Friday, April 13, 2012

Summary 2012 WY 59

Summary of Decision April 13, 2012

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Docket Number: S‑11‑0231

Appeal from the District Court of Sweetwater County, Honorable Dennis L. Sanderson, Judge

Representing Appellant (Plaintiff/Defendant):  Michael W. Stulken of Mathey Law Office, Green River, Wyoming.

Representing Appellee (Plaintiff/Defendant): Richard H. Honaker of Honaker Law Offices, LC, Rock Springs, Wyoming.

Date of Decision: April 13, 2012

Facts: Chip Dave (the appellant) purchased a car on eBay.  Before he took possession of the vehicle, the seller sold it to another buyer, Bill Valdez (the appellee).  The appellant filed a complaint against the appellee citing a number of causes of action, including replevin.  Following the appellee’s failure to respond to the appellant’s second amended complaint, a default judgment was entered and the appellant was granted a writ of replevin ordering the appellee to relinquish possession of the vehicle.  The appellant appealed the district court’s denial of an award of attorney fees. 

Issues: Did the district court abuse its discretion by denying the appellant’s request for attorney fees?

Holdings: Following an entry of default against the appellee, the district court issued a writ of replevin requiring the appellee to relinquish possession of a vehicle previously purchased by the appellant, but the district court denied the appellant’s request for attorney fees.  The appellant appealed that denial, arguing that the American rule, requiring each party to pay his or her own attorney fees, was inapplicable.  The Court disagreed.  The statutory exception to the American rule applies only where the legislature has made it explicit that attorney fees will be allowed. The statute relied upon by the appellant makes reference only to damages.  The exception for certain replevin actions involving fraud is also inapplicable.  This exception only allows for attorney fees when the replevin action was initiated fraudulently.  The district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the appellant’s request for attorney fees.  Affirmed.

Justice Voigt delivered the opinion for the court.

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