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Plaintiff Inadvertently Excuses Multiple Defendants from Lawsuit by Signing Overbroad Pre-Trial Settlement Agreement

Posted in Catastrophic Injury

Earlier this month, a Mississippi appellate court issued a written opinion in a premises liability lawsuit that should act as a warning to all New Mexico personal injury victims. The case involved a slip-and-fall case filed against three defendants, two of which the plaintiff excused through a pre-trial settlement agreement. However, the issue for the court to resolve was whether the plaintiff also unknowingly excused the third defendant as well. Ultimately, the court found that the third defendant was excused through the lawfully executed agreement between the plaintiff and one of the other parties.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was walking on the sidewalk in front of an auto parts store when she tripped and fell after stepping in hole for a recessed utility box that was obscured due to fresh grass clippings that had covered the area. The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the auto parts store, the city where the accident occurred, as well as the utility commission responsible for the placement and maintenance of the utility box.

During pre-trial negotiations, the plaintiff entered two separate settlement agreements with the auto parts store and the city. The agreement with the city contained a clause whereby the plaintiff agreed to discharge the case against the city and any “successors, agents, attorneys, insurers, subsidiaries, sister or parent companies, assigns, employees, representatives, stockholders, [etc.]”

After the two defendants were excused, the plaintiff’s case against the utility commission proceeded through the pre-trial discovery process. At one point, the general manager of the utility commission testified that the utility commission was a division of the city. The utility commission then moved for summary judgment, arguing that as a division of the city which was excused as a defendant pursuant to the pre-trial settlement agreement, the plaintiff’s case against the commission should be dismissed. The plaintiff argued that it was not her intention to excuse the utility commission when she executed the agreement with the city.

The court began its analysis by noting that the language in the agreement was clear, and that if the utility commission was in fact a division of the city then it was excused in the settlement agreement between the plaintiff and the city. In making the determination whether the commission was a division of the city, the court looked to the plaintiff’s own complaint, which referred to the commission as a “subsidiary” of the city. That being the case, the court was comfortable holding that the plaintiff did know that the commission was a division of the city, and excused the commission by executing the agreement with the city.

Have You Been Injured in a New Mexico Slip-and-Fall Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in any kind of New Mexico slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The skilled New Mexico personal injury advocates at the Fine Law Firm have extensive experience representing injury victims across New Mexico in a wide range of personal injury matters. We pride ourselves in the client-centered representation we provide to our clients, and always take care to ensure our clients know everything that is going on with their case. Call 505-889-FINE to schedule a free consultation with an attorney today.

More Blog Posts:

Degenerative Brain Diseases Caused by Participation in High-Impact Sports in New Mexico or Elsewhere, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, October 4, 2017.

Government Agency Faults Manufacturer for 2016 Auto-Pilot Crash, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, September 18, 2017.