Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Summary 2011 WY 65

Summary of Decision April 13, 2011

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

Case Name: Larry Hoffman, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Gregory Bryan Pickett, III, Deceased, v. Brian Darnell, D.O., and Johnson County Hospital District.

Citation: 2011 WY 65

Docket Numbers: S-10-0165


Appeal from the District Court of Johnson County, the Honorable John G. Fenn, Judge.

Representing Appellant: Jeffrey J. Gonda and Amanda K. Roberts, Lonabaugh & Riggs, LLP, Sheridan, Wyoming.

Representing Appellee: Billie L.M. Addleman, Hirst Applegate, LLP; Scott P. Klosterman and Frank D. Neville, Williams, Porter, Day & Neville, PC, Casper, Wyoming.

Date of Decision: April 13, 2011

Facts: This case involved a claim arising under the Wyoming Governmental Claims Act (WGCA), Wyo. Stat. Ann. §§ 1-39-101 through -121. Appellant brought a wrongful death suit against Appellee. The district court dismissed the action with prejudice, finding that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction to allow Appellant to amend his complaint.

Issues: Whether the district court has discretion to allow leave to amend a complaint pursuant to W.R.C.P. 15(a) to allege compliance with the constitutional and statutory requirements for governmental claims with the specificity and, if so, whether the amendment relates back to the filing date of the original complaint. Whether this Court usurped the authority of the Wyoming Constitution and the Wyoming Legislature by creating the “special pleading” rules, such that it violates the separation of powers between the branches of government. Whether W.R.C.P. 12(h)(3) requires the district court to dismiss a complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction when it has notice the complaint is defective.

Holdings: The facts in this case are not in dispute. Appellant filed a notice of claim that complied with Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 1-39-113(b) and Article 16, § 7 of the Wyoming Constitution in all respects. In his complaint, however, Appellant did not allege the date on which the claim was presented to the Hospital and did not allege compliance with the constitutional signature and certification requirements for a notice of governmental claim. For this reason, the district court determined that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction to allow Appellant to amend the complaint.

The Court held that, in accordance with W.R.C.P. 15(c), the amendment of a complaint to allege compliance with the constitutional and statutory requirements for a governmental claim relates back to the date of the filing of the original complaint. The Court’s decisions in those cases are controlling on the question presented in Appellant’s first issue and require reversal of the district court’s order dismissing Appellant’s complaint and denying Appellant’s motion to amend the complaint. In light of this disposition, the Court did not address Appellant’s remaining issues.

The Court reversed and remanded to the district court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Justice Voigt concurred with the result of the majority opinion out of respect for the doctrine of stare decisis, but believes the result is wrong.

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