Articles Posted in product liability

Defendants sued in state court in New Mexico personal injury cases will often prefer to litigate in federal court.  Under some circumstances, defendants can successfully remove cases filed by plaintiffs in state court, thereby changing the plaintiffs’ chosen forum.  But this is not always the case because federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction.  In a recent ruling, a New Mexico federal district court remanded a case that defendants removed to the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico back to the state court in which the plaintiff had filed it, the First Judicial District Court in Santa Fe County, New Mexico.

The case followed a fatal car accident.  According to the district court’s ruling, a man had allegedly sold his house in Arizona and was driving in New Mexico on his way to his father’s home in Wisconsin at the time of the accident.  His intention was to relocate his family to live with his father, and so the family came with its belongings.  He was driving a pickup truck and pulling another.  His wife and children followed in a U-haul truck rented for the move.  A tire failed on the truck he was towing, causing him to lose control of the truck he was driving, which crossed the median and rolled over.

After the person died from the injuries he suffered in the accident, a personal representative of his estate sued two companies on the basis that they had sold the decedent defective tires.  The lawsuit alleged causes of action for violations of New Mexico’s Unfair Practices Act, and for strict products liability, negligence, and breach of warranty.  The plaintiff sought a recovery of damages, including punitive damages in a complaint filed in New Mexico state court.  The defendants removed the case to federal court.  Under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1), removable cases include civil actions between citizens of different states where the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.

Prosecuting a case pro se, in other words on one’s own behalf, can be difficult for a litigant.  A pro se plaintiff suing Hershey for an injury he alleged occurred when he bit into a chocolate product that contained a metal item recently sought a stay for a second time.  A successful motion to stay would have resulted in the suspension of his lawsuit, without prejudice to his rights.  The first time the plaintiff had sought to stay the case, Hershey did not oppose, and the judge issued a stay of proceedings until January 16, 2018, based on the plaintiff’s representation he needed a stay to aid his ailing father.  On January 16, 2018, the plaintiff filed a second stay motion, seeking a stay until July 2019.  The motion was based on medical, financial, and juridical reasons, and the defendant opposed.  After considering the situation, the court denied the second stay motion.

The plaintiff had sued the defendant in state court in Santa Fe County, alleging liability on tort theories including personal injury, product liability, and defective products.  The defendant responded to the lawsuit, which was filed on November 3, 2016, by removing it to federal court via a motion filed on September 27, 2017.  A few weeks later, the plaintiff sought and achieved a stay.  His subsequent stay motion was denied for several reasons.

First, the court articulated the standard it was using, explaining that the party seeking a stay must justify the request by clear and convincing evidence that outweighed the potential harm to the party against which the stay was to be operative.  The court concluded that the plaintiff could not show, under this standard, that staying the case until July 2019 outweighed the potential harm to the defendant.