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New Mexico: Worker’s Offer of Judgment Triggers Statutory Fee-Shifting Provisions

September 14, 2018 (1 min read)

A workers' compensation judge erred as a matter of law by declining to apply the mandatory fee-shifting provision set forth in N.M. Stat. Ann. § 52-1-54(F)(4)(2003)(amended 2013), because the worker made a valid offer under N.M. Stat. Ann. § 52-1-54(F) (2003), held the Supreme Court of New Mexico. The employer had argued that the worker’s offer failed to address two contested issues: date of MMI and the rate of PPD. The Court acknowledged that if an offer of judgment failed to dispose of the critical issues raised in a worker's compensation complaint, the offer was ambiguous and therefore invalid. It added, however, that the absence of an MMI date did not preclude an opposing party from ascertaining its potential liability set out in an offer of judgment. Moreover, to force a worker or employer to include details in an offer of judgment that are dependent on the healing process of the worker would drastically delay settlements in compensation cases. Here, the worker set forth his proposed resolution of MMI and PPD in the offer of judgment. An argument premised on an employer's dislike of the offer of judgment is not enough to render the offer defective. Based on the purpose of the statute and prior case law, the Court agreed that the worker had made a valid settlement offer and intended to invoke the fee-shifting statute.

Thomas A. Robinson, J.D., the Feature National Columnist for the LexisNexis Workers’ Compensation eNewsletter, is co-author of Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law(LexisNexis).

LexisNexis Online Subscribers: Citations below link to Lexis 

See Baker v. Endeavor Servs., 2018 N.M. LEXIS 59(Sept. 6, 2018)

See generally Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 133.02.

Source:Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, the nation’s leading authority on workers’ compensation law