Significant Case Decisions

Significant Case Decisions

Not every case ends with the jury verdict in the trial court and not every important case involves large damages. The following are cases where Trenchard and Hoskins were successful on appeal in establishing important changes in the law that have benefitted not only our clients but Texas and New Mexico workers and their families:

Circle S Feed Store v I & W, Inc.; Affirmed by United States 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Mid-Continent Casualty v Circle S Feed Store at 754 F3rd 1175 (10th Cir. 2014). I & W, Inc. carried on a solution mining operation for many years to produce brine water on property adjoining the property of Circle S. This operation eventually caused a large cavern under the Circle S property creating the danger of collapse. There had been two sink holes caused by similar operations in Eddy County ,NM, within 25 miles of the store location. As attorneys for the Plaintiffs in the trial court, were told at mediation by the Defendant’s insurance company that there would never be an offer of settlement “with six figures in it.” The case was tried to a jury based on the theory that the cavern had diminished the value of our client’s property. The jury returned a verdict in excess of one million dollars for actual and punitive damages. The insurance company for the Defendant, who was bankrupt by then, filed suit against our clients in federal court seeking declaratory judgment that the policy did not cover this type of occurrence. After a long, drawn out appeal, the federal courts held there was coverage and the insurance company finally had to write a check for 1.7 million dollars. The case established a precedent for liability caused to property other than the property where the actual operations had occurred and that damages could be caused for loss of value of the property before physical damage had occurred to the property.

Padilla v Hooks Int’l, 99 NM 121 (Ct. App. 1982, cert. den.) Established the Rescue Doctrine in New Mexico. The doctrine allows a rescuer to recover damages for injuries sustained in a rescue attempt from the party whose negligence put the person to be rescued at risk.

Lujan v Houston General Ins. Co., 756 SW2d 295 (Tex. 1988)
Established the Positional Risk Doctrine in Texas. Oilfield worker’s clothes were saturated with gasoline and paint as a result of mishap at work. When he removed clothes at home, hot water heater ignited fumes causing worker to burn to death. Texas Supreme Court held that accident was work-related since the risk resulting in death originated at his job.

State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance Company v. Valencia, 120 N.M. 662 (Ct. App. 1995). Established further coverages and rights under the Underinsured Motorist statues in New Mexico.

Beneficial Personnel Services v Rey, 927 SW2d 147 (Tex Ct Ap-1996) and Beneficial Personnel Services v Porras, 927 SW2d 177 (Tex Ct App 1996). Recovery of actual and punitive damages by oilfield workers in employee leasing fraud cases.

Gutierrez v. J & B Mobile Homes, 126 N.M. 494 (Ct. App. 1998). Established the precedent for determining the standard for an Employer/Insurer’s right to an independent medical examination.

Ramirez v. Dawson Production Partners, Inc., 128 N.M. 601 (Ct. App. 2000). Established the Traveling Employee Doctrine under the New Mexico Workers’ Compensation Act. The Traveling Employee Doctine provides that a worker can be considered on the job while traveling to and from work under certain circumstances even though work has not commenced and worker is not being paid.

Banks v. IMC Kalium Carlsbad Potash Co., 134 N.M. 421 (2003). Established that the Daubert analysis for admissibility of expert witness testimony is not applicable in New Mexico Workers’ Compensation proceedings.

Sandoval v Baker Hughes Oilfield Operations, Inc., 146 N.M. 853, 215 P. 3d 791 (Ct. App. 2009) Jury Verdict in amount of 2.2 million dollars for fractured femur of well service floorhand caused when Defendant’s tool blew apart and struck him in the leg. Defendant claimed the jury had awarded an excessive amount for pain and suffering. The Court held that the jury’s verdict should not be set aside except in extreme cases where it resulted from passion, prejudice, partiality, sympathy or some corrupt case. In upholding the verdict and affirming the case, the New Mexico Court of Appeals recognized the importance of the jury’s role and held that an appellate court’s opinion should not be substituted for that of the jury.

Acosta v John Hendrix Corp., 2010 WL 416231319 (N.M. App. 2010)
New Mexico Court of Appeals held that company could not enforce an arbitration agreement it required employees of another company it bought out sign as a condition of keeping their jobs. The Court held there was no consideration for the arbitration agreement and refused to deny the right to a jury trial to the injured employee. The attempt to deny oilfield workers a jury trial by forcing employees to sign arbitration agreements is a new strategy that has been adopted by companies such as Nabors Industries.

Rodriguez, et al v Permian Drilling Corp. and American Home Assurance, No. 32,311 in the Supreme Court of New Mexico; published July 19, 2011.
In this very important decision affecting drilling crews, the New Mexico Supreme Court has reversed prior law and held that the entire crew is in the course and scope of employment while traveling to and from drilling locations. The Court held that the travel to the rig is an integral part of the employment for crew members and the crew providing transportion provided a benefit to the employer. Further, the travel requirement creates special hazard in the work of a drilling crew member. Therefore, drilling crews are now covered by workers compensation traveling to and from the drilling rig and no longer limited to coverage while actually working at the drilling location.