In a recent ruling by the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico, the court denied a tire maker’s summary judgment motion. The tire maker had challenged via its summary judgment motion the ability of the plaintiff to collect damages for lost earnings or lost earning capacities. The tire maker’s position was based on the fact that the decedent, who was killed in a car accident, was apparently an undocumented immigrant.
The defendant tire maker’s position in support of summary judgment was that the plaintiff should not be allowed to recover damages for the decedent’s future lost earning capacity because it would be illegal for him to work in the United States under federal law. In support of its position, the defendant directed the court’s attention to the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (“IRCA”), which is the federal statutory scheme prohibiting the employment in the United States of undocumented foreign workers. The federal court adjudicating the dispute understood the defendant to be making the policy argument that the federal court should not reward conduct that is unlawful under federal law.
The court disagreed with the defendant’s approach to the issue. The court explained that it saw no reason for applying federal policy that was of questionable relevance in the lawsuit over clear New Mexico policy favoring compensation of injured people. Further, the court was of the view that the New Mexico Supreme Court would hold that federal policy would not require a court to deny compensatory damages for lost earnings under New Mexico tort law.