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New Mexico Lawsuits Against Government Officials and Agencies

Posted in Firm News

In 1978, New Mexico lawmakers enacted the New Mexico Tort Claims Act (NMTCA) in an attempt to protect the rights of individuals injured by New Mexico government employees while still preserving the government’s ability to function without the constant risk of lawsuits.

Lawmakers decided that the most efficient and practical way to take into account both of these issues was to grant the government and their employees certain immunities, while enumerating certain exceptions. The NMTCA specified the duties of public employees and which behavior would fall into an exception of governmental immunity.

In order for a plaintiff to file and win a New Mexico personal injury lawsuit against a governmental employee, they must make sure that the entity or employee falls into one of the very specific exceptions. Although New Mexico seems to have a significant number of exceptions, there is still a heavy burden on the plaintiff to ensure that the defendant directly falls under one of these.

Governmental immunity exists in most activities except eight specific instances. Generally, these are:

  • Operating motor vehicles, aircraft, or watercraft;
  • Operating or maintaining public parks, equipment, or machinery, except the diversion of water;
  • Operating airports;
  • Operating some public utilities;
  • Operating hospitals and similar institutions;
  • Providing health care;
  • Maintaining or constructing highways, bridges, roadways, etc.; and
  • Injuries caused by law enforcement officers who are acting within their duties.

Although the NMTCA was enacted for noble purposes, the burden it imposes on citizens injured by governmental entities and individuals can be significant. The NMTCA can result in essentially limited to no recourse for some injured people. A New Mexico attorney can assist victims in determining what their rights and remedies are if they are injured by a governmental employee.

Court Cites Trail Immunity in Finding that City Was Not Liable After Individual Fell 

An appellate court recently issued an opinion in a personal injury lawsuit filed by a man who fell over a wall near a recreational trail. The man entered a natural park in California while the park was closed to go “ghost hunting” with his friends. While the man was attempting to take a shortcut, he lost his footing and went rolling down the hill and fell over a retaining wall. The man suffered serious injuries as a result of his fall.

Procedural Posture

The man filed a personal injury lawsuit against the city, arguing that they were liable for the injuries he sustained. The defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that they were protected by the state’s “trail immunity” statute. The trail immunity statute provides that the government is not liable for any injuries that occur on any recreational trails.

The trial and appellate courts agreed that the trail immunity statute applied in this case. The court found that the trail is used for hiking and recreational activities and thus falls under the statute. The plaintiff unsuccessfully argued that he was not hurt on the trail itself, but instead due to the lack of guardrails or warnings near the retaining wall. The court ultimately found that trail immunity covers the negligent maintenance of a trail, and the statute extends to the design of a trail, including a lack of handrails. The appellate court affirmed the summary judgment in favor of the defendant.

Have You Been Injured by a Governmental Entity in New Mexico?

If you or a loved one has been injured by a governmental entity or individual in New Mexico, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Statutory immunities can cause significant complications in New Mexico personal injury cases. The laws can be convoluted and difficult to understand and apply appropriately. An attorney at the Fine Law Firm can assist you in the preparation of your case. The attorneys at the Fine Law Firm have decades of experience handling these cases and other New Mexico personal injury lawsuits. Contact one of the attorneys at the firm for your free initial consultation. They can be reached at 800-640-6590.

More Blog Posts:

Court Issues Opinion in Spa Injury Case, Siding with Plaintiff, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, March 20, 2017.

Court Affirms Summary Judgment in Favor of Business in Recent Premises Liability Case, Citing Open and Obvious Danger, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, April 3, 2018.