United States District Court, D. New Mexico
ANTONIA ROYBAL-MACK, as Personal Representative of the Wrongful Death Estate of KORI LYNN WOODS, Plaintiff,
NEW MEXICO DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY, OFFICER MARK QUINTANA and OFFICER DIEGO MENDOZA, individually and in their official capacities, and JOHN and JANE DOES #1-10, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S
MOTION TO AMEND COMPLAINT
MATTER comes before the Court upon Plaintiff's Motion to
Amend Complaint, filed September 6, 2017 (Doc.
27). Having reviewed the parties' briefs and
applicable law, the Court finds that Plaintiff's motion
is not well-taken and, therefore, is denied.
claims arise from the Defendant Officer's high-speed
pursuit of a vehicle operated by Kyle Mawhorter
(“Mawhorter”), in which Kori Lynn Woods was a
passenger and which resulted in a single-vehicle collision
killing Ms. Woods.
facts in the Complaint are summed up in the Joint Status
Report (Doc. 13). They bear repeating for purposes of
context. In November 2016 near Clovis, New Mexico, State
Police Officer Quintana initiated a traffic stop for speeding
on a vehicle operated by Mawhorter in which Ms. Woods was
riding as a passenger. Officer Quintana activated his patrol
unit's emergency equipment directing Mawhorter to stop
the vehicle on the shoulder of the highway. Mawhorter failed
to stop and Officer Quintana pursued Mawhorter (at speeds,
according to Defendants, close to 100 m.p.h.) along U.S. 70
traveling northbound. Officer Mendoza of the New Mexico State
Police was also patrolling that stretch of the highway and
was dispatched to assist Officer Quintana. Both police
cruisers were using their overhead emergency lights and
sirens, and recorded the chase on their dash-cam videos.
Defendants' version of events is that at one point
Mawhorter deliberately crossed into the southbound lanes of
U.S. 70 and began traveling northbound at speeds of 90-100
mph against oncoming traffic, causing the southbound vehicles
to swerve in order to avoid being hit. The officers therefore
decided to continue their pursuit of the vehicle for public
five minutes into the pursuit, Officer Mendoza attempted a
Pursuit Intervention Technique (“PIT”) maneuver
on Mawhorter's vehicle. The first PIT maneuver was
unsuccessful, but the second one brought Mawhorter's
vehicle to a stop. However, after stopping, Mawhorter
reversed his car and began traveling northbound on U.S. 70
again. According to Plaintiff's version, Officer Mendoza
advised dispatch at this time that there was a female
passenger (Ms. Woods) in Mawhorter's vehicle. Officer
Quintana attempted a third unsuccessful PIT maneuver when
Mawhorter began traveling west on Brady Avenue in Clovis,
N.M. The pursuit continued 12 miles on U.S. 70 northbound
until Mawhorter lost control of his vehicle crashing into a
metal fence at the intersection of W. Brady Ave. and S. Hull
St. in Clovis. Mawhorter fled the vehicle on foot but was
eventually found in a field and ultimately pled guilty to
various felony charges stemming from the accident. Ms. Woods
was pronounced dead at the scene.
March 31, 2017, Plaintiff as the personal representative of
Ms. Woods' estate, filed a five-count complaint in the
Second Judicial District Court in Bernalillo County,
asserting the following civil rights and state law tort
Count I - Civil rights violations under §1983 (Fourth
and Fourteenth Amendments);
Count II - Violations of the New Mexico Tort Claims Act, NMSA
1978 §41-4-12 and under the New Mexico Law Enforcement
Safe Pursuit Act, NMSA 1978, §29-20-1;
Count III - Negligent hiring, Training, Supervision and
Count IV - Respondeat Superior; and
Count V - Breach of duty under the New Mexico Wrongful Death
Act, NMSA 1978, §41-2-1 et seq.
removed the case to federal court on May 15, 2017 and filed a
motion seeking dismissal of the state claims asserted in
Counts II, III, IV and V, contending that Counts II, III, IV
and V of the Complaint were redundant and attempted in
various ways to state a claim for negligence resulting in the
wrongful death of the decedent pursuant to NMSA §41-4-12
of the New Mexico Tort Claims Act (“Tort Claims
Court granted Defendant's motion, finding that
Plaintiffs' claims asserted under §41-4-12 of the
Tort Claims Act were premised on negligent conduct, which is
insufficient for a waiver of immunity under the Tort Claims
Act. With respect to the torts enumerated in §41-4-12,
allegations of negligence are appropriate only to the extent
that a law enforcement officer's negligence is alleged to
have caused a third party (such as Mawhorter in this case) to
commit one of the specified intentional torts. Doc.
18 at 6-7. The Court noted that the allegations in the
complaint were framed in terms of negligence and did not
assert any of those enumerated torts in §41-4-12. Doc.
18 at 6.
responding to Defendants' motion to dismiss, Plaintiff
had sought the Court's permission to amend the complaint
in the event the Court favored Defendants' arguments.
However, the Court concluded that such amendment would be
futile because even assuming the facts to be true, they did
not plausibly lend themselves to acts of assault, battery or
false imprisonment by Mawhorter because those torts require
intentional acts. Doc. 18 at 7. All of Plaintiff's state
law claims were dismissed in the Court's Memorandum
Opinion and Order. Id. at 16.
motion is self-styled as a motion to amend, although
Plaintiff also expressly includes a request that the Court
modify its previous rulings on her state law claims. Since
Plaintiffs' principal objective is to seek a modification
of the Court's previous Memorandum Opinion and Order
(Doc. 18), and amendment would be futile ...