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Ciro Paolo Formisano v. Gabe Gaston

January 20, 2011

CIRO PAOLO FORMISANO, APPELLANT (PLAINTIFF),
v.
GABE GASTON, APPELLEE (DEFENDANT).



Appeal from the District Court of Campbell County The Honorable John R. Perry, Judge

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Voigt, Justice.

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

NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in Pacific Reporter Third. Readers are requested to notify the Clerk of the Supreme Court, Supreme Court Building, Cheyenne, Wyoming 82002, of any typographical or other formal errors so that correction may be made before final publication in the permanent volume.

[¶1] This is an appeal from a summary judgment granted to the defendant in a worker's compensation co-employee liability suit. We affirm because there are no genuine issues of material fact and the defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

ISSUE

[¶2] When viewed in the light most favorable to the appellant (Formisano), would the undisputed facts of this case allow a reasonable jury to find that the appellee (Gaston) intentionally acted to cause physical harm or injury to Formisano, as that concept is defined under Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 27-14-104(a) (LexisNexis 2009)?

STANDARD OF REVIEW

[¶3] Motions for summary judgment come before the trial court pursuant to W.R.C.P. 56(c) which provides that [t]he judgment sought shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.

We review the granting of summary judgment under the following standard:

On appeal, this Court evaluates the propriety of a district court's summary judgment ruling by examining the same materials and following the same standards as the district court. We examine the record de novo in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion, giving that party the benefit of all favorable inferences which may be fairly drawn from the record. If upon review of the record, doubt exists about the presence of genuine issues of material fact, we resolve that doubt against the party seeking summary judgment. We review questions of law de novo without giving any deference to the district court's determinations. If we can uphold summary judgment on any proper legal basis appearing in the record, we will.

Heimer v. Antelope Valley Improvement, 2010 WY 29, ¶ 14, 226 P.3d 860, 863 (Wyo. 2010) (quoting Wagner v. Reuter, 2009 WY 75, ¶ 11, 208 P.3d 1317, 1321-22 (Wyo. 2009)) (internal citations omitted).

[¶4] "The party moving for summary judgment has the burden of demonstrating that no genuine issues of material fact exist and that [it] is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law." Stephenson v. Pacific Power & Light Co., 779 P.2d 1169, 1171 (Wyo. 1989). A material fact is a fact that "if proved, would have the effect of establishing or refuting an essential element of the claim or defense asserted by the parties." Id. If the party seeking summary judgment meets his or her "initial burden of establishing a prima facie case for summary judgment[,] 'the party who is opposing the motion for summary judgment must present specific facts to demonstrate that a genuine issue of material fact exists.'" Hatton v. Energy Elec. Co., 2006 WY 151, ¶ 9, 148 P.3d 8, 12 (Wyo. 2006).

"After a movant has adequately supported the motion for summary judgment, the opposing party must come forward with competent evidence admissible at trial showing there are genuine issues of material fact. The opposing party must affirmatively set forth material, specific facts in opposition to a motion for summary judgment, and cannot rely only upon allegations and pleadings . . ., and conclusory statements or mere opinions are insufficient to satisfy the opposing party's burden."

The evidence opposing a prima facie case on a motion for summary judgment "must be competent and admissible, lest the rule permitting summary judgments be entirely eviscerated by plaintiffs proceeding to trial on the basis of mere conjecture or wishful speculation." Speculation, conjecture, the suggestion of a possibility, guesses, or even probability, are insufficient to establish an issue of material fact.

Id. at ¶ 9, at 12-13 (quoting Cook v. Shoshone First Bank, 2006 WY 13, ¶ 12, 126 P.3d 886, 890 (Wyo. 2006)).

[¶5] Statutory interpretation is a question of law that we review de novo, without affording deference to the district court's determination. State ex rel. Wyo. Dep't of Revenue v. Hanover Compression, LP, 2008 WY 138, ¶ 8, 196 P.3d 781, 784 (Wyo. 2008); Union Pac. Res. Co. v. Dolenc, 2004 WY 36, ¶ 13, 86 P.3d 1287, 1291 (Wyo. 2004).

WYO. STAT. ANN. 27-14-104(a) (LEXISNEXIS 2009)

[¶6] The statutory language at issue in this case is found in Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 27-14-104(a), which is part of the ...


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