Truck Rental Agency Dismissed from New Mexico Personal Injury Lawsuit

The United States District Court for the District of New Mexico recently handed down a decision granting a motion to dismiss filed by a truck rental agency in a New Mexico personal injury lawsuit.  The truck rental agency was sued following the alleged collision of a truck rented from it for commercial use with another vehicle.  The U.S. District Court was called on to determine whether there was a basis for a recovery from the agency or the claims asserted by the plaintiff against the agency should be dismissed.  After reviewing applicable law the court dismissed the claims asserted against the agency, leaving the plaintiff free to pursue claims against other parties.

Under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a federal trial court may dismiss all or part of a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.  In this case, the truck rental agency’s motion to dismiss was unopposed by the plaintiff.  As the court explained, although a party’s failure to respond to a motion to dismiss may be understood to signify consent to the granting of the relief requested in the motion to dismiss, the court is obligated to consider the merits of the motion.  In reviewing the merits, the court determined that there were multiple grounds for dismissal of claims against the truck rental agency.

First, the court noted that neither the negligence nor vicarious liability causes of action in the complaint even mentioned the truck rental agency expressly. Under the doctrine of vicarious liability, one party can be held responsible for the actions or omissions of another party, but in this instance there was no basis.   The court continued the analysis, observing that the complaint also did not have factual content from which the court could draw a reasonable inference that the truck rental agency was liable for the alleged conduct.  Second, the court reasoned that the complaint failed to allege grounds for holding the truck rental agency and other defendants jointly and severally liable.  The court explained that, under New Mexico law, joint and several liability applies only (1) when the alleged tortfeasors act with the intention of injuring one another, (2) to vicarious liability, (3) to strict liability, and (4) when there is a sound basis in public policy.  None of these circumstances were presented in the complaint that was filed on behalf of the plaintiff, according to the court’s ruling.  The court further explained that vicarious liability against the truck rental agency was precluded by federal law known as the Graves Amendment, which expressly preempts vicarious liability claims against commercial vehicle lessors.  The Court concluded that the plaintiff’s complaint failed to state a claim against the truck rental agency and granted the motion to dismiss claims asserted against the agency under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).

If you or a loved one has sustained personal injuries, there may be grounds for a recovery of monetary damages from parties who are responsible.  In some situations, more than one party can be held responsible for payment of monetary damages.  Collecting damages can help people who have suffered personal injuries with out-of-pocket costs, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.  To understand more about your case and how it can be pursued to maximize your 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 or online.