In a New Mexico truck accident case, the ultimate question is whether the defendant truck driver was negligent. It is ultimately up to the plaintiff to prove a defendant’s negligence, which is done through the introduction of evidence. Often, relevant evidence in a New Mexico truck accident case consists of live testimony, cell phone records, logs maintained by the driver, or the actual vehicles themselves.
Given the importance of evidence in a New Mexico truck accident case, courts impose a duty on both sides to preserve all evidence as soon as there is a reasonable probability that a lawsuit is likely. A recent case illustrates when this duty arises and what is considered a violation of a duty to preserve relevant evidence.
The Facts of the Case
According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff’s wife died in a truck accident after the vehicle she was driving hydroplaned on the highway. Evidently, the storm drain that was supposed to drain excess water on the highway was clogged with debris. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the city in charge of maintaining the road where the accident occurred.
Evidently, after the accident, the plaintiff’s wife’s vehicle was towed to a scrap yard. The scrap yard initially contacted the plaintiff for payment of the storage fees, but the plaintiff’s attorney later arranged to be the contact person. Despite the plaintiff’s attorney’s efforts to maintain contact with the scrap yard and continue to store the vehicle, the scrap yard destroyed the vehicle.
The defendant city requested the court impose sanctions against the plaintiff for failing to preserve the vehicle. The city argued that the cause of the accident was not the water on the roadway, but some defect in the vehicle, and that without the vehicle it was unable to present a defense.
The court denied the city’s request for sanctions, and permitted the plaintiff’s case to proceed towards trial. The court explained that both the plaintiff and his attorney were diligent in attempting to arrange for the vehicle’s storage, and the fact that the vehicle was destroyed was not due to the plaintiff’s negligence. Thus, sanctions were not appropriate.
Spoliation of Evidence in New Mexico Truck Accident Cases
In New Mexico, courts may impose sanctions on a party who fails to preserve relevant evidence. A common sanction is an adverse inference, which is an instruction from the judge informing the jury that they can infer that had any destroyed evidence been preserved it would have disfavored the party that failed to preserve it. Under established New Mexico case law, when determining if an adverse inference instruction is appropriate courts consider, 1.) whether the spoliation was intentional, 2.) whether the possibility of a lawsuit was reasonably foreseeable at the time the evidence was destroyed, 3.) whether the evidence was relevant to a material issue in the case, and 4.) whether the party requesting the instruction was diligent regarding the evidence.
Have You Been Injured in a New Mexico Truck Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a New Mexico truck accident, the dedicated Albuquerque personal injury lawyers at the Fine Law Firm can help. We have decades of experience representing injury victims and their families in all types of New Mexico truck accident claims, and know what it takes to succeed on our clients’ behalf. To learn more, call 505-889-FINE to schedule a free consultation today.
More Blog Posts:
Court Permits Plaintiff’s Negligent Entrustment Claim to Proceed Against Employer, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, October 30, 2018.
Court Discusses What Happens in the Event an Insurance Company Becomes Insolvent, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, October 19, 2018.