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Fuentes v. Jednat

April 2, 2010

TRACEY FUENTES, INDIVIDUALLY; AND NF, A MINOR CHILD, BY AND THROUGH HER NEXT BEST FRIEND, PARENT AND GUARDIAN, TRACEY FUENTES, APPELLANTS (PLAINTIFFS),
v.
MARGRED JEDNAT; PAUL JEDNAT; AND JAMES LEWIS, APPELLEES (DEFENDANTS).



Appeal from the District Court of Teton County The Honorable Nancy J. Guthrie, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hill, Justice

Before VOIGT, C.J., and GOLDEN, HILL, KITE, and BURKE, JJ.

[¶1] While they were driving in downtown Jackson, Appellants Tracy Fuentes (Ms. Fuentes) and her daughter were rear-ended by a drunk, eighteen-year-old Jonathan Jednat (Jonathan). Ms. Fuentes recovered compensatory and punitive damages in a separate action against Jonathon, although that jury awarded zero damages in favor of her daughter. Ms. Fuentes then filed this suit against Jonathan's parents, Paul and Margred Jednat (Jednats), and his uncle James Lewis (Lewis) asserting liability as to each of them individually. The district court granted the Jednats' motion for summary judgment and dismissed Lewis from the case after he filed an affidavit of non-involvement. Ms. Fuentes challenges those rulings. We will affirm the district court.

ISSUES

[¶2] Ms. Fuentes lists her issues as follows:

I. The lower court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of the defendants/appellees Margred and Paul Jednat.

II. The lower court erred in granting the affidavit of non-involvement in favor of the defendant/appellee James Lewis.

The Jednats frame the issues this way:

1. Can [Ms. Fuentes and her daughter], who obtained a jury verdict for damages which have been paid, sue another party for the same damages?

2. Can [Ms. Fuentes' and her daughter's] claims for punitive damages proceed without actual or compensatory damages?

Lewis states the issue, as related to him:

Did the District Court err when it dismissed without prejudice Appellee Jim Lewis pursuant to his Affidavit of Non-Involvement once all parties agreed that Lewis did not own or loan the vehicle alleged to be negligently entrusted at the time of the car accident involving [Ms. Fuentes and her daughter]?

FACTS

[¶3] After experiencing some personal and legal trouble in his home state of Pennsylvania, eighteen-year-old Jonathan was sent by his parents to Jackson, Wyoming, to "change his life."*fn1 His uncle, James Lewis, lived in Jackson and offered Jonathan a place to live.

[¶4] After Jonathan arrived in Jackson, Lewis gave the Jednats a 1996 Chevrolet Tahoe. The vehicle was licensed and registered in the state of Pennsylvania under Margred Jednat's name. The Jednats also maintained the insurance on the vehicle, but the vehicle remained in Wyoming for their son to drive.

[¶5] On December 9, 2005, Jonathan was driving the Tahoe, while drunk, and rear-ended Ms. Fuentes and her three-year-old daughter. Ms. Fuentes suffered injuries from the accident, and subsequently sued Jonathan, asking for both punitive and compensatory damages on behalf of herself and her daughter. After a trial, Ms. Fuentes was awarded $163,800.00 in compensatory damages and $50,000.00 in punitive damages, but her daughter was awarded nothing.

[¶6] Ms. Fuentes and her daughter, then sued the Jednats and Lewis. Ms. Fuentes sought relief upon a theory of negligent entrustment but essentially requested the same damages she sought (and received) from Jonathan.

[¶7] Lewis filed an Affidavit of Non-Involvementpursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 1-1-117 (LexisNexis 2009) and was dismissed from the case. The Jednats filed a Motion for Summary Judgment which was granted by the district court.*fn2

[¶8] This appeal followed.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

[¶9] When reviewing an order granting summary judgment,

We evaluate the propriety of a summary judgment by employing the same standards and using the same materials as the district court. Cook v. Shoshone First Bank, 2006 WY 13, ¶ 11, 126 P.3d 886, 889 (Wyo.2006). Thus, our review is plenary. Birt v. Wells Fargo ...


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