Supreme Court Upholds $165 Million Verdict In Fatal FedEx Truck Collision Case
The New Mexico Supreme Court affirmed a $165 million jury verdict against FedEx for a fatal collision that occurred in 2011. The crash took place on Interstate 10 between Las Cruces and Deming when a FedEx truck hit a small pickup truck that was driving slowly or stopped in the westbound right-hand lane. The crash killed Marialy Morga and her 4-year-old daughter, Ylairam, and critically injured her 19-month-old son, Yahir. The truck driver, Elizabeth Quintana, also died in the collision.
Lawsuits were filed by Marialy Morga’s husband, Alfredo Morga, and his father-in-law, Rene Venegas Lopez. A jury in Santa Fe awarded compensatory damages of $61 million to the estate of Ylairam Morga, $32 million to the estate of Marialy Morga, $32 million to Yahir Morga, and $40.125 million to Alfredo Morga. No punitive damages were awarded.
FedEx argued that the damages were excessive and a new trial should have been granted by a district court judge who took over the case when the original judge recused herself after the initial trial and verdict. The successor judge denied a new trial after a more than 5-month review of the pleadings, testimony, and record of the case.
On appeal, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that “substantial evidence supported the verdict and that the jury’s award was not the result of passion or prejudice.” The Court declined to order a new trial in the case.
FedEx has claimed that the cumulative $165 million compensatory damages award is the largest in New Mexico history for such a case type. However, the Court noted that “Defendants do not attempt to explain why the award for each of the individual Plaintiffs is excessive, but instead argue that the cumulative verdict is excessive.”
Under existing law from prior court rulings, a new trial is appropriate if damages are so disproportionate to the injuries “as to shock the conscience.” The Court concluded that the weight of the evidence is not clearly and palpably against the verdict and that it would be an injustice to let the verdict stand.
FedEx also argued that the verdict was the product of “passion or prejudice” in the jury because of emotional testimony and statements by the plaintiffs’ lawyer during closing arguments. The Court rejected these arguments, stating that Alfredo Morga’s testimony was the result of a genuine emotional response and that the statements made by the lawyer were not inflammatory.
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