Asked in Wrongful Death for New Mexico

Q: Attention Peter Munsing:..I dont understand why I cant sue the owner of the company? They were never safety concious!

The owner if said company at fault never held safety meetings, worked my son 70 hrs a week, made him work under dangerous conditions, lacked safety equipment while out in the field, made him do a railroad crossing with NO PERMITS and NO FLAGMEN! These are just a few of the things that took place in that company. The co-worker is a full time alcoholic, no license, dont even know if hes here legally. My son asked and asked for some reliable help! He was given an extra ground hand the day he was electrocuted. Its not fair! That company owner is at fault!

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1 Lawyer Answer
Peter N. Munsing
Peter N. Munsing

A: The answer, as I thought I had said, was that as part of the creation of the workers compensation system employers were off the hook for being sued unless it was actually intentional. I represented the estate of a 15 year old who was employed illegally to operate a forklift with no brake pedal, other problems, and he was killed. Defendant won, I took it to the U.S.Fourt Circuit and they said it was barred by workers compensation. Similar situation with a group of workers 1)knowingly exposed to asbestos 2)and employer had health reports from doctors and didn't tell the workers so they kept getting exposed. Result--cases dismissed. A young worker was employed at a company that used blocks instead of approved jacks to raise a truck, had a spinal cord injury and at age 23 was looking at being in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Not only couldn't he sued, but his wages for workers comp purposes were pegged to the wage rate at that time! And because he hadn't worked long enough, he couldn't get social security disability, just SSI! I thoroughly disagree with the holdings in those cases,m but they are what they are. However, every state is different and here and there some have allowed claims under OSHA's "general duty clause, " so I had advised you to consult with members of the New Mexico Trial Lawyers Assn. & Foundation who handle workplace deaths--they give free consultations. Also, as I mentioned in electrocution cases there are sometimes other parties besides the employer who can be held liable. Finally, under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) & other statutes you may have an action against the employer similar to workers compensation but different in some regards, so that needs to be looked at.

Consult with attorneys who are members of the NMTLAF who handle FELA cases for a free consult.

All the best. '

Even if ultimately you get a no, work with those trying to get the laws changed. That is a long term project, but it people don't give up it can hapen.

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