In a recent ruling, the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico denied summary judgment to the sole defendant, an out of state tire manufacturer. The case before the court arose after a tire blow out that allegedly was caused by manufacturing and design defects. Allegedly after the tire blew out, a tragic single-vehicle accident occurred in which a pickup truck rolled over resulting in several people being injured and one person dying.
As part of its defense, the tire manufacturer unsuccessfully moved the court to enter a partial summary judgment in its favor holding that the plaintiffs could not recover compensatory damages for aggravating circumstances under New Mexico law.
Under New Mexico law, the personal representative of a wrongful death estate can recover compensatory damages on behalf of the estate. When determining whether it is appropriate to award compensatory damages, a New Mexico jury can consider mitigating or aggravating circumstance attending the allegedly wrongful act, neglect, or default. While compensatory damages generally are made available so that injured parties are made whole, compensatory damages under New Mexico’s wrongful death statute also further the interest of deterrence. Compensatory damages in aid of the public policy interest in deterrence can be awarded even in instances where punitive damages cannot be awarded.