Thursday, June 19, 2008

Summary 2008 WY 68

Summary of Decision issued June 19, 2008

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

Case Name: Winship v. Gem City Bone & Joint, PC

Citation: 2008 WY 68

Docket Number: S-07-0246

Appeal from the District Court of Natrona County, the Wade E. Waldrip, Judge.

Representing Appellant (Defendant): Mark W. Gifford, Casper, Wyoming.

Representing Appellee (Plaintiff): C.M. Aron of Aron and Hennig, LLP, Laramie, Wyoming.

Facts/Discussion: The case presented the issue of whether an attorney, who distributed the proceeds of a personal injury action without paying a medical provider’s bills after his client executed, with the attorney’s knowledge, an assignment of the proceeds to the provider is liable to the medical provider for the amount of those bills.
The district court interpreted the release in its first decision letter stating that the court could not interpret it as requiring Winship to pay Jackman’s medical obligations. The district court revisited the issue in its second decision letter and focused on the law of assignments. The release clearly indicated that Jackman who was the owner of the claim intended to transfer the proceeds to Gem City for payment of his medical bills. The Court stated it made no difference whether the language authorized or directed the obligor to honor the assignment as long as it indicated that the assignor intended to transfer his right to the assignee. The Court applied the rule that they give effect to the ordinary meaning of the language of an assignment and the precedent set forth in Montgomery, the Court concluded the release effected a valid assignment.
The next question was whether additional or different wording was required to obligate an attorney to honor his client’s assignment. The Court reviewed the cases relied upon and noted that they saw no reason why the language effecting an assignment must be more definite or specifically direct the obligor to honor the assignment when the obligor is the assignor’s attorney. As long as the intention to transfer the claim or the proceeds thereof is clear, the assignment is effective.

Holding: Mr. Jackman assigned his interest in the proceeds of his personal injury action to Gem City for payment of his medical bills. As obligor, Mr. Winship was required to honor that assignment. It was irrelevant that he had not entered into a direct contract with Gem City. An obligor who has notice of an assignment and fails to honor it is responsible to the assignee.


J. Kite delivered the decision.

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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