Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Summary 2008 WY 65

Summary of Decision issued June 11, 2008

Summaries are prepared by Law Librarians and are not official statements of the Wyoming Supreme Court.

Case Name: Hannifan v. American Nat’l Bank of Cheyenne

Citation: 2008 WY 65

Docket Number: S-07-0156

Appeal from the District Court of Campbell County, the John R. Perry, Judge.

Representing Appellants (Defendants): Joe M. Tieg and Paula A. Fleck of Holland & Hart, LLP, Jackson, Wyoming; and Patrick Murphy of Williams, Porter, Day & Neville, PC of Casper, Wyoming.

Representing Appellees (Plaintiffs): Michael D. Cok and Theodore R. Dunn of Cok, Wheat & Kinzler, PLLP, Bozeman, Montana; and James E. Fitzgerald of Fitzgerald Law Office, Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Facts/Discussion: Appellants contend that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law because there was insufficient evidence that either of them acted “intentionally” to harm Butts or the minor children. Butts was severely injured and rendered a paraplegic when a large boulder landed on a piece of mining equipment that he was operating at a Thunder Basin Coal Co. mine near Gillette.
The Court stated that they have set a workable standard for resolving such cases in their decision in Bertagnolli v. Louderback.

Sufficiency of the Evidence:
The Court reviewed all the evidence in the record and concluded that it was sufficient so that the jury could conclude as it did.
Jury Instructions:
Appellees contended that the jury instructions that they objected to failed to fully apprise the jury of applicable law. However, when the instructions given by the district court were compared with those proposed by Appellants, but rejected by the district court, it was clear that the rejected instructions duplicated the legal concepts contained in the instructions as given. The Court concluded that the instructions given adequately conveyed to the jury the Court’s interpretation of § 27-14-104(a) as set out in the Bertagnolli case.
Refusal of Motion for Mistrial and Demand for New Trial:
Counsel for Appellants objected to a statement by Appellees that had run afoul of the district court’s liminal orders. Appellants took the stance that the only possible remedy for the asserted error was for the trial court to declare a mistrial and reset the matter for a new trial. The district court determined that the motion should be denied in significant part because the jury attributed 57% of the fault to the mine. The Court concluded the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion.

Holding: Appellants were not entitled to judgment as a matter of law in light of the Court’s decision in Bertagnolli. The evidence was sufficient to sustain the jury’s conclusion that the Appellants acted with willful and wanton, intentional negligence. The instructions given by the district court adequately instructed the jury on the law applicable to the case. Appellants are not entitle to a mistrial nor are they entitle to a new trial.


J. Hill delivered the decision.

C. J. Voigt special concurrence: The doctrine of stare decisis requires the Court to follow Bertagnolli. C.J. Voigt was uncertain whether the Court had blurred the distinction between “intentional” and “willful and wanton”.

Link: .

[SPECIAL NOTE: This opinion uses the "Universal Citation." It was given an "official" citation when it was issued. You should use this citation whenever you cite the opinion, with a P.3d parallel citation. Please note when you look at the opinion that all of the paragraphs are numbered. When you pinpoint cite to a quote, you should cite to this paragraph number rather than to any page number. If you need assistance in putting together a citation using the Universal Citation form, please contact the Wyoming State Law Library.]

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