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New Mexico Federal Trial Court Allows Plaintiffs to Proceed with Only Some Causes of Action Against Employer of Allegedly Negligent Driver

A recent ruling by the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico in a truck accident lawsuit allowed the plaintiffs to proceed with some but not all of their causes of action, after the defendants challenged the sufficiency of the plaintiffs’ complaint.

The court’s analysis followed a tractor-trailer collision resulting in an injured driver being transported for medical treatment via emergency helicopter.  Allegedly the police attributed the collision to driver inattention and following too closely, but did not specify which of the drivers was at fault.  The plaintiffs sued the driver, asserting causes of action for negligence and negligence per se.  In the same complaint, the plaintiffs asserted causes of action against the driver’s employer based on legal theories including respondeat superior/vicarious liability, negligent hiring, negligent entrustment and negligent training and supervision.  After the parties had filed their pleadings and before the pretrial discovery process, the defendants challenged the sufficiency of the plaintiffs’ complaint.

When the sufficiency of a complaint is challenged so early on in the life of a personal injury case, the court is required to construe the facts set forth in the pleadings and inferences that can be drawn from the facts in the light most favorable to the party opposing dismissal of the complaint.  The court is to treat well-pleaded factual allegations in the pleadings of the party opposing dismissal as true, and consider whether they could establish a basis for liability.

In this case, the court was of the view that the plaintiffs’ allegations supported only a disputed claim that the driver the plaintiffs sued had caused the collision or had been negligent per se, but that the very occurrence of a vehicle accident did not support claims of the employer’s negligence in training, supervising, hiring or entrusting its drivers.  The court further concluded that the plaintiffs had not alleged facts from with the court could infer that this kind of negligence had occurred.  The court did not explain how the plaintiffs could be expected to know, so early in the pretrial process, the circumstances under which the driver was hired, entrusted with a vehicle, trained or supervised by his employer.  The court did not, however, dismiss the respondeat superior/vicarious liability cause of action, which can provide a basis for imposing liability on an employer for acts and omissions of employees acting within the scope of the employees’ duties.

If you or a loved one has been hurt in an accident, there may be grounds for a financial recovery.  In some cases multiple parties can be liable for the payment of money damages based on multiple theories of recovery.  Receiving damages can help injured people and their families recover out-of-pocket costs including medical bills and lost wages.  To understand more about your case and how it can be pursued to maximize your financial recovery, 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 (Phone) or (505) 317-3118 (Skype).  Alternatively, we can also be reached by email at the following email addresses:

mattvance@mattvancelaw.com
jennifer@mattvancelaw.com
amanda@mattvancelaw.com