Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – Nine years ago, Christopher Paiz left a psychiatric hospital and stabbed his mother to death, according to a lawsuit filed by his mom’s estate.
The ensuing litigation came to a quiet close last year – with a $75,000 settlement from the New Mexico Behavioral Health Institute, which had released Paiz.
The settlement isn’t unusual.
Roughly once every two weeks last year, New Mexico settled a legal claim for over $25,000, according to documents released to the Journal under the state Inspection of Public Records Act. Hanna Bruch The 26 settlements totaled nearly $5 million. One settlement alone reached $1 million – for a surgical patient who said the University of New Mexico Hospital was responsible for his MRSA infection.
The settlements cover a broad variety of allegations against the state and other government agencies represented by the Risk Management Division of the state General Services Department.
About 34 percent of the money paid out in the 26 settlements centered on medical claims; another 34 percent involved employment disputes, including claims under the Whistleblower Protection Act; and 17 percent was for motor vehicle collisions, including pedestrian deaths, according to a Journal analysis.
The rest involved incidents at Expo New Mexico, property seizure, incarceration and various other claims.The cases are largely settled without public scrutiny. The state typically denies the allegations and notes that it’s agreeing to settle simply as a compromise to avoid the cost of ongoing litigation.Agreements often contain a confidentiality clause, prohibiting the parties from talking about the settlement in detail. Six-month secrecy State law also prohibits the disclosure of Risk Management Division settlements within 180 days. After the six-month waiting period, however, the documents can be released under the Inspection of Public Records Act.Settlements by government agencies that don’t rely on state risk management – […]