Court Summaries, 20 WYBJ, Vol. 43 No. 5. 54

AuthorAnna Reeves Olson, Park Street Law Offices Casper, Wyoming
PositionVol. 43 5 Pg. 54

Court Summaries

No. Vol. 43 No. 5 Pg. 54

Wyoming Bar Journal

October, 2020

Anna Reeves Olson, Park Street Law Offices Casper, Wyoming

Jose Ramirez v. Elvin Brown, Bill Wartenbee & Bryce



2020 WY 79

June 19, 2020

National Oilwell Varco's Tuboscope facility inspected and repaired oil field tubing. Elvin Brown was the facility's operations manager, Bill Wartenbee was the regional Health, Safety, and Environment Representative, and Bryce Mitchell was the facility's shop foreman. Employee Jose Ramirez operated a machine called the spin-straightener, which was located outside and was partially covered by a roof. As a result, snow and ice would accumulate around the machine.

One day in January 2017, Ramirez was operating the spin-straightener when he slipped on the snow and his arm fell into the machine. Ramirez sustained serious injuries and filed suit alleging co-employee liability against his supervisors, Brown, Wartenbee and Mitchell. The Defendants moved for summary judgment, which was granted by the district court.

On appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part. The Supreme Court noted that in order for the Defendants to be liable, Ramirez needed to establish a genuine issue of material fact that Brown, Wartenbee, and Mitchell had knowledge of the hazard or serious nature of the risk the spin-straightener presented to Ramirez and willfully disregarded the need to act despite their personal awareness of the high probability that serious injury or death may result from Ramirez's operation of the spin-straightener.

Here, the defendants knew that snow and ice accumulated around the machine and from this evidence a jury could reasonably infer that Brown, Wartenbee, and Mitchell knew that the probability and risk of serious injury associated with those dangers increased when snow and ice were present.

Nevertheless, the Court held that, with regard to Brown or Wartenbee, these inferences did not create a genuine issue of material fact as to whether they willfully disregarded the high probability of serious injury to Ramirez. Yet, the Supreme Court held that Ramirez did present evidence sufficient to distinguish Mitchell's conduct from the others. Although Mitchell adamantly denied receiving complaints about the spin-straightener, Ramirez submitted evidence squarely contradicting those denials. Mitchell was also supposed to report any complaints he received to Brown and Wartenbee and the record suggests that he did not report any complaints. If proven true, Mitchell's failure to report verbal complaints could reflect an intent not to act, in willful disregard of the serious risk posed to Ramirez and others.

Cheryl A. Tarter v. Charles Q. Tarter


2020 WY 80

June 23, 2020

Cheryl and Charles Tarter separated in 2016 when Ms. Tarter moved to Michigan. Mr. Tarter filed for divorce in Wyoming and a Michigan process server unsuccessfully attempted to serve Ms. Tarter with the divorce complaint on five different occasions. Mr. Tarter filed an affidavit in support of service by certified mail. The certified mailing to Ms. Tarter at her Michigan address was returned unclaimed.

Mr. Tarter then filed an affidavit in support of service by publication and published legal notice in the paper over four weeks. Ms. Tarter did not answer and the district court clerk entered a default. The district court then entered a default decree and found that Ms. Tarter was properly served by publication.

When Ms.Tarter found out about the divorce, she filed a motion to set aside the default decree because Mr. Tarter had failed to comply with the service by publication requirements in W.R.C.R 4. The district court denied Ms.Tarter's motion.

On appeal, the Supreme Court reversed and held that the divorce decree must be set aside because Mr. Tarter failed to comply with W.R.C.R 4. First, Mr. Tarter did not comply with Rule 4 because his affidavit in support of...

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