In past blog posts, we have covered what must be shown by the injured plaintiff in a personal injury action. Often, the elements of a personal injury action are summarized as duty, breach, causation, and damages. A duty is usually created by statute or case law, where a standard of care or behavior is expected and owed by the at-fault party to the injured person. 1341162_75498681If the at-fault party fails to uphold that duty, and an injury resulted because of the failure, the at-fault party can be held responsible for the damages that were incurred because of the injury. While these are the cornerstones of a personal injury suit, many other factors must be considered to ensure the success of a civil action.
A recent New Mexico Court of Appeals personal injury case illustrated how the location of the injury and the location of the parties involved affected whether a suit can be filed in New Mexico state court. Following an injury in a hotel’s exercise facility, a woman filed suit for the damages arising out of her injury. While the injured woman in Trei v. AMTX Hotel Corporation was a New Mexico resident, the accident occurred in a Holiday Inn hotel in Texas. The parent company of the franchised hotel was a New York corporation. The corporation participated in discovery, or exchange of evidentiary information, but maintained that it could not be sued in New Mexico for lack of personal jurisdiction. The trial court dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction, and the woman appealed.
For a suit to move forward in state court, both parties do not necessarily have to be residents or incorporated in the state. However, a party must have enough “minimum contacts” with the forum state to avoid unfairness or injustice. If the at-fault party has enough contact with the state in which the suit is filed, personal jurisdiction exists and the suit may move forward. The injured party is responsible for showing the contacts exist.
Since the accident-causing injury occurred in Texas, the injured woman had to show there were contacts between the parent corporation and New Mexico. The franchised establishment in Texas did not have any facilities, hotels, offices, or employees in New Mexico. It also did not have any agents, advertise, or conduct any business in New Mexico. The injured woman pointed to general advertisements for Holiday Inn in New Mexico and the fact that she was a member of a special rewards club, which is advertised nationally, but the Court of Appeals was not swayed by the injured woman’s connection between the franchisor defendant, the franchisee, and New Mexico. The Court of Appeals did not feel the minimum contacts established by the non-resident parent corporation extended to the non-resident franchisee. The Court affirmed the decision of the trial court to dismiss the suit.
When you have been injured, you need experienced counsel that can chart the best course of legal action for your case. The New Mexico premises liability attorneys at Parnall Law Firm have the knowledge and understanding essential to maximizing recovery. For a free consultation today, contact our office at 505-268-6500.