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.