The Court of Appeals of New Mexico released a decision in August 2014 that allowed the mother of an accident victim’s child to intervene in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the child’s stepmother (and the victim’s current wife). The ruling in the case of Spoon v. Burn Construction Company, docket no. 32674, Court of Appeals of New Mexico (2014), reversed a district-court order that the mother could not intervene to assert a loss of consortium claim against the construction company on behalf of her son, who lost his father in the deadly accident.
The victim was killed on July 30, 2012 when a truck that was being operated by the defendant construction company made a left turn into the path of the victim’s motorcycle at an intersection in Carlsbad, New Mexico. The motorcyclist was unable to avoid crashing into the construction vehicle and died from the resulting collision. A New Mexico wrongful death lawsuit was filed by the man’s current wife, which alleged that the driver of the construction vehicle was negligent and failed to yield the right of way to the motorcyclist, causing the accident. The current wife requested damages on behalf of her husband’s estate. She also requested damages for loss of consortium for herself personally, and also on behalf of the victim’s son, who is also her stepson.
Loss of Consortium Claims
Loss of consortium is a claim that can be made by the spouse or child of a victim in a New Mexico wrongful death or personal injury lawsuit. According to New Mexico Uniform Jury Instruction 13-1810(A), an award for loss of consortium is designed to compensate the family members of an accident victim for the emotional distress associated with the loss of society, guidance, and companionship with the victim. (In the case of a spouse’s claim for loss of consortium, judgment can also be awarded for the loss of sexual relations with the injured or deceased spouse.)
After the initial lawsuit was filed, the mother of the child sought to intervene into the lawsuit to assert her son’s claims for loss of consortium stemming from the loss of his father. The district court denied the mother’s motion to assert her son’s loss of consortium claim, ruling that the child’s interest in the lawsuit was adequately protected by the stepmom’s assumption of the same claim within the initial complaint. Maintaining that she had a unique interest in her son’s lawsuit and the right to assert her own claim on his behalf, the mother appealed the ruling to the New Mexico Court of Appeals.
The Court of Appeals ruled that the mother had a unique interest in her son’s loss of consortium claim and reversed the lower court’s denial of her motion to intervene in the stepmother’s case. The mother also requested she be appointed as joint representative of her son for purposes of his loss of consortium case, alleging that the stepmother’s own loss of consortium claim presented a conflict of interest with the child’s claim. The Court denied this request, ruling that there was no conflict of interest present.
The difficulty that the child’s mother faced to join in her son’s case for compensation from the death of his father demonstrates the complicated nature of a New Mexico truck accident lawsuit. Although the mother was allowed to join the case after the ruling on appeal, the amount of time and money that was spent by the parties in arguing this issue both in the district court and on appeal was substantial, and the case still needs to go to trial. Many accident victims are unable to afford an appeal, and if their claim is rejected at the district court, they simply give up. It is important that accident victims and their families have an effective legal strategy as early in the process as possible to help obtain compensation without an appeal.
Have You Lost a Loved One in a New Mexico Truck Accident?
If you or someone you love has been injured or killed in an accident with a large vehicle or semi-truck, the New Mexico accident attorneys at The Fine Law Firm can assist you with your accident case. We will make sure that your case is filed properly and all the applicable claims are made from the beginning, and our dedicated attorneys do everything they can to get the results our clients deserve. The Fine Law Firm represents clients in nearly all types of New Mexico wrongful death and personal injury cases, including truck accident and loss of consortium claims. Contact us at (585)889-3463 to find out if you have a case, or send a message through our website and schedule a free consultation today.
More Blog Posts:
Texas Woman Killed After Semi-Truck Crosses into Oncoming Traffic and Hits Three Vehicles, New Mexico Truck Accident Lawyer Blog, September 12, 2014.
Fallen Stop Sign Leads Woman to Drive into Intersection and Collide with Semi-Truck, Killing Her Instantly, New Mexico Truck Accident Lawyer Blog, July 28, 2014.