Injury’s Foreseeability Features in Premises Liability Trial

- Charles Ruhmann

The New Mexico Supreme Court has delivered a new ruling that can affect how premises liability claims may be decided in court. The decision stemmed from a wrongful death case filed by surviving heirs of three people who were killed in an accident.

Background of the Case

In March 2006, a woman named Rachel Ruiz drove a pickup truck in the Del Sol Shopping Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. While driving, Ruiz suffered a seizure and lost consciousness. Her vehicle continued moving and accelerated, eventually crashing into a medical clinic within a shopping center. Three people were killed and 6 others were injured in the crash.

Doctors of the female driver previously advised her to avoid driving because of a medical condition that caused her seizures. Ruiz was also aware that her pickup had mechanical brake and acceleration defects. Ruiz was criminally charged and convicted for the deaths and injuries of those involved in the crash.

Wrongful Death Case

The surviving heirs of the accident victims then sued the shopping center and medical clinic for wrongful death. The suit claimed that the defendants were negligent in maintaining the parking lot and for failing to install barriers between the parking area and the clinic.

The district court ruled in favor of the defendants in a summary judgment that found that the defendants did not have the legal duty to protect plaintiffs against the accident because the circumstances surrounding the crash were unforeseeable.

The Court of Appeals confirmed the ruling stating that the shopping center did not have the duty to protect its patrons from runaway, third-party vehicles.

Supreme Court Ruling

Plaintiffs raised the matter in the Supreme Court where the decision of the lower court was reversed. The Supreme Court said that it was not for the lower court to decide whether the accident was foreseeable for purposes of determining the existence of a duty on the part of the defendants.

While the duty to prevent injury is essential in a premises liability case, the injury sought to be prevented must have been foreseeable for the defendant to be liable. Foreseeability is a matter to be determined during trial. The New Mexico Supreme Court remanded the case back to the lower court for trial.

Representing Clients in New Mexico

If you or a loved one is injured in someone else’s property, depending on the circumstances of your accident, you may be entitled to compensation based on premises liability.

In Las Cruces, New Mexico, the Ruhmann Law Firm has years of experience in premises liability cases, helping clients recover the maximum amount that they legally deserve. We are available to help you and can take phone calls at any time of the day.

We invite you to call our New Mexico office today at (915) 845-4529 to speak to an attorney about your situation. Initial consultation is free of charge.