New Mexico Federal Trial Court Orders Settlement Conference and Specifies Requirements

A recent New Mexico federal court order (Arispe v. Allsup’s Convenience Stores, Inc.) instructed the parties before the court to engage in a settlement conference on December 14, 2018 at the federal courthouse in Roswell, New Mexico, and included multiple requirements.  The order specifies what the parties are to do in a manner likely to either cause a settlement of the case or bring the case much closer to trial-readiness.  This is helpful from the plaintiff perspective because defendants often employ delay tactics that can be very frustrating. If you have questions about legal matters of this nature, contact a New Mexico personal injury attorney.

The order was entered on October 30, 2018, thereby giving the parties a month and a half to prepare for the settlement conference.

Among the requirements of the order, which was entered by a New Mexico federal magistrate judge is that the parties or a designated representative of the parties other than counsel, having full authority to resolve the lawsuit, must attend the settlement conference.  Counsel trying the case were also required to attend.  The plaintiff was ordered to serve on the defendant by November 27, a brief summary of the evidence and principles allowing it to establish liability, a brief explanation of why damages or other relief would be warranted and an itemization of damages, and a settlement demand.  The defendant was ordered to serve on the plaintiff, by December 4, any points in the plaintiff’s letter with which the defendant agreed, any points in the plaintiff’s letter with which the defendant disagreed, with references to evidence and supporting legal principles, and a counteroffer.  The parties’ letters were to be limited to a maximum length of five pages, and counsel was ordered to ensure that each party read the other side’s letter prior to the settlement conference.

Among the other requirements specified by the court was itemization of any special damages claimed by the plaintiff, including for example lost wages and medical expenses, with exact dollar amounts relating to each category of special damages.  The defendant, in turn, was ordered to respond, with respect to amounts provided by the plaintiff with which it disagreed, by providing the exact dollar amount it believed to be correct.  To the extent there was disagreement concerning special damages, counsel was ordered to meet in person or by telephone prior to the conference and try to resolve the disagreement.  The Court specified that an exchange of emails was insufficient.  If this did not lead to full resolution, counsel were to come to the settlement conference prepared to argue their positions.

These are among the Court’s specifications that reflect a desire to cause the parties to assess the strengths and weaknesses of their cases, try to arrive at an agreement with respect to damages, or at least narrow disputes over damages and other issues for trial.  It sent a message to the defendant that denials of liability without a basis were not acceptable and it was also unacceptable to contest the extent of damages without advancing a principled basis for a contrary view.  As such, the order was potentially very helpful to the plaintiff.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, there may be grounds for a financial recovery.  An award of damages by a court or settlement agreed to by the parties can assist people who are injured and their families with the medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering caused by the accident.  To understand more about your case and how it can be pursued to maximize your recoveries, 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 or online.

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