Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Wyoming Supreme Court
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In this personal injury action brought pursuant to the Workers' Compensation Act the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the order of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of one of Plaintiff's co-employee supervisors, holding that genuine issues of material fact existed. Plaintiff was injured when his hand and arm became entangled in a pipe-straightening machine at his place of employment. Plaintiff sued his co-employee supervisors - Elvin Brown, Bill Wartenbee, and Bryce Mitchell - claiming they were not entitled to immunity from liability under the Act because they intentionally acted to cause physical harm or injury to Plaintiff. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) Brown and Wartenbee were entitled to judgment as a matter of law and were immune from liability for Plaintiff's injury; and (2) Plaintiff established genuine issues of material fact against Mitchell precluding summary judgment. The Court remanded the claim against Mitchell for trial. View "Ramirez v. Brown" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiffs' lawsuit against the Wyoming State Hospital and its staff for medical malpractice, negligence, and wrongful death, holding that Plaintiffs' allegations were sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss and that the Hospital and Dr. Sarah Rogers were not immune from suit. Robert Anderson died while in the custody of the Hospital. Prior to his death, Anderson had been adopted by his paternal grandmother, who had since died. Robert Craft, Anderson's biological father and his adoptive brother, and Sabrina Craft, Anderson's appointed personal representative and Robert's wife, brought this action. The district court dismissed the complaint, holding (1) the Crafts lacked standing and had failed to state a claim under Wyo. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6); (2) the Crafts were not qualified death beneficiaries because of Anderson's adoption; and (3) Dr. Rogers and the Hospital were immune from suit under the Wyoming Governmental Claims Act (WGCA). The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) as Anderson's adoptive brother, Craft was a qualified wrongful death beneficiary; (2) Plaintiffs' allegations of medical malpractice, negligence, and medical malpractice were sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss; and (3) Dr. Rogers and the Hospital were not immune from suit. View "Craft v. State ex rel. Wyo. Department of Health" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Medical Commission upholding that decision of the Wyoming Workers' Safety and Compensation Division denying workers' compensation benefits because Appellant failed to establish a causal connection between his injury and employment, holding that the Commission's decision was not contrary to the overwhelming weight of the evidence. The Division denied benefits because Appellant did not submit evidence establishing a causal connection between his injury and employment as required by Wyo. Stat. Ann. 27-14-603(a). The Commission upheld the denial of benefits after rejecting the opinions of Appellant's medical experts. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Commission's determination that Appellant failed to meet his burden under section 27-14-603(a) for an injury occurring over a substantial period of time was not contrary to the overwhelming weight of the evidence. View "McMillan v. State, ex rel. Department of Workforce Services, Workers' Compensation Division" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the order of the district court holding Life Care Center of Casper in contempt when it failed to comply with an order compelling it to respond to a subpoena served on it in an action for appointment of a wrongful death representative, holding that the district court lacked jurisdiction to compel pre-suit discovery in the appointment proceeding. Plaintiff, the granddaughter of Betty June Cochran, filed a petition to be appointed Cochran's wrongful death representative after Cochran died allegedly after a fall at Life Care Center of Casper. The district court granted the petition. Thereafter, Plaintiff served life Care with a subpoena to compel discovery. Life Care provided only some of the subpoenaed documents. Plaintiff filed a motion to compel, and the district court granted the motion in part. Life Care filed a Wyo. R. Crim. P. 60(b)(6) motion requesting that the district court vacate its order compelling discovery. The district court denied the motion and found Life Care to be in civil contempt. The Supreme Court vacated the order, holding that the district court did not have jurisdiction under Wyo. Stat. Ann. 1-38-103 to compel pre-suit discovery because the sole purpose of a proceeding under section 1-38-103(b) is the appointment of a wrongful death representative. View "Life Care Center of Casper v. Barrett" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court upholding the decision oft he Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) denying workers' compensation benefits to Appellant, holding that a previous order by the OAH was not a final, appealable order and that collateral estoppel was not applicable. Appellant filed for workers' compensation benefits after his leg was amputated below the knee. The Department of Workforce Services, Workers' Compensation Division (the Division) denied the claim. Appellant appealed, but while the contested case hearing was pending the Division withdrew its denial of benefits. In response, the OAH issued an order vacating the hearing and directing the Division to award workers' compensation benefits. The Division issued a redetermination in favor of Appellant. Appellant's employer objected, and after a contested case hearing, OAH denied workers' compensation benefits. The district court upheld the OAH decision denying benefits. On appeal, Appellant claimed that the first OAH order was a final appealable order awarding benefits and that his employer was collaterally estopped from objecting to the Division's redetermination awarding benefits. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the first OAH order was not a "prior adjudication" of workers' compensation benefits and provided no basis to implicate the principle of collateral estoppel. View "Lower v. Peabody Powder River Services, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this personal injury action, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court awarding Plaintiff damages and finding Ryan Gertsch to be seventy-five percent liable for Plaintiff's permanent injuries to her cervical and lumbar spine, holding that there was no prejudicial error in the proceedings below. Plaintiff was rear-ended first by Gertsch and then, fifteen months later, by James Frew. Plaintiff sued both Gertsch and Frew. Both defendants admitted negligence, and the jury awarded Plaintiff $10,000 in damages, finding Gertsch and Frew to be seventy-five percent and twenty-five percent responsible, respectively. The district court entered judgment in accordance with the jury's verdict. Plaintiff settled with Frew after the jury's verdict. Plaintiff appealed, raising arguments as to the judgment against Gertsch. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court erred in allowing Gretsch's Rule 35 examiner to testify despite Gertsch's failure to comply with Wyo. R. Civ. P. 26(a)(2)(B), but the admission of the examiner's testimony was harmless; (2) Gertsch's closing argument was not plainly erroneous; and (3) the district court did not err in requiring Plaintiff to disclose her substance abuse treatment records and in allowing them to be admitted at trial. View "Vahai v. Gertsch" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court affirming the decision of the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) upholding the denial of Appellant's application to the Department of Workforce Services, Workers' Compensation Division for permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits, holding that the OAH's decision was not contrary to the overwhelming weight of the evidence. After Appellant injured his back the Division awarded him temporary benefits. When several years had passed without relief from his pain, Appellant appleid for PPD benefits. The Division denied Appellant's application. The OAH upheld the Division's denial of PPD benefits, concluding that Appellant failed to prove his work injury was the cause of his inability to return to employment and failed to prove that he timely filed his PPD application. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the OAH correctly calculated the limitations period under Wyo. Stat. Ann. 27-14-405(h)(ii); and (2) there was substantial evidence to support the OAH's conclusion that Appellant failed to prove that his injury was the cause of his inability to return to work. View "Camacho v. State, ex rel. Department of Workforce Services, Workers' Compensation Division" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Accessible Space, Inc. (ASI) and dismissing Plaintiffs' claim that ASI was negligent in failing to protect them from Larry Rosenberg's criminal action, holding that ASI did not have a common law duty to protect Plaintiffs from Rosenberg's unforeseeable criminal action. Appellants were living in a senior living apartment complex owned and operated by ASI when Rosenberg, a fellow tenant, shot them with a .22 caliber rifle. Appellants filed suit against ASI alleging negligence and asserting that ASI, as a landlord, had a duty to exercise reasonable care to protect them from Rosenberg's criminal action. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of ASI. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err by concluding that ASI did not owe Plaintiffs a duty to protect them from Rosenberg's criminal action; and (2) even if ASI failed sufficiently to address Rosenberg's complaints, ASI's actions were not the proximate cause of Plaintiffs' injuries. View "Warwick v. Accessible Space, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court entering partial summary judgment against Rex Rammell on all his claims against his former employer, Mountainaire Animal Clinic, P.C., its president, and its office manager except Rammell's breach of express contract claim and then dismissing that claim as a sanction for willful obstruction of discovery and fraud upon the court, holding that the district court did not err. Specifically, the Court held (1) deficiencies in Rammell's certification did not mandate dismissal of his appeal; (2) defects in Rammell's notice of appeal did not mandate dismissal; (3) the district court did not err in entering summary judgment against Rammell on his tortious interference claim; and (4) the district court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing Rammell's breach of express contract claim as a sanction for discovery violations. View "Rammell v. Mountainaire Animal Clinic, P.C." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the orders of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants, three professionals, on Plaintiff’s claims of malpractice, breach of fiduciary duty, and conversion arising out of conservatorship and divorce proceedings, holding that the district court did not err. Defendants were Plaintiff’s conservator and counsel during the divorce proceedings. After the divorce concluded, Defendant filed this lawsuit alleging conversion, professional malpractice, and breach of fiduciary duty. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) collateral estopped precluded Plaintiff from prevailing on his conversion claim; and (2) the district court did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants on the malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty claims. View "Tozzi v. Moffett" on Justia Law