Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Herrera v. Quality Pontiac case brief

Herrera v. Quality Pontiac case brief summary
73 P.3d 181 (2003)

Appellants, a personal representative and related individual, challenged a decision of a trial court, which dismissed their wrongful death and personal injury action against appellee repair shop for failure to state a claim. The Court of Appeals (New Mexico) certified the matter to the court.

Individual took his vehicle to shop for repairs and left it unlocked with the keys inside pursuant to the shop's directions. While the shop's lot was fenced, the gate was unlocked. A man stole the car and collided with another vehicle, killing one and injuring another. Appellants then brought this action, which trial court dismissed.

  • The court reversed, concluding that an owner or one in possession of a vehicle who left a key in the ignition of an unattended and unlocked car owed a duty of ordinary care to those individuals injured in a car accident involving the vehicle when a thief stole the vehicle and negligently or criminally caused the accident. 
  • The court overruled Bouldin v. Sategna, 71 N.M. 329 (1963), on its holding that there was no duty in such a case and that there existed no proximate cause as a matter of law between leaving ignition keys in an unattended vehicle and an accident precipitated by a thief. 
  • Because the court overruled the Bouldin case, it also overruled the dicta in Torres v. El Paso Electric Company, 127 N.M. 729 (1999) to the extent that it reaffirmed Bouldin. 
  • It was for the jury to determine if the shop breached its duty of care.
The court reversed the trial court's decision.

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