MON: NM 2nd State To Make Gas Stations Liable For DUI, NM Wilderness Area Grows, + More

Jul 19, 2021

New Mexico Is 2nd State To Make Gas Stations Liable For DUI - Associated Press

Gas stations have a legal obligation not to sell fuel to drivers who are believed to be intoxicated, the New Mexico Supreme Court said Monday in a decision that could have far-reaching effects on businesses and that only one other state applies so strictly.

The divided court outlined a precedent-setting ruling that raises the implication that not only gasoline merchants but other types of businesses — from auto parts stores and tire shops to mechanics — could be on the hook for ensuring they don't sell products to people who then drive drunk.

The decision notes that only one other state — Tennessee — applies the law in such a way to create a “duty of care” for businesses to refrain from supplying fuel to drunken drivers because of the risk of driving while intoxicated.

The ruling came in response to a request from a federal appeals court to resolve a question of state law concerning the potential liability of a retailer that sold gasoline to an intoxicated driver in 2011. After refueling and returning to the highway, that driver crossed the center line and crashed into an oncoming vehicle, killing a person.

Under the legal doctrine of negligent entrustment, the owners of potentially dangerous goods have a responsibility to supply those goods only to someone competent to safely use them. New Mexico courts have recognized in past decisions that the owner of a vehicle who entrusts an intoxicated person to drive it may be liable for injuries caused by the drunken driving.

While New Mexico has no law that would prohibit the sale of gasoline to intoxicated drivers, the court's majority wrote that a duty not to sell gasoline to someone who is drunk is consistent with liability for giving that person alcohol or a vehicle.

“Gasoline is required to operate most vehicles today. Providing gasoline to an intoxicated driver is like providing car keys to an intoxicated driver," the majority wrote.

The court reviewed past legal precedents, statutes and other principles of law in reaching its decision. The majority noted that the New Mexico Legislature this year prohibited the sale of hard liquor at convenience store gas stations one county. State law also holds businesses and others liable for selling or serving alcohol to intoxicated people.

In her dissenting opinion, now-retired Justice Barbara Vigil wrote that selling or serving alcohol is regulated and that laws don't warrant extending liability for drunken driving to retail sales of nonalcoholic goods.

She noted that “this sea change in the law could have far-reaching consequences for retail businesses” — from auto parts stores and tire shops to mechanics and others who will be left guessing as to whether they are subject to the new duty.

Vigil added that it's unclear how much investigation gas stations will have to do to determine whether a person may be intoxicated when trying to refuel a vehicle, particularly when many drivers pay at the pump rather than dealing with a worker inside.

New Mexico Marks Record Year Of Spending By Film Industry - Associated Press

Despite the coronavirus pandemic that led to a shutdown for months in film production, the show did go on in New Mexico.

The New Mexico Film Office announced Monday that this fiscal year, which began in July 2020, broke records in the state with film and TV productions spending roughly $623 million. An estimated 40% of production budgets are spent on procuring goods and services from New Mexico businesses, according to the state.

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham touted the numbers, saying the productions would otherwise have been shot elsewhere had it not been for the state's crew base, stunning locations and film incentive program.

“As New Mexico opens this summer and production ramps up, now is the time to ensure we remain invested in the New Mexico film and television industry, as it is key to our state’s recovery and to diversifying New Mexico’s economy,” she said in a statement.

Earlier this year, NBCUniversal marked the opening of its production hub near downtown Albuquerque. It joined Netflix, which has plans to expand its footprint on the southern edge of the city. Both have received millions of dollars in state and local economic development funds as incentives for locating in New Mexico.

An estimated 9,000 New Mexico residents work in the industry with an average wage of over $56,000 annually, according to the state. About three-quarters of below-the-line crew and cast members involved in productions over the last year were residents.

Production was halted for about one quarter of the fiscal year because of the pandemic. Since resuming in September 2020, the state saw 26 film, 24 television and 19 additional media productions. During that time, the COVID-19 positivity rate among crew and cast remained low, averaging about 0.1%.

Amber Dodson, director of the New Mexico Film Office, said there are more productions in the pipeline for the remainder of the year and well into 2022.

“We expect this growth to continue as we work to expand the ecosystem to include a larger crew base, expanded sound stage infrastructure, and increased post-production, visual effects and multimedia production,” she said in a statement.

Las Vegas, NM Officers Shoot And Kill Armed Suspect - Associated Press

Police in Las Vegas, New Mexico, are investigating a fatal officer-involved shooting.

The Las Vegas authorities say officers were responding Saturday night to a domestic call when they encountered 30-year-old Jeffery Scott walking out of the home.

According to investigators, Scott had a gun and pointed it at the officers and fired several rounds.

Two officers returned fire.

Scott fled on foot but officers found him a short time later dead from a gunshot wound.

Police say no officers were wounded by the gunfire.

The incident remains under investigation. The officers' names will not be released until interviews with them have been completed.

Man In Hospital Gown Found Dead Inside New Mexico Police Car - Associated Press

Police in Albuquerque are investigating the death of a man seen dressed in a hospital gown whose body was later found in a campus police car.

KOB-TV reports that surveillance video from Saturday showed the man wandering over to the University of New Mexico campus before getting into the back of a patrol car.

Authorities said the man was found dead about 10 hours later in the vehicle that was parked outside UNM police headquarters.

The UNM Hospital is affiliated with the university and is located just north of the school’s main campus.

The name of the dead man hasn’t been released yet.

The Office of Medical Investigator said the death wasn’t suspicious and the man likely died from dehydration, heat, and/or lack of oxygen.

UNM police didn’t immediately disclose whether the cruiser was unlocked or if the man broke into the vehicle.

Navajo Nation Revives Horse Ride For New Council Session - Associated Press

The Navajo Nation Council is commencing its summer session with a return to tradition.

Tribal officials marked the beginning of the session Monday with a horse ride to the council chamber in Window Rock, Arizona, the Farmington Daily Times reported.

The horse ride was canceled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic. The ride's participants typically would travel to various chapters before arriving at the session. The event honors how previous tribal leaders would go to the Navajo Nation's capital.

Delegate Mark Freeland said he rode alongside more than two dozen others.

Still, some delegates chose to attend the session by telephone.

The reservation is the country’s largest at 27,000 square miles and it covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

Hard hit by the pandemic with more than 31,000 known cases, the Navajo Nation is seeing cases going down. But leaders are continuing to urge mask wearing and vaccinations.

Navajo Nation Reports 30 New COVID-19 Cases, 2 More Deaths - Associated Press

The Navajo Nation has reported 30 new COVID-19 cases and two more deaths.

Navajo Department of Health officials said 17 of the cases were from Saturday with the other 13 reported Sunday.

They say the two deaths were reported Saturday.

The latest numbers brought the total number of coronavirus-related deaths on the reservation to 1,366 since the pandemic began more than a year ago.

Health officials said the total number of cases stood at 31,160 cases as of Friday.

The Navajo Nation recently relaxed restrictions to allow visitors to travel on the reservation and visit popular attractions like Canyon de Chelly and Monument Valley.

While cases are down, Navajo leaders are urging residents to continue wearing masks and to get vaccinated.

New Mexico Wilderness Area Grows With Large Donation - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland visited her home state Saturday to celebrate what marks the largest wilderness land donation in the agency's history and another addition to the nation's landholdings as the Biden administration aims to conserve nearly one-third of America's lands and waters by 2030.

The 15-square-mile donation from the Trust for Public Land increases the size of the Sabinoso Wilderness Area in northeastern New Mexico by nearly 50%. The property includes rugged canyons, mesas covered by pinon and juniper woodlands, pockets of ponderosa pine trees and savannah-like grasslands.

Haaland, who joined other officials at a remote site in San Miguel County, acknowledged that the area makes up part of the ancestral homelands of the Jicarilla Apache and northern pueblos of New Mexico. She said that, for generations, families have relied on the land for sustenance and that it means a lot to many people who visit the area in search of peace and quiet.

"We're here today because we recognize the importance of preserving this special place," she said in prepared remarks, adding: "We know that nature is essential to the health, well-being and prosperity of every family and every community."

The Biden administration issued a report earlier this year titled "America the Beautiful." It called for a decadelong commitment on projects nationwide to make the conservation and restoration of lands and waters an urgent priority. The lofty plan aims to purify drinking water, increase green space, improve access to recreation, restore fisheries, reduce wildfire risks and recognize the contributions of farmers, ranchers, rural communities, Indigenous tribes and others.

Haaland said areas like Sabinoso Wilderness are an important piece of the puzzle as the administration looks to meet its goal. 

"This kind of collaboration that you see today is how we will reach that target over the next decade," she said.

The Sabinoso gained federal wilderness protection in 2009, but was inaccessible for visitors since the federal parcel was landlocked by private holdings.

Through the work of conservation groups and members of New Mexico's congressional delegation, the Bureau of Land Management accepted a donation in 2017 of nearly 6 square miles from The Wilderness Land Trust. That provided public access for the first time.

Now, the donation from the Trust for Public Land provides a second access point as well as permanent protections for a tributary that feeds into the existing wilderness.

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, a New Mexico Democrat, first visited the Sabinoso Wilderness Area about 15 years ago and has been working ever since to get it opened up to the public. He has described it as "one of New Mexico's most spectacular landscapes."

The area supports an array of wildlife, from elk and deer to mountain lions, turkey and bears.

Agency: State To Take Over Operations Of 2 Private Prisons - Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

New Mexico plans to convert two privately run state prisons in rural areas into facilities operated by the Department of Corrections, the agency says.

The department said Friday that it will take over operations of the Northwest New Mexico Correctional Center in Grants and the Guadalupe County Correctional Facility in Santa Rosa by November, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.

The facility in Grants is operated by CoreCivic, which is headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee, while the facility in Santa Rosa is operated by Geo Group, which is based in Boca Raton, Florida.

Just under half of the prison beds in New Mexico were in privately operated facilities when Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's administration began in 2019, the department said in a news release. "After these transitions are completed, the administration will have reduced that rate by more than half, to 24.5%."

Grants is 68 miles west of Albuquerque. Santa Rose is 112 miles east of Albuquerque. 

Man In Hospital Gown Found Dead Inside New Mexico Police Car - KOB-TV, Associated Press

Police in Albuquerque are investigating the death of a man seen dressed in a hospital gown whose body was later found in a campus police car.

Albuquerque TV station KOB reports that surveillance video Saturday showed the man wandering over to the University of New Mexico campus before getting into the back of the patrol car.

Authorities said the man was found dead about 10 hours later in the vehicle that was parked outside UNM police headquarters.

The UNM Hospital is affiliated with the university and is located just north of the school's main campus.

The name of the dead man hasn't been released yet.

The Office of Medical Investigator said the death wasn't suspicious and the man likely died from dehydration, heat, and/or lack of oxygen.

UNM police didn't immediately disclose whether the cruiser was unlocked or if the man broke into the vehicle.

Navajo Nation Reports 30 New COVID-19 Cases, 2 More Deaths - Associated Press

The Navajo Nation has reported 30 new COVID-19 cases and two more deaths.

Navajo Department of Health officials said 17 of the cases were from Saturday with the other 13 reported Sunday.

They say the two deaths were reported Saturday.

The latest numbers brought the total number of coronavirus-related deaths of the vast reservation to 1,366 since the pandemic began more than a year ago.

Health officials said the total number of cases would be announced Monday. It stood at 31,160 cases as of Friday.

The Navajo Nation recently relaxed restrictions to allow visitors to travel on the reservation and visit popular attractions like Canyon de Chelly and Monument Valley. 

The reservation is the country's largest at 27,000 square miles and it covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

While cases are down, Navajo leaders are urging residents to continue wearing masks and get vaccinated.

Stretch Of I-10 Dedicated As Memorial For Slain Officer - Las Cruces Sun-News, Associated Press

A stretch of Interstate 10 in Luna County in southwestern New Mexico is now a memorial corridor honoring a New Mexico State Officer gunned down by a drug trafficking suspect on Feb. 4.

The State Transportation Commission voted unanimously Thursday to approve the 18-mile memorial for Officer Darian Jarrott, the Las Cruces Sun-News reported.

"That strip on I-10 will always have significance and a special meaning," state Lt. Gov. Howie Morales told the commission.

Jarrott was killed near Deming while conducting a traffic stop of a pickup driven by Omar Felix Cueva, a drug trafficking suspect under investigation by federal Homeland Security Investigations.

Cueva opened fire and killed Jarrott, a 28-year-old Lordsburg resident.

Cueva then drove eastward on I-10 and was killed in a gunfight with law enforcement officers near Las Cruces.

Members of Jarrott's family attended Thursday's meeting, during which commissioners paid tribute to law enforcement officers, citing Jarrott's death as an example of daily risks borne by officers and how quickly a violent encounter may unfold. 

'The Bachelorette' Offers New Mexico Resort A Lifeline - By Adrian Gomez Albuquerque Journal

After being closed by the raging pandemic for months, the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa was brought back to life by the filming of the current season of "The Bachelorette."

"(Having the production at the resort) helped me bring back 80% of the staff," said Claudia Wattenberg, the resort's general manager told the Albuquerque Journal. "They allowed me to bring back my team and I wanted them to be here. We were closed in January and February and we wouldn't have opened with the lack of demand. We were relying on the out-of-state driving market and it wasn't happening. It was very restrictive until July 1."

The current season – the reality series' 17th – premiered in June on ABC. This season follows "bachelorette" Katie Thurston on her quest for love.

Since its premiere, the series has hovered at just under 4 million viewers and easily is at the top of the advertiser coveted 18-49 demographic each week.

According to Variety, in 2018 it cost $153,096 for a 30-second ad on "The Bachelorette."

Wattenberg said the national exposure has been a blessing for the property, which is located on Santa Ana Pueblo. Production took place for two months earlier this year.

"For nine weeks, our property will be seen by millions," she said. "We couldn't pay for this type of exposure."

The direct effect is the Tamaya is booked weekends through August and there is a significant increase in people looking at it for wedding and engagement parties.

"This is huge for Hyatt," Wattenberg said. "We're one of the leading brands and to have one of our resorts, it's been fantastic to showcase not only the resort but New Mexico and most importantly, Santa Ana Pueblo."

According to the New Mexico Tourism Department, film tourism is listed as a "special interest" activity for an estimated 10% of New Mexico visitors in 2019.

"This doesn't mean that a film location was the reason someone made a trip to New Mexico, but it does indicate that while on their trip, 10% of visitors reported that they found an opportunity to engage in some sort of 'film tourism' activity," said Cody Johnson, New Mexico Tourism Department spokesman.

Wattenberg said interest in the resort began to pick up when the location was leaked via Twitter in February.

Amber Dodson, New Mexico Film Office director, said having the production film in New Mexico has a positive impact in the state.

"Viewers from around the globe are tuning in each week and seeing the incredibly beautiful scenery at the Tamaya Resort on the Santa Ana Pueblo," Dodson said. "The production shot during the pandemic maintaining a COVID-safe bubble. This in turn generated revenue for Native-owned businesses and the Tamaya, that was otherwise experiencing unprecedented financial hardships."

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