Government Liability

Cases Against Government Entities

We represented the plaintiff in the landmark case of Schear v. Board of Bernalillo County Commissioners, 101 NM 671 (1984), when for the first time in New Mexico, a private citizen was permitted to sue for a duty which had been previously held to be owed only to the general public and not to a private citizen. In Schear, the plaintiff was permitted to recover damages for rape and assault which resulted, in part, from the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department's failure to respond to a 9-1-1 call.

In cases against New Mexico public entities, it is significant that notice of the negligence or conduct giving rise to a claim must be given to the particular public entity within ninety days or, in the case of a wrongful death, within six months. In addition, in cases against public entities, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of the incident, as opposed to the usual statute of limitations involving negligence cases, that is, three years.

Other cases against governmental entities in which we have prevailed include claims against highway departments for improper maintenance of a road; improper signing of a road; inappropriate construction areas; cases based upon using improper mixtures for making roads safe during winter storms; negligence in improperly maintaining public buildings; and negligent driving by public employees.

Recently we prevailed in the appeal of Rutherford v. Chavez County, 133 NM 751 (2003), a case in which the boundaries of government liability were extended.

Unlawful Use of Force Cases

We have handled numerous unlawful use of force cases against different law enforcement agencies in New Mexico. At least five of these cases have involved the wrongful death of an individual who was confronted by law enforcement officers.

Like police pursuit cases, unlawful use of force cases involve determining the standard operating procedures (SOP's) of a particular law enforcement agency; determining whether such procedures are in compliance with national standards; and determining whether such procedures were violated.

Police Pursuit Cases

We are one of the most active New Mexico firms regarding police pursuits. We have working relationships with experts in this field and are familiar with acceptable national standard operating procedures for police departments and agencies. The following excerpt appeared in the November 22, 2001 issue of the Albuquerque Tribune:

The family hasn't filed a lawsuit yet, but the man they've hired to represent them has considerable experience in fights with the Police Department and other police agencies.

Lawyer Joe Fine of the firm Fine and Faure has represented families in other civil lawsuits.

In 1993, he represented the family of Randy Libby, who was killed after a SWAT stand-off in the Northeast Heights. Libby was holding an Avon cologne bottle, which police apparently thought was a gun.

Fine received a $100,000 settlement in that case.

In 1997, he settled with lawyers for the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department for nearly $500,000. He represented the family of Jose Terrones and his 4-year-old daughter, Diana, who were killed by a stolen truck. The truck was being pursued by sheriff's deputies.

Also in 1997, Fine sued the Albuquerque Police Department when a shoplifter named John Neeld was allegedly punched in the groin while handcuffed. The incident was captured on tape by a television news photographer.

In 1999, Fine settled with lawyers from the Rio Rancho Police Department in a case regarding David James. Four police officers fired on James when he showed them a cross.

And early this year, Fine filed a lawsuit on behalf of relatives of Johnny Vigil, a Santa Fe man who was killed in a police pursuit.

We have handled police pursuit cases in multiple New Mexico jurisdictions and are familiar with national standards and model policies regarding pursuits. We have working relationships with experts in police pursuit cases and are very familiar with producing demonstrative aids for such cases such as helicopter views of the pursuit scene and photographs of key intersections. Joe Fine recently gave a seminar regarding police pursuits in the Washington D.C. area for the National Victims of Crime Bar Association.

To discuss your case CONTACT US ONLINE OR CALL US AT (505) 243-4541 or at (800) 640-6590 if in-state, and at (505) 243-4541 if you are out-of-state in order TO SET UP A FREE CONSULTATION.

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