Roger Eaton started thinking about becoming a lawyer shortly after he came out to New Mexico and was assigned to teach a class in "Constitutional Law" to seniors at Albuquerque Academy. He contacted the UNM Law School to find out what he needed to do to take a course in Constitutional Law, and they told him that he had to be a law student. While Roger had never been an outstanding student in college, the teaching that he had been doing made him a good student and when he was finally admitted to law school, he excelled as a student and graduated in the top 10% of his class. And he did this while teaching three courses at Albuquerque Academy, coaching varsity soccer for all three years of law school and varsity wrestling for the first two years, and supporting a family of five with all three children under the age of seven.
Roger graduated from law school shortly before his 32nd birthday and he started working for the Modrall Law Firm, one of the two largest law firms in the state at that time. Roger did not like working or billing by the hour. Three years later, Roger became an associate of one of the premier personal injury lawyers in the State of New Mexico, Turner Branch; and Turner taught Roger to practice as a representative of the injured and gave Roger his passion for representing the injured. Eventually, in 1984, Turner Branch allowed Roger to open his own firm and gave Roger cases that he could complete on his own.
Eventually, Roger took on one partner, F. Michael Hart, and then another David B. Martinez and the three of them had one of the premier personal injury firms in the state of New Mexico, Eaton, Martinez & Hart. Roger thought that he wanted to retire in 2004 and sail into the sunset, literally, but the financial crash of the stock markets in 2008 caused him to go back to work and he has been representing the injured since that time.
In July of 2012, Roger hired his daughter in law, Kate to assist on a case, and she has been with him since that time. Kate is bilingual and she has been practicing in the areas of Domestic Relations and Workmen's Compensation. And Roger has been teaching her how to be a "Trial Lawyer".
What follows are some of the appellate decisions that Roger has been involved in over the years. The Blog also details other cases that Eaton Law has been involved in which provide some insight into the creative advocacy that has brought results to their clients over the years.
WATCH THIS SPACE: the Court of Appeals held that the admission of an Independent Medical Examination Report, without supporting testimony, constituted inadmissible hearsay subject to no exceptions in the rule, statutes or regulations and that, therefore, the Workers' Compensation Judge erred in admitting the IME Report and relying solely on it as a basis for determining that Worker reached Maximum Medical Improvement with a zero percent impairment rating. Now, the Employer/Insurer has filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari with the NM Supreme Court to reverse the Court of Appeals. Eaton & Eaton Law, P.C., will continue to fight on behalf of injured Workers against a rigged system in which detrimental IME Reports are admitted over objection and contrary to substantial evidence.
Encinias v. Whitener Law Firm, et al, NMSC 2013.
Joe Robert Encinias parents had hired the Whitener Law Firm to sue the Las Vegas City Schools for serious injuries that he had received from a beating at school in a area patrolled by the school. The law firm filed an action after the Statute of Limitations had run and then dismissed the lawsuit later. When the firm was sued by Joe Robert Encinias, they defended by saying that they could never have recovered. The trial court granted summary judgment that was upheld by the New Mexico Court of Appeals and the New Mexico Court of Appeals reversed the Court of Appeals and returned the case back to the trial court for trial on the issues that remain. This case is still pending.
Will Ferguson & Associates, Inc. v. Gengler, 287 P.3d 350, 2012 NMCA-93 Ct. App. 2012.
Ted Gengler hired the law firm on a contingent fee to recover an insurance policy on his wife that he had been unable to recover on his own. Mr. Gengler was a lawyer. When the firm recovered the policy amount, Mr. Gengler got the insurance company to pay the money to him and refused to pay the firm the money. Mr. Eaton represented the firm and obtained a jury verdict for the contingent fee and costs and the jury verdict was upheld on appeal.
Blea v. Fields, 2005 NMSC 29, 138 N.M. 348, 120 P.3d 430.
This was a case where the client first came to Roger Eaton more than two years after the physician injured her by his negligence. When Roger Eaton filed suit, the physician claimed that the Statute of Limitations had been missed because he was a public employee and subject to the two year Statute of Limitations for public employees and not the three year Statute of Limitations for private physicians. While the position of the physician was upheld, the New Mexico Supreme Court did establish that equitable matters have to be decided before legal issues that would go to a jury.
In re Estate of Lee, 130 N.M. 460, 26 P.3d 764 Ct. App. 2001.
This was a pro-bono case handled for Natalie Apodaca who had been married to Wayne Dick Lee. After they had been divorced, Mr. Lee drafted a will leaving all of his possessions to Ms. Apodaca. After Mr. Lee died, a lawyer who had drafted an earlier will evicted Ms. Apodaca from Mr. Lee’s house and probated the earlier will leaving all of the property, including the house, to the lawyer. After the time had passed for objections to the will, the lawyer sent the original of the later will to Ms. Apodaca and she began to look for a lawyer to represent her. Roger Eaton took her case and was able to set aside the earlier probate and got a decision from the court to probate her will. That decision was upheld. The lawyer who tried to claim the estate was also sued by Ms. Apodaca for damages.
U.S. v. McCall, 235 F.3d 1211 10th Cir. 2000.
This was a pro-bono case handled by Roger Eaton for William McCall. Mr. McCall had borrowed money from the United States government and they had offered to settle for a specific amount. Mr. McCall accepted that offer, but then the government repudiated the agreement and sued him for a higher amount. The case was tried before a federal judge who sided with Mr. McCall and also awarded him his attorneys fees. The case was then appealed to the 10th Circuit Court of appeals that upheld the decision of the district judge.
Beavers v. Johnson Controls, 120 N.M. 343, 905 P.2d 761 Ct. App. 1995.
This was the last of three appellate cases that upheld a jury verdict for a Prima Facie Tort, the first time that such a verdict was upheld on appeal in New Mexico. The case arose out of a workmen’s compensation case where the judge found that the worker was totally disabled as a result of abuse from her employer, but that the worker was not entitled to compensation under the workmen’s compensation act. The worker sued the employer for prima facie tort, and a jury awarded damages to the plaintiff. The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court and then the New Mexico Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and sent the case back to the Court of Appeals which rendered this opinion.
Stinbrink v. Farmers Ins. Co. of Arizona, 111 N.M. 179, 803 P.2d 664 Ct. App. 1990.
This case has helped establish the right of an injured person to recover punitive damages from his own Uninsured Motorist Insurance for the actions of a grossly negligent uninsured motorist. The statute that permits recovery for damages under the Uninsured Motorist insurance is provided in New Mexico makes the insurance company liable for all damages that are legally recoverable, and the court interpreted that to mean punitive damages as well as compensatory damages.
Levy v. Disharoon,106 N.M. 699, 749 P.2d 84 1988.
This was a case where one partner breached his fiduciary duty to his partner by buying a jet at one price and then selling it to the partnership the same day while pocketing a profit of more than $100,000.00. The New Mexico Supreme Court upheld the award of punitive damages against the defendant for breach of his fiduciary duty..
Medina v. Original Hamburger Stand, 105 N.M. 78, 728 P.2d 488 Ct. App. 1986.
This was a workmen’s compensation case that established that a professional healthcare provider other than an MD could give testimony to establish a causal connection between an injury and disability.