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New Mexico Supreme Court Rules on Whether Traditional Indemnity Can Be Utilized Even With State’s Adoption of Comparative Fault

Posted in Firm News

Earlier this month, the New Mexico Supreme Court released its opinion regarding the applicability of traditional indemnification in the state following a personal injury lawsuit. The case stems from an accident in which a mother was changing her baby’s diaper in a Safeway Grocery store in the state. While the mother was changing her baby, the table fell from the wall due to a defect in the installation. The mother brought a lawsuit against the grocery store, claiming negligence. The mother then went on to amend her complaint to add another defendant – the company that installed the changing station.

After the personal injury claim was brought, the grocery store filed a cross-claim against the other defendant. They sought indemnification, contribution, and other damages. The grocery store cited an agreement the parties both signed that addressed the indemnification of the grocery store if a situation of this nature were to arise. However, the installation company refused to accept the agreement, citing New Mexico’s anti-indemnification statute. The district court found that as a matter of law, they would not have to pay any damages that were a result of the installation company’s negligence. Ultimately, the case was taken all the way to the Supreme Court, where the Court held that the indemnification contract was void and unenforceable.

New Mexico Supreme Court Decision Regarding Indemnification and Comparative Negligence

The court addressed the confusing relationship between traditional indemnification rules and the state’s comparative negligence statute. The court explained that with indemnity, the recovery stems from a contract and enforces duties on the primary wrongdoer. This wrongdoer must address all damages.

In contrast, comparative fault was adopted by the state in order to address situations in which one defendant was only somewhat at fault. This theory allows damages to be divided among all negligent actors that contribute to the injuries. In these cases, all of the defendants are responsible for their own negligence, and a jury has to apportion their percentages of fault. This was enacted to ensure that defendants are not responsible for wrongs that they did not commit.

The court found that traditional indemnity does not apply when a jury apportions liability under a comparative fault doctrine because the wrongdoer was actively at fault. This applies even when there is an indemnification clause. In this particular case, the court held that under a New Mexico state statute and in the interest of public policy, the indemnification clause is void.

Have You Been Injured Because of the Negligence of Multiple Parties in New Mexico?

If you or a loved one has been injured because of the negligence of more than one party, you should contact one of the dedicated and experienced personal injury attorneys at the Fine Law Firm. These cases are often very tricky because the plaintiff may have to muddle through complex contracts and various indemnity clauses. An attorney at the Fine Law Firm can help you navigate these issues and seek the compensation you deserve. If you are successful, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for the injuries you sustained. These damages may include payments for your past and future medical expenses. Contact an attorney at the Fine Law Firm today at 800-640-6590 to schedule a free initial consultation.

More Blog Posts:

State Court Hears Appeal Following Denial of Expert Testimony, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, February 2, 2016.

Appellate Court Affirms Denial of Plaintiff’s Medical Malpractice Claim Based on Lack of Expert Witness Testimony, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, February 22, 2016.