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Phillips v. Boyd

United States District Court, D. Wyoming

October 29, 2012

Catherine PHILLIPS, Plaintiff,
v.
Kevey BOYD and Tait Rasmussen, Defendants.

Christopher M. Wages, Goddard Wages & Vogel, Buffalo, WY, John H. Robinson, Jamieson & Robinson, Casper, WY, for Plaintiff.

Thomas William Rumpke, Wyoming Attorney General's Office, Cheyenne, WY, for Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR PARTIAL JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS

ALAN B. JOHNSON, District Judge.

Plaintiff Catherine Phillips was injured when two detention officers— Defendants Kevey Boyd and Tait Rasmussen— allegedly slammed Ms. Phillips to the floor while she was detained at the Sheridan County Detention Center. Ms. Phillips brought suit against Defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of her Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Ms. Phillips also asserted state law negligence claims against Defendants. Defendants have filed a motion for partial judgment on the pleadings, arguing that the Wyoming Governmental Claims Act bars Ms. Phillips's negligence claims and asking this Court to dismiss those claims. The Court grants Defendants' motion.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

The standard of review for judgment on the pleadings governs this motion. [1] The

Page 1204

same standard of review applies to Rule 12(c) motions for judgment on the pleadings and Rule 12(b)(6) motions. See Park Univ. Enters., Inc. v. Am. Cas. Co. of Reading, PA, 442 F.3d 1239, 1244 (10th Cir.2006). The Court accepts all facts pleaded by the non-moving party as true and grants all reasonable inferences from the pleadings in favor of the non-moving party. Id. Judgment on the pleadings should not be granted unless the moving party has clearly established that no material issue of fact remains to be resolved at trial and the party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id.

FACTS

On June 20, 2010, Plaintiff Catherine Phillips was injured when two detention officers— Defendants Kevey Boyd and Tait Rasmussen— allegedly slammed Ms. Phillips to the floor while she was detained at the Sheridan County Detention Center. Compl. 45, ECF No. 1. Ms. Phillips brought suit against Defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of her Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. More importantly for this motion, Ms. Phillips also asserted state law negligence claims against Defendants. Id. 7-8.

Under the Wyoming Governmental Claims Act (WGCA), Wyo. Stat. Ann. §§ 1-39-101 through -121 (2011), " [a] governmental entity and its public employees while acting within the scope of duties are granted immunity from liability for any tort," id. § 1-39-104(a). This general immunity from tort liability is subject to certain statutory exceptions, id., one of which reads, " [a] governmental entity is liable for damages resulting from tortious conduct of peace officers while acting within the scope of their duties," id. § 1-39-112. Ms. Phillips contends that this immunity exception applies here because Defendants negligently injured her while acting as peace officers employed by the governmental entity of Sheridan County. See Compl. 4, 8-9, ECF No. 1.

Before a person can bring suit under the WGCA, however, the person must present a notice of claim to the appropriate governmental entity " as an itemized statement in writing within two (2) years of the date of the alleged act." Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 1-39-113(a) (2011). On June 20, 2010, the date of Ms. Phillips's injury, the WGCA required a person asserting a claim against a county to present the notice of claim to the county's " business office," but the WGCA did not define " business office." See 2010 Wyo. Sess. Laws 47. On July 1, 2010, a few days after Ms. Phillips's injury, the Wyoming State Legislature amended the WGCA by defining a county's " business office" as the county clerk's office. See id.

On November 4, 2011, a year and a half after the WGCA had changed to define a county's business office as the county clerk's office, Ms. Phillips presented her notice of claim to the Sheridan County Sheriff, the Sheridan County Treasurer, the Office of the Sheridan County Commissioners, and the Sheridan County Commissioners individually. Compl. Ex. 2, ECF No. 1. However, she never presented her notice of claim to the Sheridan County Clerk as required by the WGCA. See generally Compl., ECF No. 1.

Defendants have filed a motion of partial judgment on the pleadings, arguing that this Court should dismiss Ms. Phillips's negligence claims because she failed to present a notice of claim to the Sheridan County Clerk within ...


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