It is possible to alter the outcome of a jury trial in New Mexico personal injury cases by prosecuting post-trial motions and appeals. A recent ruling handed down by an Albuquerque federal court reflects the difficulties inherent in winning post-trial motions for judgment as a matter of law or new trial.
In May of 2019, plaintiffs lost a jury trial in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico. After the jury delivered a unanimous verdict in favor of the defense, the plaintiffs moved for judgment as a matter of law under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(b). In the alternative, the plaintiffs moved for a new trial under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(a). Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(b), the court could (1) allow judgment on the verdict, if the jury returned a verdict; (2) order a new trial; or (3) direct the entry of judgment as a matter of law. Similarly, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(a), the court was empowered to grant a new trial on all or some of the issues.
The plaintiffs contended in post-trial motions that evidence presented at trial showed that the defendant negligently risked his life and the lives of other pedestrians and motorists by failing to seek a Vision Report and presenting it to the Motor Vehicle Department (MVD); failing to report his losses of consciousness to the MVD; continuing to drive although he knew his ability to drive was substantially impaired; and driving without using supplemental oxygen. After reciting these grounds for relief from the jury verdict, the court observed that they ignored evidence to the contrary that had been presented to the jury for consideration that supported the jury’s conclusion that the defendant had not been negligent. The evidence discussed by the court included the testimony of the defendant’s optometrist that the defendant’s vision was good enough to drive and that the defendant had filled out MVD paperwork. By the time of trial the MVD paperwork allegedly could not be located. The court reasoned that the inability to locate the paperwork did not give rise to an inference that the paperwork had not been submitted to the MVD. The court also observed that testimony had been presented that the defendant would have had to take a vision exam when renewing his driver’s license one month prior to the accident.