Justia Wyoming Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the judgment of the district court ordering Mother to reimburse funds she removed from the college account she managed for one of the parties' two children and awarding post-judgment interest, holding that the district court erred as a matter of law when it ordered payment of statutory post-judgment interest. In accordance with the divorce decree of Father and Mother, Father agreed to establish college accounts in the amount of $50,000 for each of the parties' two children. Mother managed one account, and Father managed the other account. The district court later ordered Mother to reimburse funds she removed from the account she managed. Mother appealed, arguing that the court abused its discretion in awarding damages in the amount of $50,000 and in awarded post-judgment interest. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the district court did not err when it found damages in the amount of $50,000; and (2) the district court erred as a matter of law when it awarded ten percent post-judgment interest from September 2007. The court then remanded the matter for further proceedings on interest. View "Lew v. Lew" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant's conviction of sexual assault in the first degree, holding that cumulative error resulting from prosecutorial misconduct deprived Defendant of a fair trial. On appeal, Defendant argued that the prosecutors committed numerous instances of misconduct during the state's case-in-chief and during the State's closing and rebuttal arguments. The Supreme Court remanded the case for a new trial, holding (1) the prosecutor violated the district court's Wyo. R. Evid. 404(b) order; (2) both prosecutors engaged in improper victim impact argument unrelated to credibility; (3) the prosecutor repeatedly argued facts that were not in evidence; (4) the prosecutor intentionally used inflammatory language in closing argument; and (5) cumulative error deprived Defendant of a fair trial. View "Bogard v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the probate court first granting Appellant's petition for probate of George W. Stanford's estate and appointment of an administrator but then reversing itself when the State objected to the appointment, holding that the State did not have standing to object to the appointment of the administrator. Appellant was incarcerated for more than twenty years when his convictions were vacated and an order of actual innocence was entered. Appellant later filed a complaint against the City of Cheyenne and several of its law enforcement officers, including Stanford, a detective who died before the complaint was filed. Appellant then filed a petition for the probate of Stanford's intestate estate and for appointment of an administrator. The probate court admitted the estate to probate and appointed an administrator. Thereafter, the State filed a document objecting to the appointment of an administrator for Stanford's estate. The probate court entered an order vacating the appointment of the administrator and closing the estate. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court should have dismissed the State's objection for failure to state a claim because the State did not meet the probate code requirements for standing. View "Johnson v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates
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In this breach of contract case the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Appellant's Wyo. R. Civ. P. 60(b) motion, holding that neither documents in a party's possession nor public records in existence at the time of trial are newly discovered evidence if, with due diligence, they could have been discovered prior to trial. In its rule 60(b) motion Appellant argued that two pieces of evidence - one of which it possessed and the other which was a matter of public record at the time of trial - constituted newly discovered evidence. The trial court denied the motion. Appellant appealed, arguing that it was not for a lack of due diligence that it did not discover the documents in its physical possession or data available on a website prior to trial. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding the evidence was not newly discovered because Appellant failed to exercise due diligence. View "SWC Production, Inc. v. Wold Energy Partners, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court convicting Defendant of three counts of child endangerment and one count of possession of a controlled substance, holding that the district court did not violate Defendant's Fifth Amendment right to remain silent by admitting testimony regarding Defendant's contamination of a compelled urine sample. On appeal, Defendant argued that evidence of her contamination of the urine sample was admitted in violation of her right to remain silence because the contamination communicated her guilty knowledge or consciousness of guilt. The State raised the additional question of whether Defendant waived her Fifth Amendment claim when she failed to raise it in the district court. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendant had good cause for failing to raise her Fifth Amendment claim before trial so the claim was not waived; and (2) Defendant's decision to contaminate her sample was neither a communicative act nor an act compelled by the State, and therefore, evidence of Defendant's actions was not protected by the Fifth Amendment, and there was no plain error in the admission of the evidence. View "Herrera v. State" 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 reversed the order of the district court affirming the order of the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) upholding the Department of Workforce Services, Workers' Compensation Division's (Division) final determination regarding compensability, holding that the OAH erred in its determination that equitable estoppel did not bar the Division from asserting the statute of limitations as a defense. The OAH affirmed the final determination of the Division denying benefits to Appellant on the grounds that Appellant did not file a claim for benefits within the one-year statute of limitations set forth in Wyo. Stat. 27-14-503(a). The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Division was estopped from asserting the statute of limitations as a defense, and therefore, the OAH's conclusion that section 27-14-503(a) barred Appellant's claim was not in accordance with law. View "Sweetalla v. State ex rev. Department of Workforce Services, Workers' Compensation Division" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of the University of Wyoming (UW) and dismissing Plaintiff's declaratory judgment action, arguing that the district court abused its discretion in concluding that this declaratory judgment action challenging the legality of a UW regulation barring firearms on the UW campus served a useful purpose. Plaintiff was cited for misdemeanor criminal trespass after he refused to either relinquish his handgun, which he brought to a UW facility. Plaintiff pleaded not guilty in circuit court, obtained a stay of the criminal proceedings, and filed an action for declaratory judgment in district court, arguing that the regulation violated his constitutional right to bear arms. The district court granted summary judgment for UW. The Supreme Court reversed with instructions so that the matter may proceed in the circuit court, holding (1) Defendant had standing the challenge the legality of the regulation because of the pending criminal charge against him; and (2) the district court abused its discretion in concluding that this declaratory judgment action served a useful purpose. View "Williams v. State ex rel., University of Wyoming Board of Trustees" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) denying Appellant's request for permanent partial disability benefits, holding that the OAH's decision was supported by substantial evidence and was not arbitrary or capricious. In denying Appellant permanent partial disability benefits the hearing examiner determined that Appellant had not established that because of his injury he was unable to return to employment at a wage of at least ninety-five percent of his monthly earnings at the time of his injury. On appeal, Appellant claimed that the hearing examiner should have found dispositive the undisputed fact that Appellant had applied for over fifty positions and still had no job. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the hearing examiner's decision was not contrary to the overwhelming weight of the evidence, and the district court did not err in affirming the hearing examiner's conclusion. View "Bollinger 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

Posted in: Personal Injury