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A recent ruling by the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims under the U.S. Constitution and the New Mexico Tort Claims Act as untimely.  In arriving at its conclusion that the claims were untimely, the court considered and rejected the plaintiffs’ arguments under the continuing violations doctrine.

The plaintiffs had sued the City of Espanola and employees after trying – for years – to get water and sewer services to their trailer that had been turned off turned back on.  Allegedly the prior owners of the trailer, who had been the plaintiffs’ landlords before the plaintiffs purchased the trailer, had not been forwarding money that the plaintiffs gave them for water and sewer services to the city.  The city’s records showed $1,760 owing on the account around December 2016.  A few weeks later, in February 2017, the plaintiffs discovered that the services had been discontinued.  Upon going to City Hall to investigate further, the plaintiffs were told the city had switched off municipal services due to the $1,760 unpaid account balance.

The plaintiffs tried to remedy the situation by explaining to city employees on multiple occasions that the overdue balance belonged to a deceased person who was a prior owner of the property.  In March 2017 they informed city officials in the Water Department that the denial of water services violated their rights.  Allegedly it took until March 2020 – over three years – to get services switched back on, and even then the bills for water came in increasing amounts and were addressed to the deceased.

In a recent case, the Chief Magistrate Judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico reviewed the terms of a personal injury settlement.  The review was on behalf of minors, two children whose father was killed in a car accident, to determine if the settlement should be approved.  Allegedly the minors’ father was killed when a pick-up truck he was driving was struck head-on by a pick-up truck that had crossed the center line in the roadway.  The driver of that pick-up truck was killed in the accident also.

The children were not in their father’s pick-up truck at the time of the accident and did not sustain bodily injuries in connection with the accident.  Their mother brought litigation, on her own behalf, on behalf of the estate of their father, and on behalf of the children.  She sought recovery of damages from multiple parties including the company that employed the driver of the vehicle that had struck her husband’s vehicle, and the driver’s insurance company.  The litigation she brought led to a settlement.

As part of the settlement, she and her children were to receive $4,530,007.00, comprised of several payments.  Under § 41-2-3(B) of New Mexico’s Wrongful Death Act, one half of the net settlement proceeds was to be distributed to her and the remaining half was to be distributed evenly between her two children and invested on their behalf.  The guardian ad litem appointed by the court was in favor of the settlement.

A recent opinion by the New Mexico Court of Appeals, Salas v. Clark Equipment Company, reverses the district court’s grant of summary judgment to a lumber company that had been named as one of the defendants in the plaintiffs’ personal injury suit.  The plaintiffs/appellants included a widow, children and grandchildren.  They sued the lumber company and other defendants following the death of their loved one, seeking damages based on the decedent having allegedly been exposed to products containing respirable asbestos as part of his work in home construction and as a miner and mechanic.

In 2013 the decedent was diagnosed with lung cancer.  He died later that year.  According to the Court of Appeals, over the course of the several years since the decedent’s passing, there was litigation that resulted in the plaintiffs achieving settlements with most of the defendants.  The lumber company and three other defendants did not settle with the plaintiffs.  They filed summary judgment motions, asserting that they were entitled to judgment in their favor as a matter of law.  After the defendants won, the plaintiffs appealed.

On appeal, three out of four defendants won again when the Court of Appeals upheld the summary judgment rulings in their favor.  But the Court of Appeals reversed the grant of summary judgment with respect to the lumber company defendant.

In a recent ruling, the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico decided to defer to the plaintiffs’ choice of forum.  Two plaintiffs, a husband and a wife, sued a trucking company that the wife had worked for as a commercial truck driver.  The couple also sued in the same complaint a trainer who had worked for the trucking company.  The company filed a motion, opposed by the plaintiffs, to transfer the lawsuit to the Western District of Kentucky, where the company allegedly maintained its principal place of business.  The trainer did not take a position on the relief requested in the motion to change venue as of the time that the U.S. District Court acted on the motion.

Among the orders that a federal trial court presiding over a lawsuit can make is an order transferring venue.  Venue can be transferred to any other district court in which the action could have been brought, pursuant to section 1404(a) of Title 28 of the United States Code.  A party seeking the relief of venue transfer must show that the existing forum is an inconvenient forum.  While a plaintiff’s choice of forum is afforded some deference, there are multiple factors that courts consider when deciding a motion to transfer venue.

Among the factors that the court identified as informing the analysis in this case were witness accessibility, the cost of proving the case, the ability to enforce a judgment if one is obtained in the case, the difficulties arising from the congestion of courts’ dockets, the advantages of having local courts decide questions of local law, and practical considerations that would facilitate expeditious and economical trial of the case.