A federal district court recently granted a motion for judgment on the pleadings filed by the defendant in a New Mexico wrongful death case. The court concluded that New Mexico law does not impose a duty to refrain from selling gasoline to an allegedly intoxicated driver, and it dismissed a negligent entrustment claim. The court gave the plaintiff 14 days to address the court’s skepticism with respect to the plaintiff’s negligent hiring, training, and supervision claim, which the court understood to be predicated on the same legal duty as the negligent entrustment claim.
Underlying the ruling was a fatal accident that occurred after a person working at a store sold gasoline to a person who was allegedly visibly intoxicated. The representative of the person who was killed in the accident caused by the allegedly intoxicated driver sued the store whose worker sold the gasoline for negligent entrustment based on the sale of gasoline, and for negligent hiring, training, and supervision of the employee who sold the gasoline.
The personal representative filed a case in the District Court of the Navajo Nation in Crownpoint, New Mexico. The case was met with a successful summary judgment motion premised on a time bar under the Navajo Nation’s two-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims. The plaintiff appealed the ruling to the Navajo Nation Supreme Court and, while the appeal was pending, filed a wrongful death lawsuit in New Mexico state district court, which the defendant removed to the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico.