Last month, the Supreme Court of Iowa decided a premises liability case stemming from a 2010 accident. According to the court’s written opinion, a business guest at a hotel slipped and fell on the ice in the parking lot and broke her ankle. She brought a personal injury lawsuit, claiming that the hotel negligently caused her injuries because it did not maintain safe premises, did not properly train its employees, failed to warn its guests of the icy sidewalk, and caused ice to form. During the trial, the court instructed the jury on the negligent training theory but did not follow the proper doctrine. Furthermore, it also instructed the jurors on certain safety codes. The jury determined that the hotel was 98 percent liable and that the plaintiff was two percent at fault. She was subsequently awarded $1.2 million.
The defendants then appealed the decision, claiming that the jury instructions were erroneous. With regard to the negligent training theory, the defendants argued that the record did not contain evidence that imposed a duty of care on the hotel. The plaintiff contended that expert testimony was not required. However, the Supreme Court held that there must be some evidence or testimony to support the instruction. Moreover, the Supreme Court found that the lower court incorrectly over-emphasized certain evidence. As a result of these missteps, the Supreme Court reversed the decision and award and ordered a new trial.
Special Issues in Negligent Training and Hiring Cases in New Mexico
The above case highlighted the importance of appropriate jury instructions and preparation in personal injury lawsuits. Unfortunately for the plaintiff, the decision was completely reversed, and a new trial was ordered because of these inappropriate jury instructions. This resulted in a dismissal of the jury award.
In New Mexico, there are very specific rules when it comes to establishing negligent hiring and the damages to which a plaintiff may be entitled. Many people may have a basic idea of how to claim compensatory damages in these cases, but punitive damages are often a mystery.
New Mexico law requires that a plaintiff who wants to collect punitive damages must first show that the employer was negligent in hiring the employee, and then the plaintiff must connect the state law to the punitive conduct. As expected, the plaintiff must first establish that the employer was acting negligently in the hiring process. New Mexico is considered a preemption state, meaning that after an employer admits that the employee was acting within the scope of employment, the plaintiff cannot bring a direct claim against the employer. The reason for this is that the employer is already considered liable, based on the doctrine of respondeat superior.
Additionally, it is important to note that if a New Mexico plaintiff wants to bring a punitive damages claim against an employer, they must support this by only a preponderance of the evidence. This is different from the majority of the states, which use a clear and convincing standard.
Cases in which a plaintiff is bringing a personal injury lawsuit against an employer can be exceedingly difficult, and there are many issues that may come into play. It is crucial that plaintiffs in these cases consult with an attorney.
Have You Been Injured Because of the Negligence of Another Person or Their Employer?
If you or a loved one has suffered injuries because of the negligence of another person or their employer, you should strongly consider hiring an attorney at the Fine Law Firm to help you pursue your case. The New Mexico attorneys at the Fine Law Firm have decades of experience handling complex premises liability and other personal injury cases. If you are successful, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for the injuries you suffered. Contact an attorney at the Fine Law Firm today to schedule your free initial consultation. We can be reached at 800-640-6590.
More Blog Posts:
State Supreme Court Denies Governmental Immunity for Transportation Commission in Wrongful Death Claim, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, July 13, 2016.
State Court Finds Plaintiff Was Not Entitled to a New Trial in Lawsuit over Medical Expenses, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, June 28, 2016.