Monday, December 16, 2013

Summary 2013 WY 151

Summary of Decision December 11, 2013

Justice Voigt delivered the opinion for the Court. Remanded for new trial.


Docket Number: S-13-0109


Appeal from the District Court of Sheridan County, the Honorable Steven R. Cranfill, Judge

Representing Appellants: Jeffrey J. Gonda and Amanda K. Roberts of Lonabaugh and Riggs, LLP, Sheridan, Wyoming; and Bruce S. Asay and Gregory B. Asay of Associated Legal Group, LLC, Cheyenne, Wyoming. Argument by Mr. Gonda.

Representing Appellee: Kendal R. Hoopes of Yonkee & Toner, LLP, Sheridan, Wyoming.

Date of Decision: December 11, 2013

Facts: James Jellis is a rancher in Sheridan County, Wyoming, and owns a beefalo cattle herd. Pursuant to an oral agreement with John McTiernan, Jellis kept his herd on McTiernan’s ranch near Dayton, Wyoming. A dispute arose between the parties regarding their oral agreement, culminating in a lien being asserted by McTiernan and a legal action being filed by Jellis. The jury found, inter alia, McTiernan liable for conversion of Jellis’ beefalo herd, but also found McTiernan entitled to a lien against the same pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 29-7-101 et seq. McTiernan filed a post-trial motion based on several theories, including that a new trial was warranted because of the inconsistent verdict.

Issues: The dispositive question in this matter is one that concerns whether a new trial is necessary because of an inconsistent verdict; for that reason, we restate the controlling issue as follows: Is the jury’s verdict finding McTiernan liable for conversion of a beefalo herd, while at the same time finding him entitled to a lien against the same pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 29-7-101 et seq., contrary to law?

Holdings/Decision: A lien under Chapter 7 of Title 29 is possessory and its existence dependent upon possession of the subject personal property. As a result, the jury’s finding that McTiernan was liable for conversion is inconsistent as a matter of law with its finding that McTiernan was also entitled to a personal property lien pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 29-7-101 et seq. We find the verdict is contrary to law and cannot be reconciled; therefore, we must conclude the district court abused its discretion in denying McTiernan’s motion for new trial. We remand to the district court for a new trial.

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

[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]

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