Friday, March 30, 2012

Summary 2012 WY 48


Summary of Decision March 28, 2012

[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.  You will also note when you look at the opinion that all of the paragraphs are numbered.  When you need to provide a pinpoint citation to a quote the universal portion of the citation will use that paragraph number.  The pinpoint citation in the P.3d portion will need to have the reporter page number. If you need assistance in putting together a citation from this, or any future opinion using the Universal Citation form, please contact the Wyoming State Law Library and we will provide any needed assistance] 

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

Case Name:  WORLD FAMILY CORPORATION, A Wyoming Corporation, dba MORROW GLOBAL v. WINDJAMMER COMMUNICATIONS, LLC, a Delaware Limited Liability Company Domesticated in Wyoming and UINTA COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 1, STATE OF WYOMING, Evanston, Wyoming, and WYOMING DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, STATE OF WYOMING

Docket Number: S-11-0165


Appeal from the District Court of Laramie County, Honorable Peter G. Arnold, Judge

Representing Appellant: Tara B. Nethercott, Woodhouse Roden, LLC, Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Representing Appellees Windjammer Communications, LLC and Uinta County School District No. 1: Mark W. Harris, Harris Law Firm, P.C., Evanston, Wyoming.

Representing Appellee State of Wyoming, Department of Transportation: Gregory A. Phillips, Wyoming Attorney General; Robin Sessions Cooley, Deputy Attorney General; Douglas J. Moench, Senior Assistant Attorney General.  Argument by Mr. Moench.

Date of Decision: March 28, 2012

Facts: World Family Corporation, dba Morrow Global (Morrow), sought judgment against Uinta County School District No. 1 (the District) and Windjammer Communications, LLC (Windjammer) declaring that Morrow is a co-owner with the District of a conduit located under Interstate 80 in Evanston, Wyoming.  Morrow also sought an order permanently enjoining the District from interfering with, excluding or converting Morrow’s use of the conduit.  Finally, by way of a quantum meruit claim, Morrow asserted that Windjammer had been unjustly enriched by using the conduit without paying for it.

The District and Windjammer moved to dismiss the complaint.  They argued that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the claims against the District, Morrow had failed to join the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) as an indispensable party and World Family Corporation, the party designated as plaintiff in the complaint, did not exist at the time of the events giving rise to the action.  Morrow moved to join WYDOT as a defendant and the district court granted the motion.  Because both parties submitted matters outside the pleadings in presenting argument on the motion to dismiss, the district court treated the motion as one for summary judgment.  After a hearing, the court granted the motion, finding that Morrow had failed to present any facts showing that it was an owner of the conduit and entitled to the relief sought. Morrow appealed. 

Issues: Morrow presented two issues, which were rephrased as follows: Whether the district court erred in sua sponte deciding an issue that was not presented, thereby improperly shifting the burden to Morrow. Whether the district court erred in granting summary judgment for Windjammer, the District and WYDOT on the ownership issue when that issue was not raised in the motion and the parties had no notice the district court intended to address it. Windjammer, the District and WYDOT contended the district court properly granted summary judgment in their favor.  

Holdings:  The Court concluded the district court improperly granted summary judgment when the parties had no opportunity to present evidence and argument on the issue of Morrow’s ownership.  The Court reversed the summary judgment order. 

Chief Justice Kite delivered the opinion for the court.



Summary 2012 WY 47


Summary of Decision March 28, 2012

[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.  You will also note when you look at the opinion that all of the paragraphs are numbered.  When you need to provide a pinpoint citation to a quote the universal portion of the citation will use that paragraph number.  The pinpoint citation in the P.3d portion will need to have the reporter page number. If you need assistance in putting together a citation from this, or any future opinion using the Universal Citation form, please contact the Wyoming State Law Library and we will provide any needed assistance] 

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

Case Name: LARAMIE COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT v. KENNETH COOK

Docket Number: S-11-0152


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

Representing Appellant (Plaintiff/Defendant):  Sylvia Lee Hackl, Deputy Laramie County Attorney, Cheyenne, Wyoming

Representing Appellee (Plaintiff/Defendant): Stephen H. Kline and Melinda S. McCorkle, Kline Law Office, P.C., Cheyenne, Wyoming.  Argument by Mr. Kline

Date of Decision: March 28, 2012

Facts: Kenneth Cook was terminated from his employment as a Laramie County Sheriff Department (Sheriff Department) deputy for violating department policies related to report writing and firearms security.  Deputy Cook requested a contested case hearing before the Laramie County Sheriff (Sheriff), who upheld his dismissal from the department.  He then petitioned the district court for review.  The district court reversed, concluding that the record did not contain substantial evidence demonstrating cause existed to dismiss Deputy Cook on the basis of his violation of department policies.  The Sheriff’s Department appealed.  The Court agreed with the district court that the record does not substantiate the Sheriff’s findings that there was sufficient cause to terminate Deputy Cook’s employment with the Sheriff’s Department.

Issues: Both parties present the same issue for our review:  Whether the Laramie County Sheriff’s decision to terminate Appellee from his employment as a deputy sheriff was supported by substantial evidence, was in accordance with law, or was arbitrary, capricious, or constituted an abuse of discretion.

Holdings:  The Court affirmed the district court’s decision reversing the Sheriff’s order.

Chief Justice Kite delivered the opinion for the court.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Summary 2012 WY 46


Summary of Decision March 27, 2012

[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.  You will also note when you look at the opinion that all of the paragraphs are numbered.  When you need to provide a pinpoint citation to a quote the universal portion of the citation will use that paragraph number.  The pinpoint citation in the P.3d portion will need to have the reporter page number. If you need assistance in putting together a citation from this, or any future opinion using the Universal Citation form, please contact the Wyoming State Law Library and we will provide any needed assistance] 

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

Case Name:  DENISE MENDENHALL  v. MOUNTAIN WEST FARM BUREAU MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, a Wyoming insurance company

Docket Number: S-11-0189


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

Representing Appellant (Plaintiff/Defendant):  Jeffrey J. Gonda and Amanda K. Roberts of Lonabaugh and Riggs, LLP, Sheridan, Wyoming.  Argument by Ms. Roberts and Mr. Gonda.

Representing Appellee (Plaintiff/Defendant): George E. Powers, Jr. and J. Zachary Courson of Sundahl, Powers, Kapp & Martin LLC, Cheyenne, Wyoming.  Argument by Mr. Powers.

Date of Decision: March 27, 2012

Facts: The appellant, Denise Mendenhall (Mendenhall), was injured when she was involved in a motor vehicle accident.  The other vehicle involved in the accident, a 1997 Ford truck, was listed on two different insurance policies:  an Allstate Insurance Company (Allstate) policy issued to Jeremy Lucas (Lucas) and a Mountain West Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company (Mountain West) policy issued to Wyoming Electric Company, Inc. (Wyoming Electric).  The Appellee, Mountain West, filed a complaint for declaratory judgment, requesting that the district court find that Mountain West did not have to cover the truck under the policy because the person driving the truck at the time could not be considered an “insured.”  Mendenhall and Mountain West filed cross-motions for summary judgment.  The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Mountain West, finding that the owner of Wyoming Electric had given the truck to Lucas and, therefore, the truck was no longer covered under the company’s insurance policy.  Mendenhall appeals the district court’s decision, arguing that Mountain West should be required to pay under the policy because the truck was titled and registered in the name of Wyoming Electric, and was still listed as a specific vehicle on the Mountain West policy. 

Issues: Whether the district court erred when it determined that ownership of the 1997 Ford truck passed by an inter vivos gift from Wyoming Electric to Lucas before the date of the accident.

Holdings:  Ownership of the 1997 Ford truck passed from Nelson to Lucas via an inter vivos gift in January 2008, and before Mendenhall was injured.  Therefore, on the date of the accident, Wyoming Electric no longer owned the truck and it was no longer covered under the Mountain West insurance policy.  The district court did not err when it determined that Mountain West did not have to cover Mendenhall’s injuries. Affirmed.

Justice Voigt delivered the opinion for the court.



Summary 2012 WY 45


Summary of Decision March 27, 2012

[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.  You will also note when you look at the opinion that all of the paragraphs are numbered.  When you need to provide a pinpoint citation to a quote the universal portion of the citation will use that paragraph number.  The pinpoint citation in the P.3d portion will need to have the reporter page number. If you need assistance in putting together a citation from this, or any future opinion using the Universal Citation form, please contact the Wyoming State Law Library and we will provide any needed assistance] 

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

Case Name: BRAD CARNAHAN and BRENDA CARNAHAN v. REX I. LEWIS and VICKIE R. LEWIS, as Trustees of the REX I. LEWIS LIVING TRUST and the VICKIE R. LEWIS LIVING TRUST

Docket Number: S-11-0122


Appeal from the District Court of Laramie County, Honorable Thomas T.C. Campbell, Judge

Representing Appellant (Plaintiff/Defendant):  Karen Budd-Falen, Franklin J. Falen, Kathryn J.B. Morrow of Budd-Falen Law Offices, LLC, Cheyenne, Wyoming.  Argument by Ms. Morrow.

Representing Appellee (Plaintiff/Defendant): Nicholas G.J. Healey and Timothy L. Woznick of Dray, Dyekman, Reed & Healey, PC, Cheyenne, Wyoming.  Argument by Mr. Healey.

Date of Decision: March 27, 2012

Facts: Rex I. Lewis and Vickie R. Lewis, as trustees of the Rex I. Lewis Living Trust and the Vickie R. Lewis Living Trust, (Lewises) and Brad and Brenda Carnahan (Carnahans) own property in a subdivision in Laramie County.  The Lewises filed a complaint seeking a declaration that the Carnahans did not have authority to block their use of a public easement to access their property, an injunction requiring the Carnahans to remove a fence they erected across the easement and nuisance damages allegedly caused by the blocked easement.  The Carnahans filed counterclaims for ejectment and trespass against the Lewises and a third party complaint against the Lewises and Laramie County (which they alleged had an interest in the easement) to have title to the easement quieted in them. 

Both parties moved for summary judgment and, after a hearing, the district court issued a decision letter ruling that the Lewises had standing to bring their claim for declaratory relief but not to collect damages for nuisance; Laramie County was not a necessary party; issues of material fact existed precluding summary judgment as to the Carnahans’ statute of limitations and laches defenses; and the Board of Laramie County Commissioners’ (Board) 2003 denial of an application to replat the subdivision did not estop the Carnahans from maintaining a quiet title claim.  Subsequently, the district court ruled that an affidavit recorded in 1994 was not effective to vacate the public easement because it did not comply with state statute.  Consistent with that ruling, the district court dismissed the Carnahans’ trespass claim.  The district court set for trial the Carnahans’ statute of limitations and laches defenses.  After trial, the district court concluded neither the statute of limitations nor laches barred the Lewises’ declaratory judgment action.  Further, the district court declared that Laramie County continued to hold the easement in trust for the public, meaning the Lewises have the right to use the easement and the Carnahans do not have the right to obstruct their use.  The Carnahans appealed.

Issues:  The Court re-phrased the issues the Carnahans presented as follows:

                1.            Whether the district court correctly held:

                                a.            the Lewises had standing to seek declaratory relief;
                                b.            the Lewises’ claims were not barred by the statute of limitations;
                                c.             the Lewises’ claims were not barred by the doctrine of laches;
                          d.            the Carnahans’ predecessors-in-interest did not properly vacate the public       easement in accordance with Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 34-12-101 et seq.; and
                    e.            the Carnahans’ trespass claim must be dismissed.

The Lewises contended the district court ruling was correct on all of the above issues and raised the additional issue that the Carnahans’ appeal should be dismissed as premature.


Holdings:  The Court found that this action resulted from an unfortunate set of circumstances.  Laramie County played a direct role in allowing a private landowner to build a home on a public easement.  Despite the seeming inequities, however, the law does not provide a means to rectify the situation.  It would be this Court’s hope that the parties, together with the County, could work together to resolve this matter by relocating Mountain View Loop a reasonable distance from the Carnahans’ home to allow them at least to sell the property if it is not acceptable to them to live there with the road crossing their property.  While it is difficult to tell without actually seeing the property, it appears from some of the trial exhibits that where the current road jogs to the east and runs into the residence, it could instead head southeast across what appears to be prairie and rejoin the existing road where it turns west toward the Lewises’ property. 

The Lewises had standing to maintain an action for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief.  Their claims were not barred by the statute of limitations or the equitable doctrine of laches.  The Griffiths’ 1994 Affidavit did not comply with Wyoming law and was not effective, therefore, to vacate the easement dedicated to public use through the subdivision.  The Lewises have the right to use Mountain View Loop, including the portion that crosses the Carnahans’ property.  The Carnahans are permanently enjoined from obstructing access along Mountain View Loop.  The orders and judgment of the district court are affirmed

Chief Justice Kite delivered the opinion for the court.

Summary 2012 WY 44


Summary of Decision March 23, 2012

[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.  You will also note when you look at the opinion that all of the paragraphs are numbered.  When you need to provide a pinpoint citation to a quote the universal portion of the citation will use that paragraph number.  The pinpoint citation in the P.3d portion will need to have the reporter page number. If you need assistance in putting together a citation from this, or any future opinion using the Universal Citation form, please contact the Wyoming State Law Library and we will provide any needed assistance] 

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

Case Name:  In the Matter of the Commission on Judicial Conduct and Ethics’ Findings and Recommendations with Respect to the Honorable Tony S. Lopez, Municipal Judge, Second Judicial District, Albany County, Laramie, Wyoming

Docket Number: J-12-0001


Order of Public Censure

Date of Order: March 23, 2012

The Court, after a careful review of the “Commission’s Findings and Recommendation” finds that the Honorable Tony S. Lopez, Laramie Municipal Judge, should be publicly censured for the conduct described in the “Commission’s Findings and Recommendation.”

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Summary 2012 WY 43


Summary of Decision March 21, 2012

[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.  You will also note when you look at the opinion that all of the paragraphs are numbered.  When you need to provide a pinpoint citation to a quote the universal portion of the citation will use that paragraph number.  The pinpoint citation in the P.3d portion will need to have the reporter page number. If you need assistance in putting together a citation from this, or any future opinion using the Universal Citation form, please contact the Wyoming State Law Library and we will provide any needed assistance] 

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

Case Name: Chad Faron Mebane v. The State of Wyoming 

Docket Number: S-11-0196


Appeal from the District Court of Sweetwater County, Honorable Jere A. Ryckman, Judge

Representing Appellant (Plaintiff/Defendant):  Diane Lozano, State Public Defender; Tina N. Olson, Appellant Counsel; David E. Westling, Senior Assistant Appellate Counsel; Wyoming Public Defender Program

Representing Appellee (Plaintiff/Defendant): Gregory A. Phillips, Wyoming Attorney General; David L. Delicath, Deputy Attorney General; D. Michael Pauling, Senior Assistant Attorney General

Date of Decision: March 21, 2012

Facts: The Appellant, Chad Faron Mebane, appealed from his convictions of possession of methamphetamine, a misdemeanor, and two counts of delivery of methamphetamine.  Mebane asserted that the trial court erred by failing to advise him before he testified that he had a right not to testify and, as a result, his choice to testify was not made intelligently. 

Issues: Mebane raised the following issue on appeal: Did the trial court’s failure to inform Mr. Mebane of his constitutional right to remain silent and not testify result in an uninformed waiver of that right and result in Mr. Mebane incriminating himself at trial?

The State rephrased the issue as: Did the district court commit plain error by failing to advise Mebane of his right to remain silent immediately before he testified on his own behalf at trial?

Holdings: The Court found that Mebane was adequately advised by the trial court at arraignment of his right to remain silent and held that he voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently waived his right to remain silent. Having concluded that no error occurred in this case, the Court found no need to proceed with the remainder of the plain error analysis.  The judgment and sentence of the district court was affirmed.

District Judge Sanderson delivered the opinion for the court.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Summary 2012 WY 42


Summary of Decision March 20, 2012

[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.  You will also note when you look at the opinion that all of the paragraphs are numbered.  When you need to provide a pinpoint citation to a quote the universal portion of the citation will use that paragraph number.  The pinpoint citation in the P.3d portion will need to have the reporter page number. If you need assistance in putting together a citation from this, or any future opinion using the Universal Citation form, please contact the Wyoming State Law Library and we will provide any needed assistance] 

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

Case Name:  Daren S. Berg and Jennifer A. Berg v. Torrington Livestock Cattle Company, a Wyoming Corporation

Docket Number: S-11-0229


Appeal from the District Court of Goshen County, Honorable John C. Brooks, Judge

Representing Appellant (Plaintiff/Defendant):  Daren S. Berg and Jennifer A. Berg, Pro se, Edgemont, SD.

Representing Appellee (Plaintiff/Defendant): Patrick J. Crank of Nicholas & Crank, P.C., Cheyenne, WY.

Date of Decision: March 20, 2012

Facts: Daren S. Berg and Jennifer A. Berg (the Bergs) filed this pro se appeal from summary judgment entered against them in an action to collect on a promissory note. 

Issues: Ten arguments are listed by the Bergs:

1.                  The district court erred in denying Bergs their preserved right to a jury trial.
2.                  The district court erred in holding that there was no breech [sic] of contract against Torrington Livestock Cattle Company.
3.                  The district court erred in holding secured collateral on a promissary [sic] note did not have to be apllied [sic] to the actual note.
4.                  The district court failed on all counts to prove or provide any evidence of the Bergs hindering or delaying Torrington Livestock Cattle Company.
5.                  The district court erred in allowing perjured statements.
6.                  The district court continiuosly [sic] proved they were biased against the Bergs and denied them of their Constitutional and Civil rights.
7.                  Does the district court have the authority to dictate where a business or individuals may conduct business or financial transactions?
8.                  The district court erred in its ruling on the bank security agreement.
9.                  Torrington Livestock Cattle Company has received $103,151.71 in payment on a bank note that only had a balance of $53,569.60.  This was low value auction prices.
10.              Gross negligence on behalf of the Goshen County Sheriff’s department should be filed for the seizure and then losing Bergs’ property.  The department failed to provide accurate records and secure the property until it was sold.

Holdings:  Based upon the deficient brief offered by the Bergs and their failure to follow the rules of appellate procedure, the decision of the trial court is summarily affirmed.

Justice Hill delivered the opinion for the court.


Summary 2012 WY 41


Summary of Decision March 20, 2012

[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.  You will also note when you look at the opinion that all of the paragraphs are numbered.  When you need to provide a pinpoint citation to a quote the universal portion of the citation will use that paragraph number.  The pinpoint citation in the P.3d portion will need to have the reporter page number. If you need assistance in putting together a citation from this, or any future opinion using the Universal Citation form, please contact the Wyoming State Law Library and we will provide any needed assistance] 

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

Case Name:  Bud Corey Morrison v. The State of Wyoming

Docket Number: S-11-0203

Appeal from the District Court of Weston County, Honorable Dan R. Price, Judge

Representing Appellant (Plaintiff/Defendant):  Diane M. Lozano, State Public Defender; Tina N. Olson, Appellate Counsel; Eric M. Alden, Senior Assistant Appellate Counsel.

Representing Appellee (Plaintiff/Defendant): Gregory A. Phillips, Wyoming Attorney General; David L. Delicath, Deputy Attorney General; D. Michael Pauling, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Paul S. Rehurek, Senior Assistant Attorney General.

Date of Decision: March 20, 2012

Facts: The appellant contends that he did not receive full credit against his sentence for all presentence time served, and that he should not have been assessed an indigent civil legal services fee. 

Issues: Whether the appellant’s sentence was illegal because he did not receive credit for the time he spent, presentence, in a residential substance abuse treatment facility.  Whether the appellant’s sentence was illegal because he should not have been assessed an indigent civil legal services fee.

Holdings: By statutory definition, the appellant’s “constraint incidental to release on bail” was not “official detention,” and he was not subject to a charge of escape.  Neither was he confined due to a financial inability to post bond, nor did his circumstances duplicate any of the circumstances where we have found credit for time served to be required.  In short, the appellant is not entitled to credit against his prison sentence for the period of time he participated in the WYSTAR program as a condition of his release on bond.  We cannot consider whether imposition in the Sentence of the indigent legal services fee was proper because that question was not raised in the district court as required by W.R.Cr.P. 11(b)(1)(C).  Affirmed.

Justice Voigt delivered the opinion for the court.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Summary 2012 WY 40

Summary of Decision March 19, 2012


[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. You will also note when you look at the opinion that all of the paragraphs are numbered. When you need to provide a pinpoint citation to a quote the universal portion of the citation will use that paragraph number. The pinpoint citation in the P.3d portion will need to have the reporter page number. If you need assistance in putting together a citation from this, or any future opinion using the Universal Citation form, please contact the Wyoming State Law Library and we will provide any needed assistance]

Summaries are prepared by Law Librarians and are not official statements of the Wyoming Supreme Court
Case Name: Joseph Dax v. The State of Wyoming

Docket Number: S-11-0182

URL: http://wyomcases.courts.state.wy.us/applications/oscn/DeliverDocument.asp?CiteID=465269

Appeal from the District Court of Natrona County, Honorable David B. Park, Judge

Representing Appellant (Plaintiff/Defendant): Joseph F. Dax, Pro se.

Representing Appellee (Plaintiff/Defendant): Gregory A. Phillips, Wyoming Attorney General; Terry L. Armitage, Deputy Attorney General; D. Michael Pauling, Senior Assistant Attorney General; and Justin A. Daraie, Assistant Attorney General.

Date of Decision: March 19, 2012

Facts: Joseph F. Dax filed this pro se appeal contesting an order denying him credit for time served. Dax claimed he should have received credit against his state sentence for time spent in pre-trial detention on a federal charge.

Issues: Although no issue was stated in Dax’s brief, he argued in the body of his brief that his state sentence should have been credited with time served, beginning from his date of arrest on the federal charge.

Holdings: Res judicata bars review of the issue raised by Dax because he did not take advantage of the opportunity to raise it multiple times before. In this case, he did not show good cause to excuse those failures. Affirmed.

Justice Hill delivered the opinion for the court.

Summary 2012 WY 39

Summary of Decision March 16, 2012


[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. You will also note when you look at the opinion that all of the paragraphs are numbered. When you need to provide a pinpoint citation to a quote the universal portion of the citation will use that paragraph number. The pinpoint citation in the P.3d portion will need to have the reporter page number. If you need assistance in putting together a citation from this, or any future opinion using the Universal Citation form, please contact the Wyoming State Law Library and we will provide any needed assistance]

Summaries are prepared by Law Librarians and are not official statements of the Wyoming Supreme Court
Case Name: Jimmy Dean Smallfoot v. The State of Wyoming

Docket Number: S-11-0192

URL: http://wyomcases.courts.state.wy.us/applications/oscn/DeliverDocument.asp?CiteID=465265

Appeal from the District Court of Campbell County, Honorable Dan R. Price II, Judge

Representing Appellant (Plaintiff/Defendant): Diane Lozano, State Public Defender; Tina N. Olson, Appellant Counsel; Wyoming Public Defender Program. Argument by Ms. Olson.

Representing Appellee (Plaintiff/Defendant): Gregory A. Phillips, Wyoming Attorney General; David L. Delicath, Deputy Attorney General; D. Michael Pauling, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Stewart M. Young, Faculty Director, Joshua Beau Taylor, Student Director, and Benjamin J. Sherman, Student Intern, of the Prosecution Assistance Program. Argument by Mr. Taylor.

Date of Decision: March 16, 2012

Facts: Appellant Jimmy Dean Smallfoot entered a conditional guilty plea to a charge of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance. He reserved the right to appeal the district court’s denial of his motion to suppress the marijuana discovered inside his residence. Smallfoot claims the drug evidence should have been suppressed because it was the fruit of a constitutionally infirm warrantless entry into his home.

Issues: Smallfoot offers this issue for consideration: Did the trial court err in denying Appellant’s motion to suppress evidence obtained in the warrantless search of his residence?

Holdings: The Court held the district court correctly determined that the officers’ warrantless entry into the West Juniper residence pursuant to Gengozian’s consent was constitutionally permissible. The Court’s holding on this issue obviates the need to determine whether the officers’ entry was justified by exigent circumstances. The district court’s denial of Smallfoot’s motion to suppress is affirmed.

Justice Golden delivered the opinion for the court.

Summary 2012 WY 38

Summary of Decision March 14, 2012


[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. You will also note when you look at the opinion that all of the paragraphs are numbered. When you need to provide a pinpoint citation to a quote the universal portion of the citation will use that paragraph number. The pinpoint citation in the P.3d portion will need to have the reporter page number. If you need assistance in putting together a citation from this, or any future opinion using the Universal Citation form, please contact the Wyoming State Law Library and we will provide any needed assistance]

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

Case Name: In the Matter of the Wyoming Worker’s Compensation Claim of: Michael Beall #2 v. Sky Blue Enterprises, Inc.

Docket Number: S-11-0162

URL: http://wyomcases.courts.state.wy.us/applications/oscn/DeliverDocument.asp?CiteID=465234

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

Representing Appellant (Plaintiff/Defendant): Donna D. Domonkos, Domonkos Law Office, Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Representing Appellee (Plaintiff/Defendant): Bradley T. Cave, Maryt L. Fredrickson, and Isaac N. Sutphin, Holland & Hart, LLP, Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Date of Decision: March 14, 2012

Facts: Appellant, Michael Beall, received preauthorization from the Wyoming Workers’ Safety and Compensation Division for an orchiectomy, a procedure to remove his left testicle, which he claimed was related to a workplace injury. Mr. Beall’s employer, Sky Blue Enterprises, Inc., objected to the preauthorization and the matter was referred to the Medical Commission Hearing Panel for a contested case hearing. Mr. Beall elected to undergo the surgery prior to the scheduled hearing. The Commission denied Mr. Beall’s claim for reimbursement of medical expenses on the basis that the surgery was not reasonable or necessary medical care resulting from his workplace injury. Mr. Beall appealed to the district court, which affirmed the Commission’s order. He challenges that decision in this appeal.

Issues: Mr. Beall presents the following issues: Whether the Medical Commission’s decision is arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise not in accordance with the law as a result of the fact that Mr. Beall was required to bear the burden of proving his claim for reimbursement of medical expenses. Whether the Medical Commission’s decision is supported by substantial evidence.

Appellee, Sky Blue, states the issues as follows: Whether placing the burden of proof on the claimant Mr. Beall was in accordance with well-settled law and not arbitrary or capricious. Whether the Medical Commission’s decision that Mr. Beall’s orchiectomy and associated medical treatment was not reasonable, necessary, nor causally related to his workplace accident of October 13, 2008, and thus was a noncompensable injury, is supported by substantial evidence.

Holdings: Affirmed.

Justice Burke delivered the opinion for the court.





Monday, March 12, 2012

Summary 2012 WY 37


Summary of Decision March 12, 2012

[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.  You will also note when you look at the opinion that all of the paragraphs are numbered.  When you need to provide a pinpoint citation to a quote the universal portion of the citation will use that paragraph number.  The pinpoint citation in the P.3d portion will need to have the reporter page number. If you need assistance in putting together a citation from this, or any future opinion using the Universal Citation form, please contact the Wyoming State Law Library and we will provide any needed assistance] 

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

Case Name:  Silva v. State of Wyo.                                                  

Citation:  2012 WY 37

Docket Number: S-11-0124   


Appeal from the District Court of Sweetwater County, The Honorable Jere A. Ryckman, Judge

Representing Appellant (Defendant):  Diane Lozano, State Public Defender PDP; Tina N. Olson, Appellate Counsel; Eric M. Alden, Senior Assistant Appellate Counsel.  Argument by Mr. Alden.

Representing Appellee (Plaintiff):  Gregory A. Phillips, Wyoming Attorney General; Terry L. Armitage, Deputy Attorney General; D. Michael Pauling, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Jenny L. Craig, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Andrew J. Kuhlmann, Assistant Attorney General.  Argument by Mr. Kuhlmann.

Before KITE, C.J., and GOLDEN, HILL, and BURKE, JJ., and TYLER, D.J.

Date of Decision: March 12, 2012

Facts:  Appellant walked across the city toward his estranged fiancĂ©e’s apartment, outlining en route his plan and his progress in a torrent of scurrilous voice and text messages sent to the victim’s cell phone.  Upon arrival at the apartment, Appellant pounded loudly on the front door, awakening his former girlfriend.  She refused to let him. Alarmed when he persisted, she dialed 911 to summon help.  Appellant then broke through the window screen, came into the apartment. Appellant followed her into the bedroom where he beat her, seized her hair and dragged her down the hall.
A neighbor shouted his assistance and attempted to enter the locked apartment.  Appellant yelled to the neighbor that he should “mind his own business” and that Appellant was “just trying to get his wife home,” all-the-while plodding toward the living room at the front of the apartment, pulling the victim by her hair. 

When Appellant reached the living room with his victim in tow, he released her and unlocked the front door to accost the interloping neighbor.  As Appellant exited through the door, the victim quickly shut and locked it behind him, and retreated into the apartment.  The victim listened as Appellant confronted and grabbed the neighbor.  The neighbor fought back.  Battered and disoriented, Appellant staggered away from the apartment complex only later to be apprehended by police where he was formally arrested, taken to the hospital for treatment, and jailed.

Appellant planned to show at trial that he lacked any specific intent to remove the victim so that he could “inflict bodily injury on or to terrorize” her.  Appellant planned to demonstrate that his true intent at the time of the incident was actually to protect the victim from vulnerabilities to her safety caused by her habitual alcohol consumption by merely taking her to his home.  Appellant proposed to present detailed evidence of the victim’s past conduct, particularly related to her frequent use of alcohol.  Appellant also wanted to provide of the victim’s putative extraneous sexual behavior prior to the date that the events transpired.

After completing the hearings and listening to the arguments of counsel, the district court ruled that evidence of the victim’s drinking habits and alcohol-related arrests was germane to Appellant’s defense.  The district court found that evidence of the victim’s misdemeanor convictions for alcohol-related violations was inadmissible under W.R.E. 609.  The district court also held that evidence regarding the victim’s sexual conduct while she was intoxicated or evidence that she was once sexually assaulted while she was passed-out was inadmissible since such evidence was not relevant, was unrelated to the victim’s reputation for truthfulness or untruthfulness, and was generally viewed as an impermissible overt attack upon her character which was not at issue in the case. 

At trial, the district court gave Appellant’s trial counsel considerable latitude in examining the victim and other witnesses concerning the prior conduct of the victim at various times when she was intoxicated.  Although the district court remained steadfast in its pretrial prohibition of evidence of the victim’s sexual conduct while intoxicated or evidence that she was sexually assaulted while passed-out, Appellant never asked to make an offer of proof outside the hearing of the jury to preserve for the record any proposed evidence concerning the victim’s sexual past in accordance with W.R.E. 103. 

The district court also refused Appellant’s proffered lesser-included offense instruction. The district court agreed with the State’s argument that Attempted False Imprisonment is not a lesser-included offense to Attempt to Commit Kidnapping where, as specifically charged in this case, Appellant’s purported criminal conduct involved an attempted removal – not confinement – of the victim.

Ultimately, the jury found Appellant guilty of Aggravated Burglary and Attempt to Commit Kidnapping.  The district court sentenced Appellant to imprisonment for twelve to fifteen years on each count to be served concurrent, but consecutive to an imprisonment sentence in an unrelated case.

Issues: 1) Whether the trial court erred in precluding relevant evidence of the victim’s prior conduct, prohibiting Appellant from fully presenting his defense; and 2) Whether the court improperly refused to instruct on the lesser included offense of false imprisonment.

Holdings:  The Court found that the district court properly excluded irrelevant evidence of the victim’s past conduct.  Further, the district court did not err in refusing to instruct the jury on a proffered lesser-included offense instruction which required elements not required for the higher felony offense.  

D.J. Tyler delivered the opinion for the court.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Summary 2012 WY 36

Summary of Decision March 9, 2012


[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. You will also note when you look at the opinion that all of the paragraphs are numbered. When you need to provide a pinpoint citation to a quote the universal portion of the citation will use that paragraph number. The pinpoint citation in the P.3d portion will need to have the reporter page number. If you need assistance in putting together a citation from this, or any future opinion using the Universal Citation form, please contact the Wyoming State Law Library and we will provide any needed assistance]
Summaries are prepared by Law Librarians and are not official statements of the Wyoming Supreme Court

Case Name: Marjorie E. Bedessem, Trustee of the Marjorie E. Bedessem Revocable Trust Agreement UTA Dated November 25, 2008 v. David P. Cunningham and Susan M. Cunningham

Docket Number: S-11-0127

URL: http://wyomcases.courts.state.wy.us/applications/oscn/DeliverDocument.asp?CiteID=465175

Appeal from the District Court of Albany County, Honorable Jeffrey A. Donnell, Judge

Representing Appellant (Plaintiff/Defendant): M. Gregory Weisz of Pence and MacMillan LLC, Laramie, Wyoming

Representing Appellee (Plaintiff/Defendant): Steven F. Freudenthal of Freudenthal & Bonds, P.C., Cheyenne, Wyoming

Date of Decision: March 9, 2012

Facts: Marjorie Bedessem (Bedessem), as trustee of her revocable trust, filed a complaint against David and Susan Cunningham (Cunninghams), seeking enforcement of an easement across the Cunningham property to access the Bedessem property. Bedessem claimed an implied access easement or, in the alternative, access pursuant to the restrictive covenants applicable to both properties. The district court found no evidence of an implied easement and that the restrictive covenants authorized only the Architectural Control Committee to sue for enforcement of the covenants. On those grounds it granted Cunninghams’ summary judgment motion.

Issues: On appeal, Bedessem did not challenge the district court’s finding on the implied easement claim and presented only the following issue: Whether the District Court erred when it ruled that Plaintiff did not have standing to enforce a restrictive covenant against Defendants.

Holdings: The Covenants applicable to the Large Tracts grant the Architectural Control Committee the sole right to enforce the Covenants, and the court affirmed the district court’s summary judgment order.

Justice Golden delivered the opinion for the court.







Summary 2012 WY 35

Summary of Decision March 9, 2012


[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. You will also note when you look at the opinion that all of the paragraphs are numbered. When you need to provide a pinpoint citation to a quote the universal portion of the citation will use that paragraph number. The pinpoint citation in the P.3d portion will need to have the reporter page number. If you need assistance in putting together a citation from this, or any future opinion using the Universal Citation form, please contact the Wyoming State Law Library and we will provide any needed assistance]

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

Case Name: Gary Allen James v. The State of Wyoming

Docket Number: S-11-0158

URL: http://wyomcases.courts.state.wy.us/applications/oscn/DeliverDocument.asp?CiteID=465173

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

Representing Appellant (Plaintiff/Defendant): Diane M. Lozano, State Public Defender; Tina N. Olson, Appellate Counsel; and Kirk A. Morgan, Assistant Appellate Counsel.

Representing Appellee (Plaintiff/Defendant): Gregory A. Phillips, Wyoming Attorney General; Terry Armitage, Deputy Attorney General; D. Michael Pauling, Senior Assistant Attorney General; and Robin Sessions Cooley, Deputy Attorney General.

Date of Decision: March 9, 2012

Facts: Gary Allen James was convicted of two counts of aggravated assault and battery and two counts of DUI with serious bodily injury. The district court imposed four consecutive sentences, but James contends on appeal that the convictions should have merged to two convictions for sentencing purposes.

Issues: James presents one issue for consideration: Whether the district court erred when it imposed consecutive sentences in violation of [James’] constitutional right against multiple punishments for the same offense.

Holdings: The Court found that the convictions in this case should not have merged at sentencing, and the district court is affirmed.

Justice Hill delivered the opinion for the court; Justice Voigt filed a special concurrence, in which Justice Golden joined.

I agree with the result reached in the majority opinion. I write separately only to encourage this Court finally to abandon the fact or evidence approaches to the issue of merger and to adopt as our only standard the statutory elements test. See Winstead v. State, 2011 WY 137, ¶ 16, 261 P.3d 743, 746 (Wyo. 2011) (Voigt, J., specially concurring); Baker v. State, 2011 WY 123, ¶ 23, 260 P.3d 268, 274 (Wyo. 2011) (Voigt, J., specially concurring); and Najera v. State, 2009 WY 105, ¶ 17, 214 P.3d 990, 995 (Wyo. 2009) (Voigt, C.J., specially concurring). For too long, we have ignored the fact that the United States Supreme Court rejected the “conduct” or “evidence” test in favor of the statutory elements test by overruling Grady v. Corbin, 495 U.S. 508, 110 S.Ct. 2084, 109 L.Ed.2d 548 (1990) in United States v. Dixon, 509 U.S. 688, 704, 113 S.Ct. 2849, 2860, 125 L.Ed.2d 556 (1993). We should follow suit.







Thursday, March 08, 2012

Summary 2012 WY 34

Summary of Decision March 8, 2012


[SPECIAL NOTE: This opinion uses the "Universal Citation." It was given an "official" citation when it is issued. You should use this citation whenever you cite the opinion, with a P.3d parallel citation. You will also note when you look at the opinion that all of the paragraphs are numbered. When you need to provide a pinpoint citation to a quote the universal portion of the citation will use that paragraph number. The pinpoint citation in the P.3d portion will need to have the reporter page number. If you need assistance in putting together a citation from this, or any future opinion using the Universal Citation form, please contact the Wyoming State Law Library and we will provide any needed assistance]

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

Case Name: Charles Moronese v. The State of Wyoming

Citation: 2012 WY 34

Docket Number: S-11-0183

URL: http://wyomcases.courts.state.wy.us/applications/oscn/DeliverDocument.asp?CiteID=465162

Appeal from the District Court of Laramie County, the Honorable Thomas T.C. Campbell, Judge.

Representing Appellant: Diane M. Lozano, State Public Defender; Tina N. Olson, Appellate Counsel; David E. Westling, Senior Assistant Appellate Counsel.

Representing Appellee: Gregory A. Phillips, Wyoming Attorney General; David L. Delicath, Senior Assistant Attorney General; D. Michael Pauling, Senior Assistant Attorney General.

Date of Decision: March 8, 2012

Facts: Charles Moronese, the appellant, pled guilty to attempted second-degree murder and received a sentence of 20 to 22 years (or 240 to 264 months) imprisonment. More than four years after starting his sentence, the appellant filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence. He alleged that his sentence violated Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 7-13-201 (LexisNexis 2011) because the minimum term was greater than ninety percent of the maximum term. Rather than decrease the minimum term below the statutory minimum, as requested by the appellant, the district court increased the maximum term from 264 months to 267 months. The appellant appealed, arguing that increasing his sentence after he had begun to serve that sentence violated double jeopardy.

Issue: Whether the district court violated the double jeopardy provisions of the Wyoming and United States Constitutions by increasing the term of the appellant’s prison sentence following the appellant’s motion to correct an illegal sentence.

Holdings: The appellant was sentenced to 20 to 22 years imprisonment for a crime punishable by a term of 20 years to life. This sentence was illegal because it violated the statutory requirement that a minimum term may not be more than ninety percent of the maximum term. As a result of the appellant’s motion to correct an illegal sentence, the district court correctly increased the maximum term from 264 months to 267 months. The corrected sentence should, however, reflect the appropriate credit for the time the appellant served.

The Court affirmed the order granting the motion to correct illegal sentence, but remanded for inclusion in that sentence of credit for time served.

Justice Voigt delivered the opinion for the Court.



Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Summary 2012 WY 33


Summary of Decision March 6, 2012

[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.  You will also note when you look at the opinion that all of the paragraphs are numbered.  When you need to provide a pinpoint citation to a quote the universal portion of the citation will use that paragraph number.  The pinpoint citation in the P.3d portion will need to have the reporter page number. If you need assistance in putting together a citation from this, or any future opinion using the Universal Citation form, please contact the Wyoming State Law Library and we will provide any needed assistance] 

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

Case Name:  Michaels v. State, ex. rel., Dept. of Transportation      

Citation:  2012 WY 33

Docket Number: S-11-0156


Appeal from the District Court of Big Horn County, The Honorable Steven R. Cranfill, Judge

Representing Appellant (Petitioner):  Donna D. Domonkos, Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Representing Appellee (Respondent):  Gregory A. Phillips, Wyoming Attorney General; Robin Sessions Cooley, Deputy Attorney General; Douglas J. Moench, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Donna A. Murray, Senior Assistant Attorney General.

Date of Decision: March 6, 2012

Facts:  Petitioner was arrested for driving while under the influence of alcohol in violation of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 31-5-233(b) (LexisNexis 2009).  The Wyoming Department of Transportation (the State) notified him that it was suspending his driver’s license for ninety days.  Petitioner requested an administrative hearing.  After the hearing, the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) upheld the suspension. 

Petitioner appealed the suspension to the district court, which affirmed the OAH decision.  He then appealed to this Court, claiming § 31-5-233(b) prohibits drinking and driving, his condition at the time of his arrest was the result of a diabetic ketoacidosis state not the result of drinking alcohol, therefore, the State did not meet its burden of proving that probable cause existed to believe he violated the statute. 

Issues:  1) Whether the OAH decision is in accordance with the law and, if so, 2) whether it was supported by substantial evidence.

Holdings:  The Court held as a matter of law that § 31-5-233(b) was intended to apply when a person drives or is in actual control of a motor vehicle after consuming alcohol beyond the legal limit or to a degree rendering him incapable of safely driving.  Therefore, the OAH’s ruling that § 31-5-233(b) did not distinguish between alcohol concentration caused by consuming alcoholic beverages and alcohol concentration caused by some other factor is incorrect.  However, the Court also held that the State met its burden of proving that probable cause existed at the time of the arrest to believe that Petitioner  had violated § 31-5-233(b), and the Court affirmed  the OAH’s order upholding the suspension of his driver’s license.

C. J. Kite delivered the opinion for the court.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Summary 2012 WY 32


Summary of Decision March 2, 2012

[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.  You will also note when you look at the opinion that all of the paragraphs are numbered.  When you need to provide a pinpoint citation to a quote the universal portion of the citation will use that paragraph number.  The pinpoint citation in the P.3d portion will need to have the reporter page number. If you need assistance in putting together a citation from this, or any future opinion using the Universal Citation form, please contact the Wyoming State Law Library and we will provide any needed assistance] 

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

Case Name:  McMasters v. State, ex rel., Workers’ Safety and Comp. Div.

Citation:  2012 WY 32

Docket Number: S-11-0107   


Appeal from the District Court of Natrona County, the Honorable David B. Park, Judge

Representing Appellant (Petitioner):  Robert Nicholas of Nicholas & Crank, P.C., Cheyenne, Wyoming

Representing Appellee (Respondent):  Gregory A. Phillips, Wyoming Attorney General; John W. Renneisen, Deputy Attorney General; James Michael Causey, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Kelly Roseberry, Assistant Attorney General

Date of Decision: March 2, 2012

Facts:  In 2003, Appellant was working as a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) journeyman when he fell nine feet from a beam to a concrete floor and suffered a compression fracture to his L1 vertebrae.  In 2008, Appellant applied for permanent total disability benefits claiming a total disability under the “odd lot” doctrine.  The Worker’s Compensation Division denied the application.

The Division did not dispute that Appellant could not return to work as an HVAC journeyman but instead contended that his failure to obtain alternative employment was due to a preexisting psychological condition and a poor effort to find work.  The Medical Commission agreed and upheld the denial of benefits.  On appeal, the district court found the Commission’s decision to be supported by substantial evidence and affirmed.

Issue: Did the Panel err, as a matter of law, in concluding that Appellant failed to meet his burden in establishing that he is Permanently Totally Disabled?

Holdings:  The Court reversed and remanded.  The Court found that Appellant established a prima facie case under the odd lot doctrine when he showed he could not return to his former employment and the combination of his psychological and physical conditions precluded alternative employment.  The burden thereafter shifted to the Division to show that light work of a special nature, which Appellant could perform, was available.  The Division did not meet its burden.

J. Golden delivered the opinion for the court.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Summary 2012 WY 31

Summary of Decision March 1, 2012


[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. You will also note when you look at the opinion that all of the paragraphs are numbered. When you need to provide a pinpoint citation to a quote the universal portion of the citation will use that paragraph number. The pinpoint citation in the P.3d portion will need to have the reporter page number. If you need assistance in putting together a citation from this, or any future opinion using the Universal Citation form, please contact the Wyoming State Law Library and we will provide any needed assistance]

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

Case Name: Universal Drilling Company, LLC v. R & R Rig Services, LLC; R & R Rig Services, LLC v. Universal Drilling Company, LLC

Citation: 2012 WY 31

Docket Number: S-11-0079, S-11-0080

URL: http://wyomcases.courts.state.wy.us/applications/oscn/DeliverDocument.asp?CiteID=465120

Appeal from the District Court of Washakie County, The Honorable Robert E. Skar, Judge

Representing Appellant Universal Drilling Company LLC (Defendant-Plaintiff): Raymond B. Hunkins and Amanda Hunkins Newton of Hunkins Newton Law Firm, Cheyenne, Wyoming. Argument by Mr. Hunkins.

Representing Appellee R & R Rig Services LLC (Plaintiff/Defendant):

Date of Decision: March 1, 2012

Facts: The rig service moved the drilling company’s drilling rig in May 2007 under a time and materials contract. The company refused to pay the rig service’s invoice, claiming that it should only have to pay the amount it paid to have the rig moved a few weeks later by a different company. The rig service brought suit for payment for the services it rendered, and the drilling company counterclaimed on the basis of fraud and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The district court held a bench trial and generally ruled in favor of the rig company and against the drilling company, although it refused to grant the rig service’s request for pre-judgment interest. Both parties appealed.

Issues: In Case No. S-11-0079, the drilling company challenged the district court’s judgment in favor of the rig service on the following grounds: 1) Whether the trial court adopted an erroneous methodology for calculating the amount due for the rig move when it superimposed its determination of “reasonableness” rather than the appropriate methodology for calculating damages under a time and materials contract; 2) Whether the trial court made a clearly erroneous ultimate finding that fraud in the execution and fraud in the inducement had not been proven when its basic findings included findings constituting a concurrence of several indicia or “badges” of fraud; 3) Whether the trial court reached an incorrect conclusion that breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing was not proven where the trial court’s findings supporting that conclusion showed that the rig service systematically and pervasively overcharged the drilling company and then sought to enforce its invoice containing those overcharges for over two years without any attempt to reconcile its own records until this matter went to trial; Whether the trial court erroneously failed to consider the drilling company’s affirmative defense of estoppels; and 5) Whether the computational and arithmetical errors in the trial court’s findings related to the rig company’s daily work tickets rendered the trial court’s determination of the amount due for the rig move clearly erroneous.

In Case No. S-11-0080, the rig service articulated the following issue: 1) Whether it was error and abuse of discretion for the trial court judge to refuse to award prejudgment interest on any part of the amount the trial court found was due and owing to the rig service by the drilling company.

Holdings: The record supports the district court’s judgment of $188,301.50 in favor of the rig service, less minor computation errors. The Court affirmed its decision subject to those adjustments. The Court noted that the district court did a masterful job of sorting through the voluminous documents and arriving at a fair value for the time and materials provided by the rig service in moving the company’s rig. The Court found the district court properly ruled that the drilling company failed to prove the rig service committed fraud or breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and the Court affirmed those rulings. In addition, the Court found the record did not support the drilling company’s estoppel defense. However, the Court concluded the rig service should be awarded prejudgment interest on the amount the drilling company conceded it owed—$97,500. The Court reversed the district court’s ruling on that issue and remanded for further proceedings consistent with the opinion.

C.J. Kite delivered the opinion for the court.



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