STEVEN M. KRENNING and JOYCE C. KRENNING, husband and wife v. HEART MOUNTAIN IRRIGATION DISTRICT and JAMES FLOWERS and THE STATE OF WYOMING
2009 WY 11
200 P.3d 774
Case Number: No. S-07-0271
Cite as: 2009 WY 11, 200 P.3d 774
TERM, A.D. 2008
M. KRENNING and JOYCE C. KRENNING, husband and wife,
MOUNTAIN IRRIGATION DISTRICT and JAMES FLOWERS,
STATE OF WYOMING,
from the District Court of Park County
Honorable Steven R. Cranfill, Judge
B. Jones and William L. Simpson, Burg, Simpson, Eldredge, Hersh & Jardine,
PC, Cody, Wyoming; Michael S. Messenger, Messenger & Jurovich, PC,
Thermopolis, Wyoming; Thomas W. Redmon, Redmon Law Offices, Casper,
Wyoming. Argument by Mr.
Appellee, Heart Mountain Irrigation District:
A. Gilbertz, Yonkee & Toner, LLP, Sheridan, Wyoming.
Appellee, James Flowers:
A. Neville and Lori L. Gorseth, Williams, Porter, Day & Neville, PC, Casper,
Wyoming. Argument by Mr.
Appellee, State of Wyoming:
A. Salzburg, Attorney General; Elizabeth C. Gagen, Chief Deputy Attorney
General; Martin L. Hardsocg, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Bridget L. Hill,
Senior Assistant Attorney General.
Argument by Ms. Gagen.
VOIGT, C.J., and GOLDEN, HILL, KITE, and BURKE,
and Joyce Krenning brought suit against the Heart Mountain Irrigation District
and its employee, James Flowers, seeking recovery for personal injuries
Mr. Krenning suffered in an altercation with Mr. Flowers. The district court ruled that the
Irrigation District and Mr. Flowers were immune from liability pursuant to the
Wyoming Governmental Claims Act (WGCA), and granted summary judgment in their
favor. Mr. and
Mrs. Krenning challenge that decision in this appeal. We will affirm.
Krennings state the following issues, although we put them in a different order
to facilitate discussion:
Heart Mountain Irrigation District is not a governmental entity under the
provisions of the Wyoming Governmental Claims Act, W.S. 1-39-101, et seq., (LexisNexis 2007), and thus
neither the Irrigation District, nor its employees, are within the scope of
governmental immunity granted by the Wyoming Governmental Claims
Appellee Heart Mountain Irrigation District is a governmental entity for
purposes of the Wyoming Governmental Claims Act (WGCA), it is also a public
utility for which immunity has been waived under the provisions of W.S.
1-39-108, and thus both the Irrigation District and its employees may be
liable for their negligence.
the alternative allegations of Appellants Complaint, Appellee James Flowers was
asserted to be acting both within and without the scope of his employment. Questions of fact remain as to whether
he was acting outside the scope of his employment so as to not be protected by
any immunity that allegedly exists for the Irrigation
Sovereign Immunity to an Irrigation District and its employees, such as
Appellees, is contrary to and violative of the Wyoming Constitutional guarantees
of Equal Protection under Article 1, 2, 3, 6, 8, 34 and Article 3,
Mountain Irrigation District is an irrigation district organized pursuant to
Wyo. Stat. Ann. 41-7-201 (LexisNexis 2007). Through a series of canals, ditches,
dams, and other works, the Irrigation District delivers irrigation water to
landowners with water rights within the district. Mr. Flowers was an employee of the
Irrigation District. Mr. Krenning
owns and leases lands within the Irrigation District, and receives irrigation
water from the Irrigation District.
October 4, 2004, Mr. Flowers and Mr. Krenning had a chance meeting on the road
paralleling one of the Irrigation Districts canals. They began arguing, and a physical
confrontation followed. There is
considerable dispute about the details, but the district courts decision letter
provided this useful summary:
Krennings] allege that Flowers had a volatile temper which had been reported to
the District on numerous occasions.
[The Irrigation District and Mr. Flowers] allege that [Mr. Krenning]
had a history of behavior that terrorized neighbors and family members.
on October 4, 2004, Flowers was working for the District and talking with a
ditch rider, Mr. House, when Steve Krenning approached him to discuss ditch
seepage. Flowers was sitting in his
truck at the time. There had been
previous accusations from Flowers that Krenning was improperly using irrigation
water. A confrontation between
Flowers and Krenning ensued and it is undisputed that Flowers struck Krenning
with a shovel at least twice. As a
result, Krennings arm was broken and he received head injuries.
Flowers was arrested and charged with assault with a deadly weapon. At trial, he did not deny hitting Mr.
Krenning with the shovel. However,
he claimed that he had acted in self-defense, and that Mr. Krenning had
been the aggressor. The jury agreed
that Mr. Flowers had acted in self-defense,1 and he was acquitted.
July 14, 2005, the Krennings presented the Irrigation District with a Verified
Notice of Claim pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. 1-39-113, which requires such
notice before an action may be brought against a governmental entity. The Irrigation District did not respond
to the notice, and on August 10, 2005, the Krennings filed a complaint in the
district court against the Irrigation District and Mr. Flowers. On June 15, 2007, the Irrigation
District moved for summary judgment, asserting immunity from suit pursuant to
the WGCA. Mr. Flowers joined that
motion, claiming that he was also subject to governmental immunity as an
employee of the Irrigation District.
The district court ruled in favor of the Irrigation District and
Mr. Flowers, and the Krennings appeal that decision.
of the issues raised in this appeal is the constitutionality of the WGCA. Accordingly, notice was served on the
Attorney General as required by Wyo. Stat. Ann. 1-37-113 and W.R.C.P.
24(d). The State of Wyoming
intervened in order to address the constitutional challenge.
Summary judgment is appropriate when there are no genuine issues of
material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law. W.R.C.P. 56(c); Metz Beverage Co. v. Wyoming Beverages,
Inc., 2002 WY 21, 9, 39 P.3d 1051, 1055 (Wyo. 2002). A genuine issue of material fact exists
when a disputed fact, if it were proven, would establish or refute an essential
element of a cause of action or a defense that the parties have asserted. Id. Because summary judgment involves a
purely legal determination, we undertake de novo review of a trial courts
summary judgment decision. Glenn v. Union Pacific R.R. Co., 2008 WY
16, 6, 176 P.3d 640, 642 (Wyo. 2008).
Ranch Coal Co. v. Thunder Basin Coal Co., LLC,
2008 WY 101, 8, 191 P.3d 125, 128-29 (Wyo. 2008).
Is the Irrigation District subject to governmental
is the first time we have been squarely presented with the question of whether
the WGCA provides governmental immunity to an irrigation district. To answer the question, we must
interpret the statutory language of the WGCA. Statutory interpretation is a question
of law, so our review is de novo.
Corp. v. Public Svc. Commn of Wyo.,
2007 WY 97, 3, 161 P.3d 495, 497 (Wyo. 2007). We
attempt to determine
the legislatures intent based primarily on the plain and ordinary meaning of
the words used in the statute.
paramount consideration is to determine the legislatures intent, which must be
ascertained initially and primarily from the words used in the statute. We look first to the plain and ordinary
meaning of the words to determine if the statute is ambiguous. A statute is clear and unambiguous if
its wording is such that reasonable persons are able to agree on its meaning
with consistency and predictability. Conversely, a statute is ambiguous if it
is found to be vague or uncertain and subject to varying interpretations. If we determine that a statute is clear
and unambiguous, we give effect to the plain language of the
v. State ex rel. Natrona County Child Support Enforcement Dept,
2008 WY 1, 10, 174 P.3d 166, 169 (Wyo. 2008) (internal citations
WGCA begins by granting governmental entities broad immunity from tort
governmental entity and its public employees while acting within the scope of
duties are granted immunity from liability for any tort except as provided by
W.S. 1-39-105 through 1-39-112 and limited by W.S. 1-39-121.
Stat. Ann. 1-39-104(a). The first question to be resolved is
whether the Irrigation District is a governmental entity to which immunity is
term governmental entity is defined to include the state, University of
Wyoming or any local government.
Wyo. Stat Ann. 1-39-103(a)(i). In turn, the term local government is
defined to include cities and towns, counties, school districts, joint powers
boards, airport boards, public corporations, community
college districts, special districts and their governing bodies, all political
subdivisions of the state, and their agencies, instrumentalities and
institutions. Wyo. Stat Ann.
1-39-103(a)(ii) (emphasis added).
The Irrigation District asserts that it is a public corporation, and so
a governmental entity subject to immunity.2
WGCA does not define the term public corporation. However, in 1979 when the WGCA was
enacted, a familiar source listed this definition:
artificial person . . . created for the administration of public affairs. . .
. A public corporation is an
instrumentality of the state, founded and owned in the public interest,
supported by public funds and governed by those deriving their authority from
1105-06 (5th ed. 1979). The Irrigation District is plainly an
artificial person, being a corporate body duly organized pursuant to Wyo. Stat.
Ann. 41-7-201. It is founded
and owned in the public interest, as indicated by the legislatures direction
that the statutes concerning irrigation districts shall be liberally construed
to promote the public welfare by
reclaiming and irrigating lands. Wyo. Stat. Ann. 41-7-102 (emphasis
added). To the extent that
irrigation districts promote the public welfare, they are created for the
administration of public affairs.
Irrigation districts derive their authority from the state, as
demonstrated by the fact that they must be created by an order of the state
district court. Wyo. Stat. Ann.
far, the Irrigation District fits comfortably within the definition of a public
question of whether the Irrigation District is supported by public funds is not
so easily answered. Irrigation
districts are not funded by taxes paid by the public at large, but rather, by
assessments against district members.
Wyo. Stat. Ann. 41-7-401 through -415. However, the public nature of these
assessments is established by other statutory provisions. An irrigation districts annual budget
must be approved by the district court.
Wyo. Stat. Ann. 41-7-402.
The assessments are approved, levied, and assessed by county
commissioners. Wyo. Stat. Ann.
41-7-403. The county
assessor must then extend upon the tax roll of such county the respective
amounts levied and assessed against each lot, tract and easement of land, and
against each corporation as shown by said assessment roll of said
districts. Id. The assessments are collected by the
same officer and in the same manner and at the
same time as state and county taxes are collected. Wyo. Stat. Ann. 41-7-404(a). Read together, these statutory
provisions give the Irrigation Districts assessments the character of public
funds. Accordingly, we conclude
that the Irrigation District satisfies all of the requirements of Blacks definition of a public
while the legislature did not define the term public corporation in the WGCA,
it did provide a definition in
the statutes concerning water conservancy districts. There, a public corporation is defined
city and counties, towns, cities, school districts, irrigation districts, water
districts, part districts, subdistricts, and all governmental agencies, clothed
with the power of levying or providing for the levy of general or special taxes
or special assessments.
Stat. Ann. 41-3-702(b) (emphasis added). While this definition may not apply
directly under the WGCA, it does establish that the legislature considers
irrigation districts to be public corporations for some purposes.
conclusion that an irrigation district is a public corporation can be tested
against other statutory provisions as well. [I]n ascertaining the meaning of a
given law, all statutes relating to the same subject or having the same general
purpose must be considered and construed in harmony. Plymale v. Donnelly, 2007 WY 77,
30, 157 P.3d 933, 940 (Wyo. 2007), citing McClean v. State, 2003 WY 17, 6,
62 P.3d 595, 597 (Wyo. 2003). The
statutes dealing with irrigation districts expressly provide that the
of an irrigation district are declared to be public officers. Wyo. Stat. Ann. 41-7-301. Irrigation district commissioners must
take an oath to support the constitution of the United States and the
constitution of the state of Wyoming.
Wyo. Stat. Ann. 41-7-302.
Irrigation districts have the power to exercise eminent domain. Wyo. Stat. Ann.
have the authority to issue bonds to secure indebtedness. Wyo. Stat. Ann. 41-7-408. They must advertise for bids, and accept
the lowest bid, for any work estimated to cost more than $7,500. Wyo. Stat. Ann. 41-7-412. All of these statutory provisions tend
to confirm our conclusion that irrigation districts are of such a public nature
that they must be considered public corporations, and that the legislature
intended to include irrigation districts among the governmental entities
subject to immunity under the WGCA.
we can test this conclusion against prior decisions of this Court. Significantly, we have expressly
declared that irrigation districts are public
irrigation district, reclaiming, as it does, desert lands in the state, and
accordingly conferring a benefit not alone upon the private individuals within
the district, but also upon the people of the state as a whole, is a public,
rather than a private corporation. Kinney on Irrigation and Water Rights, (2nd
ed.) sec. 1404; 40 Cyc. 817. . . .
They are . . . special state organizations for state purposes with
limited powers, created to perform certain work which the policy of the state
requires or permits to be done and to which the state has given a certain degree
of discretion in reclaiming desert lands.
35 Wyo. 73, 83-84, 246 P. 918, 921-22 (1926). In addition, in Biddick v. Laramie Valley Municipal
Irrigation Dist., 76 Wyo. 67, 72, 299 P.2d 1059, 1060 (1956), we affirmed a
district courts finding that the Laramie Valley Municipal Irrigation District
is a public corporation. We find
no Wyoming cases holding to the contrary.
their arguments against governmental immunity for irrigation districts, the
Krennings point to a long line of Wyoming cases in which irrigation districts
have been defendants. These cases
range in age from Big Goose and Beaver
Ditch Co. v. Morrow, 8 Wyo. 537, 59 P. 159 (1899), to Reed v. Cloninger, 2006 WY 37, 131 P.3d
359 (Wyo. 2006). They include
Irrigation Dist. v. McGuire,
537 P.2d 1128, 1140 (Wyo. 1975), in which we expressly recognized that owners of
irrigation ditches and reservoirs are charged with a duty of reasonable care in
constructing, maintaining and operating [their] irrigation works and
facilities. The Krennings contend
that holding irrigation districts subject to governmental immunity ignores or
overrules these prior decisions.
review of the cases cited reveals that all are distinguishable from the present
case. Some of these cases involved
private irrigation districts or canal companies, which were plainly not subject
to governmental immunity. See, e.g., Tillery v. West Side Canal, Inc., 719
P.2d 1384 (Wyo. 1986); Pine Creek Canal
No. 1 v. Stadler, 685 P.2d 13 (Wyo. 1984). Nearly all of the cases, including Wheatland Irrigation Dist., 537 P.2d
1128, were decided prior to the enactment of the WGCA. We are not ignoring or overruling these
cases, only interpreting the legislatures intent as expressed in the WGCA. Finally, in Reed, 131 P.3d 359, the Shoshone
Irrigation District was a defendant, and the case was decided after the passage
of the WGCA. However, the issue of
governmental immunity was not raised by the parties or considered by the
Court. That may be because,
although the suit initially sought damages from the irrigation district,
[e]ventually, the Reeds withdrew their claim for damages vis--vis the
District, and asked only that irrigation in that area be enjoined. Id., 7, 131 P.3d at 363. The WGCA grants immunity from liability
for any tort, Wyo. Stat. Ann. 1-39-104(a), but it does not preclude a
claim for injunctive relief against an irrigation
argument raised by the Krennings is more troubling. They point out that the WGCA was enacted
generally to limit the scope of governmental immunity, not to expand it. As we have previously observed, in
adopting the Governmental Claims Act, the legislature recognized and embraced
the curtailment of
governmental immunity initiated by the judiciary. Hamlin v. Transcon Lines, 701 P.2d 1139,
1144 (Wyo. 1985) (emphasis added). The Krennings assert that because
irrigation districts did not enjoy governmental immunity prior to the enactment
of the WGCA, extending governmental immunity to irrigation districts after the
enactment of the WGCA is contrary to the general purpose of that
this argument has merit, we are compelled to reject it. As stated above, under our rules of
statutory construction, we must interpret a statute based on the plain
and ordinary meaning of the words used in the statute. The WGCA expressly grants governmental
immunity to public corporations.
Irrigation districts are public corporations, as shown by the ordinary
definition of a public corporation, other legislative provisions, and previous
holdings by this Court. Thus, the
WGCA unambiguously grants governmental immunity to irrigation
the words used are clear and unambiguous, a court risks an impermissible
substitution of its own views, or those of others, for the intent of the
legislature if any effort is made to interpret or construe statutes on any basis
other than the language invoked by the legislature. . . . If the language selected by the
legislature is sufficiently definitive, that language establishes the rule of
law. . . . This
inhibition upon statutory construction offers assurance that the legislative
efforts and determinations of elected representatives will be made effective
without judicial adjustment or gloss.
ex rel., Dept. of Revenue v. Buggy Bath Unlimited, Inc.,
2001 WY 27, 16, 18 P.3d 1182, 1187 (Wyo. 2001), quoting Allied-Signal, Inc. v. Wyoming State Board
of Equalization, 813 P.2d 214, 219 (Wyo. 1991). In light of our recognition that the
language selected by the legislature is clear and unambiguous, we must conclude
that the WGCA provides governmental immunity to irrigation districts.
Is the Irrigation District a public utility for which governmental
immunity has been waived?
noted above, the WGCA provides broad governmental immunity from tort
liability. However, it also
establishes a number of specified exceptions. The Krennings seek to apply this
exception to the Irrigation District:
governmental entity is liable for damages resulting from bodily injury, wrongful
death or property damage caused by the negligence of public employees while
acting within the scope of their duties in the operation of public utilities and
services including gas, electricity, water, solid or liquid waste collection or
disposal, heating and ground transportation.
Stat. Ann. 1-39-108(a). The
Krennings say that the Irrigation District supplies water as a public utility,
and so governmental immunity has been waived for their negligence claims against
the Irrigation District. We note
that the question of whether an irrigation district is a public utility is also
one of first impression for this Court.
WGCA does not define the term public utility, but the Krennings point to this
definition from the statutes governing public utilities:
(vi) Public utility means and includes
every person that owns, operates, leases, controls or has power to operate,
lease or control: . . .
(E) Any plant, property or
facility for the supply, storage, distribution or furnishing to or for the
public of water for manufacturing, municipal, agriculture or domestic uses,
except and excluding any such plant, property or facility owned by a
Stat. Ann. 37-1-101(a). We
agree that this definition provides a useful indication of what the legislature
meant by the term public utility as used in the WGCA.
Krennings rely on the fact that the Irrigation District supplies, distributes,
or furnishes water for agricultural uses, which they say brings the Irrigation
District within the statutory definition of a public utility. In contrast, the Irrigation District
asserts that it does not supply water to or for the public, but only to its
members. Accordingly, the
Irrigation District says that it does not fit the definition of a public
have previously explained that the statutory phrase to or for the public
refers to sales
to sufficient of the public to clothe the operation with a public
Petroleum Co. v. Public Service Commn of Wyoming,
545 P.2d 1167, 1171 (Wyo. 1976), citing Iowa State Commerce Commn v. Northern
Natural Gas Co., 161 N.W.2d 111, 115 (Iowa 1968), and Griffith v. New Mexico Public Service
Commn, 86 N.M. 113, 116, 520 P.2d 269, 272 (1974). Applying that definition, we determined
that a company supplying natural gas to a single purchaser did not supply gas
to or for the public, and was not a public utility. Phillips Petroleum, 545 P.2d at
1172. Similarly, in Bridle Bit Ranch Co. v. Basin Elec. Power
Coop., 2005 WY 108, 31, 118 P.3d 996, 1011 (Wyo. 2005), we considered
the status of an electric company supplying wholesale electricity only to
distribution cooperatives that, in turn, distributed the electricity in the
retail market. We concluded that
supplying electricity to a limited number of distribution cooperatives was not
supplying it to or for the public, and that the electric company was not a
have also explained that the test for a public utility is not the absolute
number of persons it serves, but whether it is devoted to public use. Rural
Elec. Co. v. State Bd. of Equalization,
57 Wyo. 451, 471-72, 120 P.2d 741, 747 (1942). In that case, we held that a rural
electric company was a public utility, despite the fact that it provided
electricity only to its members.
Indications that it was devoted to public use included the facts that it
had solicited practically everyone in that territory to become members, and it
accepted substantially all requests for service of its commodity. Id. at 482, 120 P.2d at 751. This ruling supports the concept that a
public utility is open
to the use and service of all members of the public who may require it. 73B C.J.S. Public Utilities 2 (2008).
Wyoming statute, an irrigation district may include only those lands that
benefit from the irrigation works.
Wyo. Stat. Ann. 41-7-203.
It makes assessments only against the owners of those lands. See Gies v. Boehm, 78 Wyo. 449, 463-64, 329
P.2d 807, 813 (1958); Biddick, 299
P.2d at 1064-65. In this case, the
Krennings do not dispute the Irrigation Districts position that it serves only
a limited class of individuals, those who are actually members [of] the
irrigation district. While there
may be a substantial number of members,3 still membership in the Irrigation
District is a small subset of the public at large. As the district court stated in its
decision letter, there is no reason to believe that any type of products or
services are being sold by the District to the general public. These facts support the conclusion that
the Irrigation District is not a public utility, just as an electric company
supplying electricity to a limited number of distributors was not a public
utility. See Bridle Bit, 31, 118 P.3d at 1011.
Krennings do not contend that the Irrigation District solicits practically
everyone to become members, or that it accepts substantially all requests for
its commodity. This is in direct
contrast with Rural
120 P.2d at 751, where such facts indicated that the electric cooperative was a
public utility. The Krennings do
not contend that this
Irrigation District, or any other in the state, has ever been regulated as a
public utility by the Wyoming Public Service Commission. Based on these facts, we must agree with
the district courts conclusion that the Irrigation District does not supply
water to or for the public, and affirm its ruling that the Irrigation District
is not a public utility.
the district court properly grant summary judgment to Mr. Flowers as
an employee of the Irrigation District?
WGCA extends governmental immunity to the governmental entity and its public
employees while acting within the scope of duties. Wyo. Stat. Ann. 1-39-104(a). On that basis, the
district court granted summary judgment to Mr. Flowers, ruling that he, as an
employee of the Irrigation District, was also subject to governmental
immunity. However, the
Krennings point out that their complaint alleged Mr. Flowers committed an
intentional assault and battery against Mr. Krenning. On appeal, they maintain that the
actions of Mr. Flowers were outside the scope of his duties as an employee of
the Irrigation District and that Mr. Flowers is not entitled to
governmental immunity as an employee of the Irrigation District.
Krennings correctly contend that Mr. Flowers is not entitled to
governmental immunity for actions outside the scope of his employment with the
Irrigation District. Wyo. Stat.
Ann. 1-39-108(a) grants immunity only for public
employees while acting within the scope of their duties. The
problem for the Krennings, however, is that none of their pleadings ever alleged
that Mr. Flowers had acted outside the scope of his employment. To the contrary, the complaint filed by
the Krennings, under the heading Facts Common to All Counts, included these
On October 4, 2004, Defendant James Flowers, (hereinafter FLOWERS), was
employed by Defendant HEART MOUNTAIN and acting within the scope of his employment
for Defendant HEART MOUNTAIN.
Defendant FLOWERS was driving a vehicle provided to him by Defendant
HEART MOUNTAIN and was accompanied by another employee of Defendant HEART
MOUNTAIN, Glen House, a ditch rider.
On October 4, 2004, Defendant FLOWERS, while acting within the scope of his
employment, met with Plaintiff STEVEN M. KRENNING along a [sic]
irrigation ditch road owned or maintained by Defendant HEART
added.) These express allegations
that Mr. Flowers was acting within the scope of his employment were
incorporated, by reference, into each and every one of the Krennings causes of
action. Of particular note, their
third cause of action, alleging the intentional tort of assault and battery,
explicitly incorporated the allegations that Mr. Flowers was acting within
the scope of his employment:
adopt and incorporate by reference all allegations contained in paragraphs 1
through 19, previously recited, the same as if they were set forth herein in
present on the irrigation ditch right-of-way, a place where Plaintiff STEVEN M.
KRENNING has a legal right to be, Defendant FLOWERS assaulted, battered and
inflicted injury upon Plaintiff STEVEN M. KRENNING.
have reviewed the district court pleadings carefully, and did not find any
allegation that Mr. Flowers had acted outside the scope of his
have previously determined that notice pleading is recognized by our rules of
civil procedure. BB v. RSR,
2007 WY 4, 12,
149 P.3d 727, 732 (Wyo. 2007).
Litigants need not present their claims in any technical language or
form, and pleadings must be liberally construed to ensure substantial
justice. Harris v. Grizzle,
599 P.2d 580, 583 (Wyo. 1979); see also W.R.C.P. 8(e)(1), 8(f). However, notice pleading imposes the
fundamental . . . obligation of every pleader to apprise his adversary of the
nature of the claim against him.
Glover v. Giraldo, 824 P.2d 552, 556 (Wyo. 1992). A complaint is sufficient if it provides
the opposing party fair notice of the claims against him. Lynch v. Patterson, 701 P.2d
1126, 1134 (Wyo. 1985). See also
Jackson State Bank v. Homar, 837 P.2d 1081, 1085-86 (Wyo. 1992).
have applied this standard to the Krennings pleadings in this case. It may be, as the Krennings assert, that
assault and battery seem unlikely to
fall within the scope of Mr. Flowers duties as an employee of the
Irrigation District. On that basis,
the Krennings claim that their cause of action for assault and battery
necessarily implied the allegation that Mr. Flowers had acted beyond the
scope of his employment. However,
such an implication cannot overcome the Krennings express allegations that he
was acting within the scope of his employment. In the face of those express
allegations, a mere implication could not fairly apprise
Mr. Flowers that claims were being brought against him for actions outside
the scope of his employment.
while the Krennings could have brought claims against Mr. Flowers alleging he
had acted outside the scope of his employment, we agree with the district court
that they did not. All of the
allegations in the complaint were expressly made against Mr. Flowers as an
employee of the Irrigation District.
In that capacity, he is subject to governmental immunity, and summary
judgment was properly granted in his favor.
Does governmental immunity violate the equal protection guarantees of the
the Krennings assert that granting governmental immunity to an irrigation
district and its employees is contrary to Wyomings constitutional guarantees of
equal protection under the law.4 The party challenging the
constitutionality of a statute bears the burden of proving the statute is
unconstitutional. Pfeil v. Amax Coal West, Inc., 908 P.2d
956, 961 (Wyo. 1995). That burden
is a heavy one in that the appellant must clearly and exactly show the
unconstitutionality beyond any reasonable doubt. Cathcart v. Meyer, 2004 WY 49, 7,
88 P.3d 1050, 1056 (Wyo. 2004), quoting Reiter v. State, 2001 WY 116, 7,
36 P.3d 586, 589 (Wyo. 2001). In
our analysis, we presume the statute to be constitutional. . . . Any doubt in
the matter must be resolved in favor of the statutes constitutionality. Thomson v. Wyoming In-Stream Flow
Committee, 651 P.2d 778, 789-90 (Wyo. 1982) (internal citations
omitted). We apply a three-element
test requiring: (1) identification
of the legislative classification at issue; (2) identification of the
legislative objectives; and (3) determination of whether the legislative
classification is rationally related to the achievement of an appropriate
legislative purpose. Greenwalt v. Ram Rest. Corp., 2003 WY
77, 40, 71 P.3d 717, 732 (Wyo. 2003).
Krennings have failed to carry this heavy burden. Their identification of the legislative
classification is less than lucid.
They state only that the legislative
classification which is at issue in this case is immunity granted to
non-taxpayer special districts or public corporations. This establishes only one group, with no
indication of what the opposing classification might be, or of how the two
groups are subject to different treatment or unequal protection.
have also failed to show that granting governmental immunity to the Irrigation
District is not rationally related to an appropriate legislative purpose. They assert that
the legislative purpose of governmental immunity is to protect taxpayers, and
because the Irrigation District is not supported by taxes, there is no rational
legislative purpose served by granting the Irrigation District governmental
immunity. The Krennings have read
the legislative purpose too narrowly.
legislative objective in enacting this statute was expressly set forth by the
legislature as follows:
Wyoming legislature recognizes the inherently unfair and inequitable results
which occur in the strict application of the doctrine of governmental immunity
and is cognizant of the Wyoming Supreme Court decision of Oroz v. Board of County Commissioners,
575 P.2d 1155 (1978). It is further
recognized that the state and its political subdivisions as trustees of public
revenues are constituted to serve the inhabitants of the state of Wyoming and
furnish certain services not available through private parties and, in the case
of the state, state revenues may only be expended upon legislative
appropriation. This act is adopted
by the legislature to balance the respective equities between persons injured by
governmental actions and the taxpayers of the state of Wyoming whose revenues
are utilized by governmental entities on behalf of those
Stat. Ann. 1-39-102(a).
While this statement of legislative purpose does speak about protecting
taxpayers, as we concluded above, the assessments by irrigation districts are
funds of a public nature and those paying such assessments are similar to
taxpayers. The statute also
recognizes that some services are available only through the public sector, and
indicates that the provision of such services should be fostered. Moreover, in determining legislative
purpose, we may properly consider not only the language of the statute but also
general public knowledge about . . . prior law. Greenwalt, 39, 71 P.3d at
730-31. As an expression of that
prior law, we turn again to this statement made many years
irrigation district, reclaiming, as it does, desert lands in the state, and
accordingly conferring a benefit not alone upon the private individuals within
the district, but also upon the people of the state as a whole, is a public,
rather than a private corporation.
246 P. at 921. In light of the
public benefits conferred by irrigation districts, it is apparent that there is
a rational relationship to an appropriate legislative purpose served by
extending governmental immunity to irrigation districts. The Krennings have not carried their
burden of demonstrating that the WGCAs grant of immunity to irrigation
districts is unconstitutional clearly and exactly or beyond any reasonable
doubt. Cathcart, 7, 88 P.3d
at 1056. We affirm
the district courts grant of summary judgment in favor of the Heart Mountain
Irrigation District and Mr. Flowers.
Citationizer Summary of Documents Citing This Document
Citationizer: Table of Authority
|Wyoming Supreme Court Cases|
| ||2009 WY 99, 214 P.3d 222, ||CHRISTOPHER DUANE GREENE V. THE STATE OF WYOMING||Discussed|
| ||2009 WY 143, 221 P.3d 306, ||HORSE CREEK CONSERVATION DISTRICT, a Wyoming Irrigation District; and PHASE 23, LLC, a Wyoming Limited Liability Company V. STATE OF WYOMING, ex rel., the WYOMING ATTORNEY GENERAL||Discussed|
| ||2010 WY 12, 224 P.3d 21, ||LATASHA M. BOYER-GLADDEN V. DEPUTY SHERIFF BILL HILL, and DANNY GLICK, Sheriff of Laramie County Wyoming in his Official Capacity||Discussed at Length|
| ||2010 WY 34, 228 P.3d 40, ||EXCEL CONSTRUCTION, INC., a Wyoming corporation V. HKM ENGINEERING, INC., a Montana corporation||Discussed|
| ||2010 WY 52, 229 P.3d 962, ||LOUIS D. COSCO V. ROBERT O. LAMPERT, Director, Wyoming Department of Corrections; EDDIE WILSON, Warden, Wyoming State Penitentiary; WYOMING DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, Agency of Wyoming; and STATE OF WYOMING||Discussed|
| ||2010 WY 147, 242 P.3d 1015, ||IN RE PIYUSH PATEL: TRACY ZUBROD v. CWCCAPITAL ASSET MANAGEMENT, LLC||Discussed|
| ||2011 WY 120, 259 P.3d 1170, ||IN THE MATTER OF THE WORKER'S COMPENSATION CLAIM OF : JAMES W. BARLOW, AND EMPLOYEE OF GREY WOLF DRILLING, INC.: JAMES W, BARLOW v. STATE OF WYOMING, ex rel., WYOMING WORKERS' SAFETY AND COMPENSATION DIVISION||Discussed|
| ||2011 WY 125, 258 P.3d 720, ||PAUL BAESSLER, as personal respresentative for the ESTATE OF CAROL ANN MUNKBERG, Deceased; and KAREN R. SCHMID, as personal representative for the ESTATE OF JOHN ALLAN MUNKBERG, Deceased v. DOUG FREIER and DENNY FREIER, husband and wife< individually and d/b/a STOCKMAN'S BAR and the SMOKEHOUSE SALOON, Wyoming Partners in Fact||Discussed at Length|
|The Supreme Court of the State of New Mexico|
| ||1974 NMSC 26, 520 P.2d 269, 86 N.M. 113, ||Griffith v. New Mexico Public Service Commission||Cited|
|Wyoming Supreme Court Cases|
| ||1899 WY 21, 59 P. 159, 8 Wyo. 537, ||Big Goose and Beaver Ditch Company v. Morrow||Cited|
| ||1926 WY 37, 246 P. 918, 35 Wyo. 73, ||Sullivan v. Blakesley||Cited|
| ||1942 WY 4, 120 P.2d 741, 57 Wyo. 451, ||Rural Electric Co. v. State Board of Equalization||Cited|
| ||1956 WY 27, 299 P.2d 1059, 76 Wyo. 67, ||Biddick v. Laramie Valley Municipal Irr. Dist.||Cited|
| ||1975 WY 31, 537 P.2d 1128, ||Wheatland Irr. Dist. v. McGuire||Discussed|
| ||1976 WY 14, 545 P.2d 1167, ||Phillips Petroleum Co. v. Public Service Commission||Cited|
| ||1978 WY 18, 575 P.2d 1155, ||Oroz v. Board of County Com'rs of Carbon County||Cited|
| ||1979 WY 106, 599 P.2d 580, ||Harris v. Grizzle||Cited|
| ||1982 WY 104, 651 P.2d 778, ||Thomson v. Wyoming In-Stream Flow Committee||Cited|
| ||1984 WY 66, 685 P.2d 13, ||Pine Creek Canal No. 1 v. Stadler||Cited|
| ||1985 WY 73, 701 P.2d 1126, ||BIRL LYNCH AND R.C. LYNCH, EUNICE LYNCH, LYNCH CONSULTANTS, INC., A Wyoming Corporation, AND LYNCH MANAGEMENT SERVICES v. PAT PATTERSON, in his individual capacity as Stockholder of LYNCH CONSULTING, INC., A Wyoming Corporation; PAT PATTERSON, in his individual capacity as Stockholder of LYNCH CONSULTING, INC., A Wyoming Corporation v. EUNICE LYNCH, BIRL LYNCH, R.C. LYNCH, LYNCH CONSULTANTS, INC., A Wyoming Corporation, and LYNCH MANAGEMENT SERVICES||Cited|
| ||1985 WY 74, 701 P.2d 1139, ||MARILYN A. HAMLIN, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS ADMINISTRATRIX OF THE ESTATE OF CALVIN HAROLD HAMLIN, DECEASED v. TRANSCON LINES; RUSSEL N. HOLMES; RAYMOND E. BEFUS, in his capacity as Administrator of the Estate of GERALD A. BEFUS, deceased; and THE STATE OF WYOMING; RAYMOND E. BEFUS, in his capacity as Administrator of the Estate of GERALD A. BEFUS, DECEASED v. TRANSCON LINES; RUSSEL N. HOLMES; THE STATE OF WYOMING v. MARILYN A. HAMLIN, Individually and as Administratrix of the Estate of CALVIN HAROLD HAMLIN, deceased||Cited|
| ||1991 WY 90, 813 P.2d 214, ||Allied-Signal, Inc. v. Wyoming State Bd. of Equalization||Cited|
| ||1992 WY 7, 824 P.2d 552, ||Glover v. Giraldo||Cited|
| ||1992 WY 107, 837 P.2d 1081, ||Jackson State Bank v. Homar||Cited|
| ||1995 WY 208, 908 P.2d 956, ||Pfeil v. Amax Coal West, Inc.||Cited|
| ||2001 WY 27, 18 P.3d 1182, ||STATE BY AND THROUGH WYO. DEPT. OF REVENUE v. BUGGY BATH UNLIMITED, INC.||Discussed|
| ||2001 WY 116, 36 P.3d 586, ||REITER v. STATE||Discussed|
| ||2002 WY 21, 39 P.3d 1051, ||METZ BEVERAGE COMPANY v. WYOMING BEVERAGES, INC.||Discussed|
| ||2003 WY 17, 62 P.3d 595, ||McCLEAN v. STATE||Discussed|
| ||2003 WY 77, 71 P.3d 717, ||GREENWALT v. RAM RESTAURANT CORPORATION OF WYOMING||Discussed at Length|
| ||2004 WY 49, 88 P.3d 1050, ||CATHCART v. MEYER||Discussed|
| ||2004 WY 121, 99 P.3d 959, ||ULTRA RESOURCES, INC. v. McMURRY ENERGY COMPANY||Discussed|
| ||2005 WY 108, 118 P.3d 996, ||BRIDLE BIT RANCH COMPANY, a Wyoming Corporation; JERRY AND BARBARA DILTS FAMILY LIMITED PARTNERSHIP, a Wyoming Limited Partnership; FLOYD C. RENO & SONS, Wyoming corporation; LELAND J. TURNER; KAREN TURNER; JENNIFER LOUISE TURNER;WENDY CHRISTINE TURNER; KAREN TURNER, Conservator of the ESTATE OF MICHAEL WILLIAM TURNER, (a minor); PATRICIA L. ISENBERGER LITTON, formerly Patricia Louise Isenberger, and GENE LITTON, Wife and Husband V. BASIN ELECTRIC POWER COOPERATIVE, a North Dakota Corporation; ROBERT R. ROUSH and DONA M. ROUSH, Husband and Wife; and INNES RANCH, LLC, a Wyoming Limited Liability Company, V. BASIN ELECTRIC POWER COOPERATIVE, a North Dakota Corporation||Discussed|
| ||2006 WY 37, 131 P.3d 359, ||R. MICHAEL REED and ICIA REED V. LESLIE E. CLONINGER, JR., Co-Trustee and STANLEY SHEPPARD, Co-Trustee of the Carl M. Burgener Family Living Trust Fund; COX AND FISHER, INC., a Wyoming corporation; KENNETH JONES; MELVIN C. PARKER; JANET L. PARKER; and SHOSHONE IRRIGATION DISTRICT||Discussed at Length|
| ||2007 WY 4, 149 P.3d 727, ||BB V. RSR||Discussed|
| ||2007 WY 77, 157 P.3d 933, ||CONNIE PLYMALE f/k/a CONNIE DONNELLY V. GAVIN DONNELLY||Discussed|
| ||2007 WY 97, 161 P.3d 495, ||QWEST CORPORATION V. THE PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION OF WYOMING, STEVE FURTNEY, CHAIRMAN, and SILVER STAR COMMUNICATIONS, INC.||Discussed|
| ||2008 WY 1, 174 P.3d 166, ||RK V. THE STATE OF WYOMING, ex rel., NATRONA COUNTY CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT DEPARTMENT||Discussed|
| ||2008 WY 16, 176 P.3d 640, ||STEVE B. GLENN V. UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD COMPANY,||Discussed|
| ||2008 WY 101, 191 P.3d 125, ||JACOBS RANCH COAL COMPANY, a Delaware corporation V. THUNDER BASIN COAL COMPANY, LLC, a Delaware Limited Liability Company, and CONSOLENERGY, INC., f/k/a CONSOLIDATION COAL COMPANY, a Delaware corporation||Discussed|