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Commuting case has no impact on workers’ compensation reform

By Merilee Dannemann

The New Mexico Court of Appeals ruled recently that a certain state employee is entitled to sue the state in district court instead of being restricted to workers’ compensation.

A friend of mine e-mailed:  “Seems like it unravels the whole (workers’ comp) reform.”

No, it doesn’t.

For those who may be alarmed, some explanation:

First, this case is not that big a deal, except to the parties directly involved.

Second, the plaintiff’s attorneys who are dancing around the maypole, hailing this as a victory, should pipe down.

It’s not that big a victory either, and they will embarrass themselves if they keep it up.  

Third, the issues raised in this case are not related to the famous New Mexico workers’ compensation reform.

The reform is in many ways unraveling, and that is a serious matter, but this case is about issues much more basic than the reform.  

The story is this: A state employee, commuting to work from Albuquerque to Santa Fe via the Park and Ride system, fell into an unmarked hole in a state-owned parking lot and broke her leg.

Did she have the right to sue the state because the hole was negligently left unmarked, or was she restricted to workers’ compensation?

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