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Halvorson v. Sweetwater County Sch. Dist. No. 1

Supreme Court of Wyoming

February 4, 2015

NICOLE HALVORSON, Appellant (Plaintiff),
v.
SWEETWATER COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 1, Appellee (Defendant).
v.
NICOLE HALVORSON, Appellee (Plaintiff)

Appeal from the District Court of Sweetwater County. The Honorable Richard L. Lavery, Judge.

Representing Nicole Halvorson: Vance T. Countryman, Vance T. Countryman, P.C., Lander, Wyoming; Robert T. Ingram, Ingram Olheiser, P.C., Casper, Wyoming. Argument by Mr. Ingram.

Representing Sweetwater County School District No. 1: Clark D. Stith, Stith Law Office, Rock Springs, Wyoming.

Before BURKE, C.J., and HILL, KITE, DAVIS, and FOX, JJ.

OPINION

Page 396

BURKE, Chief Justice.

[¶1] Nicole Halvorson filed suit against Sweetwater County School District No. 1 (School District) after she slipped and fell in the locker room of Rock Springs East Junior High School. She claimed the School District had negligently failed to operate and maintain the shower facilities in the locker room in a reasonably safe condition. Following a bench trial, the district court granted judgment in favor of the School District. In Docket No. S-14-0083, Ms. Halvorson challenges

Page 397

the district court's judgment in favor of the School District. In Docket No. S-14-0084, the School District challenges the denial of its motion for summary judgment. We affirm the district court's judgment in favor of the School District in Docket No. S-14-0083 and decline to review the court's ruling on summary judgment in Docket No. S-14-0084.

ISSUES

[¶2] In Docket No. S-14-0083, Ms. Halvorson presents a single issue, which we rephrase as follows:

1. Whether the district court erred in granting judgment in favor of Appellee, Sweetwater County School District No. 1.

In Docket No. S-14-0084, the School District presents the following two issues:

1. Whether the District Court erred by denying Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.
2. Whether the District Court erred by finding that the Wyoming Recreation Safety Act did not apply where injury occurred in a girls' swimming pool locker room after showering.

FACTS

[¶3] In September 2007, Ms. Halvorson was enrolled in the eighth grade at East Junior High School in Rock Springs, Wyoming. As part of her curriculum, Ms. Halvorson was required to take a swimming class at the school. On the fourth day of the school year, after her swimming class was finished, Ms. Halvorson returned to the girls' locker room to shower and get dressed. While crossing the locker room to borrow a friend's comb, Ms. Halvorson slipped and fell in the dressing area of the locker room. Ms. Halvorson was subsequently diagnosed with a disc herniation in her lumbar spine, and she underwent three surgeries as a result of the herniation.

[¶4] On October 15, 2009, Ms. Halvorson filed suit against the School District claiming that it had been negligent " in the operation and maintenance of the Rock Springs East Junior High School building." She alleged that, as a result of improper drainage in the shower drain, " water from the shower built up within the curb around the shower area to the point it spilled over the curb and flowed onto the dressing area" of the locker room. In July 2012, the School District filed a motion for summary judgment claiming that (1) it had no duty to Ms. Halvorson because it did not have notice of an unsafe condition, and that (2) it was entitled to immunity under Wyoming's Recreation Safety Act (WRSA) because Ms. Halvorson had assumed an inherent risk of swimming at the time she was injured. The district court denied the motion.

[¶5] The matter then proceeded to a bench trial. At trial, Ms. Halvorson attempted to demonstrate that water had backed up in the drain in the floor of the locker room near where she fell. Evidence introduced at trial showed that the locker room is " L" shaped, with a communal shower at one end of the room, and a toilet and sink at the other end. The drainage system is composed of three drains and a drainpipe. The drainpipe has its highest point in the communal shower and descends to a second drain in the dressing area where Ms. Halvorson fell and then to a third drain located between the door and the sink. Ms. Halvorson's theory at trial was that, due to a ...


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