Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Wyoming Supreme Court
by
James Corley, as the representative of his deceased son's beneficiaries, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Wyoming Rents, LLC. His son had died in a work-related accident while operating a manlift rented from Wyoming Rents. Corley's counsel missed several deadlines to file an amended complaint, continued to pursue claims against another party that the district court had dismissed, and attempted to engage in discovery without a properly filed amended complaint. Consequently, the district court granted Wyoming Rents' motion to dismiss the action with prejudice. Corley appealed, arguing that a lesser sanction was more appropriate.The district court had previously dismissed Wyoming Machinery Company (WMC) from the case due to lack of claims against it and granted Corley leave to file a second amended complaint. However, Corley failed to meet the deadline for filing the revised complaint and included WMC in the complaint's caption despite the court's dismissal. The court granted Corley another chance to file an amended complaint, but he again missed the deadline. Wyoming Rents then filed a motion to dismiss the case based on Corley's failure to file any pleading by the court's deadline.The Supreme Court of Wyoming found no abuse of discretion in the district court's decision to dismiss the case with prejudice. The court noted that Corley's counsel demonstrated a complete lack of diligence throughout the case, which prejudiced Wyoming Rents by forcing it to incur substantial attorney’s fees and hindered the court's ability to move forward in resolving the case. The court affirmed the district court's decision to dismiss the case with prejudice. View "Corley v. Wyoming Rents, LLC" on Justia Law

by
The case involves a legal malpractice claim brought by Patricia Kappes against Diana Rhodes and Rhodes Law Firm, LLC. Kappes alleges that Rhodes' negligence resulted in the loss of a legal action against a defendant. The legal action in question pertains to the wrongful death of Kappes' mother, Lula M. Tanner, who was a resident at Deseret Health and Rehab at Rock Springs, LLC. Kappes had sought legal recourse for her mother's death against her mother's healthcare providers. However, Rhodes failed to timely file an application with the Wyoming Medical Review Panel and a wrongful death complaint against Ms. Tanner’s healthcare providers, which Kappes alleges constitutes legal malpractice.The District Court of Laramie County, Wyoming, certified four questions to the Supreme Court of Wyoming. These questions pertained to the role of the collectibility of the judgment in the underlying action in legal malpractice cases in Wyoming. The lower court sought to understand whether the collectibility of a judgment is a relevant consideration in a legal malpractice case, which party bears the burden of proving the underlying judgment would have been collectible, whether collectibility must be pled as an affirmative defense, and whether the Collectibility Doctrine is available as a defense to an attorney who has admitted liability.The Supreme Court of Wyoming concluded that the collectibility of the judgment is an essential part of the causation/damages element of a legal malpractice action. The client, in this case, Kappes, has the burden to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that any judgment she would have obtained in the underlying action would have been collectible. The court held that the client's burden includes showing she would have obtained a judgment in the underlying action and the judgment would have been collectible. The court did not find it necessary to answer the third and fourth certified questions as they were predicated on the court deciding collectibility is an affirmative defense to be pled and proved by the attorney. View "Kappes v. Rhodes" on Justia Law

by
An automobile accident in Idaho resulted in Emily Fairbanks receiving severe injuries while a passenger in a vehicle driven by Holly Galbraith. Fairbanks filed two lawsuits: one against the Idaho Transportation Department claiming negligent maintenance of a guardrail, and another against Galbraith in Wyoming for negligence. Galbraith sought to dismiss the Wyoming suit, citing that the statute of limitations had elapsed. The district court denied the motion. Later, Galbraith was granted summary judgment based on collateral estoppel, preventing relitigation of negligence and damages issues established in the Idaho case.Both parties appealed. Galbraith claimed the lower court had erred in its conclusion about the statute of limitations, while Fairbanks disputed the application of collateral estoppel and the application of Idaho's statutory cap on non-economic damages. The Supreme Court of Wyoming concluded that the statute of limitations had run before Fairbanks filed her complaint, reversing the district court's ruling on the issue. The court did not address the merits of the collateral estoppel appeal. The court found that under Idaho law, Fairbanks' lawsuit was time-barred as she made no effort to locate Galbraith during the time Galbraith was out of state, thus the statute of limitations was not tolled. View "Galbraith v. Fairbanks" on Justia Law

by
In a car accident resulting in the death of a motorcyclist, the driver, Yvonne Patrice Kessel, was convicted of one count of aggravated vehicular homicide. The State of Wyoming Supreme Court affirmed the conviction, holding that Kessel’s proposed jury instruction, which suggested that the jury could consider the victim’s actions when determining proximate cause, was not a proper theory of defense. The Court found that Kessel was essentially arguing that the State failed to prove the proximate cause element of the charged offense, which it deemed a "claim of innocence" or "failure of proof" defense not warranting a special theory of defense instruction. The Court also ruled that the jury had been adequately instructed on the concept of proximate cause and that the instructions allowed both parties to argue their respective theories of the case. Thus, the Court concluded that the lower court did not abuse its discretion by denying Kessel’s proposed instruction. View "Kessel v. The State of Wyoming" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of the State in this action brought by Plaintiffs claiming that a contract health care provider for the State at the Wyoming Medium Correctional Institution (prison) acted negligently when she injected Appellants with the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine, holding that the State was immune from suit and liability.Plaintiffs, inmates at the prison, brought this action claiming that they were wrongfully injected with the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine because the consent forms Plaintiffs signed mentioned only the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines. The district court declined to allow Appellants additional time for limited discovery and granted summary judgment in favor of the State, finding that State had immunity. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err when it declined to allow Plaintiffs limited discovery; and (2) the federal Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act shielded the State from suit and liability in this case. View "Bird v. State" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court affirming the decision of the Medical Commission to uphold the determination of the Department of Workforce Services, Workers' Compensation Division that Jon Bressler was not entitled to compensation for three physical therapy sessions in connection with his work-related injury to his right arm, holding that there was no error.The Supreme Court affirmed the order upholding the three final determinations of the Division denying Bressler physical therapy benefits, holding that the Commission's conclusion that Bressler's continued physical therapy was not reasonable and necessary medical care for his work-related injury was supported by substantial evidence. View "Bressler v. State, ex rel. Dep't of Workforce Services, Workers' Compensation Division" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendant and dismissing Plaintiffs' complaint seeking to recover damages for the emotional distress they allegedly suffered when their dogs died after becoming entangled in Defendant's snares, holding that there was no error.In his motion for summary judgment, Defendant asserted that Plaintiffs' emotional distress were not compensable because dogs are considered property. The district court granted the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) under Wyoming law, dogs are property; (2) while Plaintiffs might be entitled to emotional damages for their own injuries, the impact rule did not extend their recovery to emotional damages caused by the dogs' death; and (3) Plaintiffs' argument that recovery for emotional distress damages should be allowed when animate property is negligently harmed is best made to the legislature. View "Cardenas v. Swanson" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court affirming the decision of the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) denying Workers' Compensation Division benefits for treatment to Appellant's upper back, neck, and arms, holding that the OAH's determination was supported by the evidence and was not arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise not in accordance with the law.Eight days after she twisted her back at work Appellant was in a motorcycle accident. The Division concluded that Appellant had suffered a compensable injury to her lumbar spine but denied payments for treatments for cervical spine, carpal tunnel syndrome, and cervical disc degeneration because those conditions were not related to Appellant's work injury. After a contested case hearing, the OAH upheld the decision. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the OAH's decision was supported by substantial evidence and was not arbitrary or capricious. View "Vandom v. State, ex rel. Dep't of Workforce Services, Workers' Compensation Division" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiff's claims against Defendant, the mayor of Green River, as time-barred, barred under 42 U.S.C. 1983, and barred by the doctrine of collateral estoppel, holding that the district court did not err.In his complaint, Plaintiff alleged that Defendant violated his oath of office during Plaintiff's underlying criminal matter by declining to order an investigation into a witness who recanted prior statements she made to law enforcement. The district court dismissed the complaint. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err when it determined that Plaintiff's claims were barred by the Wyoming Governmental Claims Act and 42 U.S.C. 1983; (2) Plaintiff failed to present cogent argument on his collateral estoppel argument; and (3) therefore, the district court properly granted Defendant's motion to dismiss. View "Mitchell v. Rust" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court in favor of Defendants in this negligence case, holding that the district court did not err or abuse its discretion.Mike Roberts was injured at the home of his son, Benjamin Roberts, when he stepped off the edge of the back porch and fell, injuring his shoulder and foot. Mike brought this lawsuit alleging that his son negligently maintained his yard, causing his injury. The district court ruled in favor of Defendants. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not abuse its discretion by barring certain standard of care testimony; and (2) did not abuse its discretion when it admitted evidence of Mike's alcohol consumption. View "Roberts v. Roberts" on Justia Law