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World Family Corporation, A Wyoming Corporation, Dba Morrow v. Windjammer Communications

March 28, 2012

WORLD FAMILY CORPORATION, A WYOMING CORPORATION, DBA MORROW GLOBAL, APPELLANT (PLAINTIFF),
v.
WINDJAMMER COMMUNICATIONS, LLC, A DELAWARE LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY DOMESTICATED IN WYOMING, AND
UINTA COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 1, STATE OF WYOMING, EVANSTON, WYOMING, AND WYOMING DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, STATE OF WYOMING, APPELLEES (DEFENDANTS).



Appeal from the District Court of Laramie County The Honorable Peter G. Arnold, Judge

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kite, Chief 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 typographical or other formal errors so correction may be made before final publication in the permanent volume.

[¶1] World Family Corporation, dba Morrow Global (Morrow), sought judgment against Uinta County School District No. 1 (the District) and Windjammer Communications, LLC (Windjammer) declaring that Morrow is a co-owner with the District of a conduit located under Interstate 80 in Evanston, Wyoming. Morrow also sought an order permanently enjoining the District from interfering with, excluding or converting Morrow's use of the conduit. Finally, by way of a quantum meruit claim, Morrow asserted that Windjammer had been unjustly enriched by using the conduit without paying for it.

[¶2] The District and Windjammer moved to dismiss the complaint. They argued that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the claims against the District, Morrow had failed to join the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) as an indispensable party and World Family Corporation, the party designated as plaintiff in the complaint, did not exist at the time of the events giving rise to the action. Morrow moved to join WYDOT as a defendant and the district court granted the motion. Because both parties submitted matters outside the pleadings in presenting argument on the motion to dismiss, the district court treated the motion as one for summary judgment. After a hearing, the court granted the motion, finding that Morrow had failed to present any facts showing that it was an owner of the conduit and entitled to the relief sought. Morrow appealed. We conclude the district court improperly granted summary judgment when the parties had no opportunity to present evidence and argument on the issue of Morrow's ownership. We reverse the summary judgment order.

ISSUES

[¶3] Morrow presents two issues, which we rephrase as follows:

Whether the district court erred in sua sponte deciding an issue that was not presented, thereby improperly shifting the burden to Morrow.

Whether the district court erred in granting summary judgment for Windjammer, the District and WYDOT on the ownership issue when that issue was not raised in the motion and the parties had no notice the district court intended to address it.

Windjammer, the District and WYDOT contend the district court properly granted summary judgment in their favor.

FACTS

[¶4] In August of 1995, the District and Morrow entered into a contract whereby Morrow was to construct an improved voice and data telecommunications system for the District.

In September the same year, WYDOT issued a license to Morrow and the District to enable Morrow to install copper and fiber optics telecommunications cables and conduits under Interstate 80 in Uinta County, Wyoming.

[ΒΆ5] In August of 2008, Morrow became aware that a fiber optic cable belonging to Time Warner Cable, the local cable television company, had been placed in one of the conduits Morrow and the District were leasing from WYDOT. Morrow contacted Time Warner and learned that the franchise had been sold to Windjammer. Morrow subsequently learned the City ...


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