Arbitration Agreement Cuts Off New Mexico Personal Injury Case

Personal injury lawsuits brought in New Mexico typically proceed on the basis that they will be heard by a jury.  Recently a New Mexico federal court granted a motion to compel arbitration brought by a defendant and stayed the plaintiffs’ personal injury lawsuit pending the completion of arbitration.

Allegedly, the plaintiff had been employed as a maintenance engineer in an Albuquerque store of a national retail chain.  While he was at work he was electrocuted and, as a result, fell off of a ladder, causing him to sustain injuries.  The injured employee and his wife sued the store and two managerial employees in the Second Judicial District Court of the State of New Mexico, County of Bernalillo.  Their complaint asserted causes of action for negligence and negligence per se, loss of consortium and conspiracy and sought to hold the defendants jointly and severally liable.  The complaint sought both compensatory and punitive damages.

After being served with the complaint the national retail chain that had employed the plaintiff at the time of the accident removed the lawsuit from state court to federal court.  It then moved the court to compel the plaintiffs to arbitrate their claims against it.

The defendant’s position, which prevailed, was that the plaintiff had agreed to arbitrate claims and was precluded from pursuing a recovery for his personal injuries through a lawsuit.  In support of its position, the defendant presented arbitration agreements which it represented had been signed by the plaintiff.

The plaintiff challenged his alleged entry into an arbitration agreement based on his lack of recollection.  The court rejected this based on its review of an arbitration agreement supplied by the defendant in connection with its motion to compel arbitration that was electronically signed by the plaintiff.  The court explained that once a party moving to compel arbitration comes forward with evidence sufficient to demonstrate the existence of an enforceable agreement, the burden shifts to the party opposing arbitration to raise a genuine dispute of material fact regarding the existence of an agreement.  In the court’s assessment, the plaintiff’s representation that he did not recall signing the arbitration agreement several years prior to his injury was insufficient to raise a genuine dispute of material fact regarding the existence of an arbitration agreement between the parties.

The court next rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the arbitration agreement was unenforceable due to lack of consideration.  The court looked to language in the arbitration agreement delegating to arbitration any disputes concerning how the arbitration agreement was formed and claims the arbitration agreement was void or voidable.  The court noted that the plaintiff challenged the validity of the arbitration agreement as a whole, not the delegation provision in particular, and explained that the court was constrained to treat the delegation provision as valid and enforce it.  Finally, the court rejected the plaintiffs’ request to take limited discovery.  The court granted the defendant’s motion to compel arbitration, ordered the plaintiffs to arbitrate and granted the defendant’s motion to stay the lawsuit, as against it, pending the completion of arbitration.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, there may be grounds for a financial recovery.  An award of damages can assist people who are injured and their families with the medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering caused by the accident.  To understand more about your case and how it can be pursued to maximize your recoveries, call New Mexico personal injury lawyer Matthew Vance at the Law Office of Matthew Vance, P.C.  We provide a free consultation and can be reached at (505) 242-6267 or online.