Articles Posted in Business Law

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The New Mexico Supreme Court consolidated two separate appeals of a final order of the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (PRC) that granted a taxicab certificate to Q Cab, LLC for new taxicab service in Albuquerque. Two preexisting taxicab companies, Albuquerque Cab Company (Albuquerque Cab) and Yellow-Checker Cab Company (Yellow Cab) wanted the New Mexico Supreme Court to interpret the Motor Carrier Act, NMSA 1978, section 65-2A-1 to -41 (2003, as amended through 2017), because the Act had been recently amended, creating separate designations for “municipal” and “general” taxicab services, and added a definition of fitness which a candidate taxicab company must show, and the PRC must find, before an applicant may operate. The two preexisting companies sought a declaration with respect to their ability to protest new taxicab applications. The PRC determined Q Cab was fit to operate. The Supreme Court, after review, determined Albuquerque Cab and Yellow Cab were not statutorily protected from competing applicants; Albuquerque Cab and Yellow Cab both failed to demonstrate their respective businesses would be impaired; and that the PRC’s determination that Q Cab was fit to operated was supported by substantial evidence and was within the agency’s discretion. The Supreme Court affirmed the PRC’s final order. View "Albuquerque Cab Company, Inc. v. New Mexico Public Regulation Comm'n" on Justia Law

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New Mexico Rule of Evidence 11-410 NMRA stated that evidence of a nolo contendere plea made in settlement of a criminal proceedings was not admissible in civil proceedings against a defendant making such a plea. In this case, the issue presented for the New Mexico Supreme Court's consideration was whether evidence of a nolo plea was admissible in a civil case for misrepresentation where the plaintiffs sought to introduce a nineteen-year-old nolo plea of one defendant to support an argument that the defendant fraudulently failed to disclose his nolo plea during the formation of a joint business venture. The Court held that evidence of the nolo plea was inadmissible under both the express terms and the underlying purpose of Rule 11-410(A)(2), and the Court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment on that basis. The Court reversed the Court of Appeals which held to the contrary. View "Kipnis v. Jusbasche" on Justia Law

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The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (PRC) granted Green Cab, LLC d/b/a Green Cab Co., (Green Cab) a certificate of authority to provide taxi service within Bernalillo County and to the rest of the state. Albuquerque Cab Co. (ABQ Cab) and Yellow Checker Cab appealed the grant of that certificate. On appeal, ABQ Cab and Yellow Cab asserted that the PRC erred by: (1) not scheduling a hearing on whether Green Cab should be issued the certificate; (2) denying their motions to intervene as "interested persons" in the Green Cab proceedings; (3) granting Green Cab authority to operate a taxi service; and (4) issuing Green Cab temporary authority to operate a taxi service in Bernalillo County to all parts of the state. After careful consideration, the Supreme Court held that the PRC committed reversible error by not holding a public hearing in which ABQ Cab and Yellow Cab could participate as intervenors, contrary to the statutory requirements of the Motor Carrier Act. Because the PRC did not follow the required procedure, the Court did not address the remaining arguments regarding Green Cab’s temporary or permanent authority. View "Albuquerque Cab Co. v. NMPRC" on Justia Law

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The issue before the Supreme Court in this case centered on whether defendant professional corporations and a limited liability company were "health care providers" as defined by the state Medical Malpractice Act so as to be able to receive the Act's benefits. The Court of Appeals determined that though Defendants did not literally meet the Act's definition of "health care provider," it nonetheless held that Defendants were health care providers under the Act because a strict adherence to the plain language of the definition would conflict with legislative intent. Although the Court of Appeals reached the same conclusion, the Supreme Court disagreed with the Court's determination that the definition of "health care provider" literally excludes Defendants. The Supreme Court concluded that several provisions in the Act indicated that the Legislature intended professional medical organizations like Defendants to be covered by the Act. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the Court of Appeals but on different grounds. View "Baker v. Hedstrom" on Justia Law

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The issue on appeal before the Supreme Court in this case centered on whether an out-of-state internet retailer, Barnesandnoble.com LLC (bn.com), which has no physical presence in New Mexico other than through stores owned by a sister corporation, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Inc., is subject to New Mexico gross receipts tax on its sales to New Mexico residents without offending the federal Commerce Clause. The answer to this question depended on whether Booksellers engaged in activities in New Mexico on behalf of bn.com that were significantly associated with bn.com's ability to establish and maintain a market for its sales in New Mexico, thus creating a substantial nexus between bn.com and New Mexico. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that Booksellers did engage in such activities, which included: (1) Booksellers' promotion of bn.com through sales of gift cards redeemable at bn.com and bearing bn.com's name; (2) Booksellers' policy of sharing customers' email addresses with bn.com; (3) Booksellers' implicit endorsement of bn.com through the companies' shared loyalty program and Booksellers' return policy; and (4) Booksellers' in-state use of Barnes & Noble logos and trademarks, which bn.com also used. Therefore, the Court held that Booksellers' in-state activities were sufficient to create a substantial nexus between bn.com and New Mexico, so that the state could tax bn.com's sales to customers in New Mexico without offending the federal Commerce Clause. View "N.M. Taxation & Revenue Dep't. v. Barnesandnoble.com, LLC" on Justia Law

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Jesus Gonzalez is an undocumented immigrant, coming to this country from Mexico for the first time in 2003 and again in 2005. In early February of 2006, he was hired by Performance Painting, Inc. as a painter's helper. By all accounts, Gonzalez was a good employee and worked without incident until August 31, 2006. On that day, he fell off a ladder, injuring his shoulder. As a result of the injury, Gonzalez was temporarily totally disabled and unable to work. The injury required multiple surgeries and months of physical therapy. While all workers are encouraged to return to work when medically feasible, federal law may preclude some employers from extending rehire offers to undocumented workers once they learn of their status. Because an offer to rehire must be a legitimate offer, the Supreme Court held that employers who cannot demonstrate such good faith compliance with federal law in the hiring process cannot use their workers' undocumented status as a defense to continue payment of modifier benefits under the Workers' Compensation Act. View "Gonzalez v. Performance Painting, Inc." on Justia Law

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A fire destroyed a hydroponic tomato facility belonging to a new business, Sunnyland Farms, Inc. The day before the fire, Sunnyland's electricity had been shut off by its local utility, the Central New Mexico Electrical Cooperative (CNMEC), for nonpayment. Sunnyland's water pumps were powered by electricity, and without power, Sunnyland's facility had no water. Sunnyland sued CNMEC, alleging both that CNMEC had wrongfully suspended service, and if its electrical service had been in place, firefighters and Sunnyland employees would have been able to stop the fire from consuming the facility. After a bench trial, the court found CNMEC liable for negligence and breach of contract. The trial court awarded damages, including lost profits, of over $21 million in contract and tort, but reduced the tort damages by 80% for Sunnyland's comparative fault. It also awarded $100,000 in punitive damages. The parties cross-appealed to the Court of Appeals, which reversed the contract judgment, vacated the punitive damages, held that the lost profit damages were not supported by sufficient evidence, affirmed the trial court's offset of damages based on CNMEC's purchase of a subrogation lien, and affirmed the trial court's rulings on pre- and post-judgment interest. Sunnyland appealed. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals regarding the contract judgment, punitive damages, and interest, and reversed on the lost profit damages and the offset. The Court also took the opportunity of this case to re-examine the standard for consequential contract damages in New Mexico. View "Sunnyland Farms, Inc. v. Central N.M. Electric Cooperative, Inc." on Justia Law

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Dean Durand crashed his Ford Bronco into a motorcycle driven by Daniel Gutierrez, ultimately resulting in Gutierrez's death. Defendant admitted that while at the business establishment operated by Defendant Meteor Monument, L.L.C., he had consumed seven twelve-ounce cans of beer and a twenty-four-ounce can of malt liquor. He also testified that he ingested heroin and crack cocaine shortly before the accident. Gutierrez's estate and family successfully sued both Durand and Meteor for Gutierrez's wrongful death. Only the verdict against Meteor was at issue in this appeal. Upon review, the Supreme Court found that the circumstantial evidence presented at trial was sufficient for a jury to find that it was reasonably apparent to Meteor that Durand was intoxicated at the time he was last served alcohol. Furthermore, the trial court did not err in holding that Meteor was on notice that the negligent supervision claim included Durand as an employee. In addition, "scope of employment" may be a factor in a negligent supervision claim; both Gutierrez and Meteor requested a scope-of-employment instruction and agreed with the trial court's answers to the jury questions regarding that instruction. As a result, that error was invited, and the trial court did not abuse its discretion in rejecting Meteor's motion for a new trial. The Court remanded the case for the appellate court to address an unresolved issue regarding punitive damages. View "Estate of Gutierrez v. Meteor Monument, LLC" on Justia Law

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Siblings Michael and Desiree Mendoza attended a wedding reception at the Santa Ana Star Casino operated by Petitioner, Tamaya Enterprises, Inc. (the Casino), where they were served alcoholic beverages and became intoxicated.  Casino employees continued to serve Michael and Desiree alcohol despite their apparent intoxication.  Michael and Desiree left the Casino and were killed when their vehicle left the roadway and rolled over.  Suit was filed in state court against the Casino claiming that the Casino's delivery of alcohol to Michael and Desiree while they were obviously intoxicated was in violation of state law and proximately caused their deaths. The Casino sought to dismiss the suit, claiming the state court lacked jurisdiction over a dram shop action where the tavernkeeper's duty not to serve alcohol to an intoxicated person is imposed by tribal law, not state law, and where the tribal law contains a provision reserving exclusive jurisdiction to the tribal courts. The Court of Appeals issued an opinion reversing the district court's dismissal of the complaint and remanded for further proceedings. In this appeal, the Supreme Court addressed a question of state court jurisdiction in a dram shop action brought under the Tribal-State Class III Gaming Compact (the Compact), negotiated between the State of New Mexico and the Pueblo of Santa Ana pursuant to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988. There was a conflict between Section 8 of the Compact which provides for state court jurisdiction where a casino visitor has been injured by the conduct of a casino, and Section 191 of the Pueblo of Santa Ana Liquor Ordinance, which reserves exclusive jurisdiction to tribal courts.  Upon review of the applicable legal authority, the Supreme Court concluded that New Mexico state courts properly exercise jurisdiction over casino visitors' personal injury claims pursuant to the Compact.  The second issue concerns the two types of common law dram shop claims:  claims brought by third parties injured by the conduct of the intoxicated patron against a tavernkeeper (third-party claims) and claims brought by the intoxicated patron against the tavernkeeper to recover for his own injuries (patron claims).  The Court considered the status of such common law claims following the codification of dram shop liability in the Liquor Control Act.  Due to the explicit language contained in the act that limits its application to taverns licensed under New Mexico law, the Court held that the Act was not intended to preempt all common law  claims.  Accordingly, because the Act does not preempt all common law claims, the common law recognizes an action by a third party against a tavernkeeper for over service of alcohol.  Therefore, the Court affirmed the result reached by the Court of Appeals and remanded the case back to the district court for further proceedings. View "Mendoza v. Tamaya Enters, Inc." on Justia Law