing from a routine traffic stop. According to the court’s opinion, a county deputy was monitoring traffic when he noticed a driver with an out-of-state license plate straddling two lanes and attempted to pull the car over.

As the deputy began to pursue the car, the driver increased his speed and began to veer in and out of traffic very quickly. The county deputy continued to pursue the driver and notified an adjacent county police station about the aggressive driver. The sheriff’s department in the other county began pursuit, and the original county officers had to stop due to a tire blow-out.

The second sheriff’s department continued a high-speed chase for over 20 more miles. The driver exited the highway and began driving even more erratically to avoid apprehension. The sheriff’s officer claimed that the driver threw a bag of white powder out of the window, which exploded on the police officer’s car; however, dash cam video did not corroborate the officer’s account. Eventually, the fleeing driver drove through an intersection and crashed into the plaintiffs’ car, which resulted in the plaintiffs sustaining serious injuries.

The Court’s Holding

The plaintiffs brought a lawsuit against both county sheriffs’ offices. At trial, both counties moved for and successfully obtained summary judgment in their favor. The plaintiffs then appealed the case. The appellate court affirmed the lower’s court decision regarding the original county’s sheriff’s department but found that summary judgment was improper regarding the second sheriff’s office. The plaintiffs argued that the lower court was incorrect in finding that there was no evidence of reckless disregard for proper law enforcement procedures concerning pursuits of this nature. The appellate court agreed.

Although the court found that the second sheriff’s office waived sovereign immunity by acting in a potentially reckless manner, the plaintiffs still had to establish that the police pursuit was the cause of their accident. Generally, this is a question for a jury, and the court permitted the case to proceed to trial.

Have You Been Injured by a New Mexico Government Employee?

If you or a loved one has been injured in a New Mexico car accident or other accident due to a law enforcement officer or other New Mexico government official, you should contact the Firm Law Firm. The attorneys at the Fine Law Firm have decades of experience handling New Mexico personal injury lawsuits and know what it takes to be successful on their clients’ behalf. Our Albuquerque car accident attorneys at the Fine Law Firm can zealously advocate on your behalf and help pursue the compensation you deserve. Contact one of the attorneys at 800-640-6590 to schedule your free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

State Supreme Court Finds No Basis for Summary Judgment after Expert Opinion Testimony, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, December 31, 2017.

New Mexico Supreme Court Explains Intricacies of Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, December 6, 2017.