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Dana v. Anderson

United States District Court, D. Wyoming

February 17, 2016

MICHAEL DANA Plaintiff,
v.
CORY O. ANDERSON, CODY R. ANDERSON, and MERLIN ANDERSON Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION

Alan B. Johnson United States District Judge

Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 3) and Plaintiffs opposition there to (Doc. 8) have come before the Court for consideration. After reviewing the parties' submissions, the applicable law, and being fully advised, the Court finds that the motion should be DENIED for the reasons stated below.

BACKGROUND AND PARTIES' ARUGMENTS

On November 6, 2014, Plaintiff filed a Complaint alleging that Defendants caused Plaintiff serious bodily injury during a physical altercation over a pasture gate. Doc. 1. Plaintiff alleges that during the altercation, Defendants beat him while he was unconscious. Id. Plaintiff seeks punitive damages, medical damages, damages for past and future pain, suffering, humiliation, fear, loss of enjoyment of life and general damages. Doc. 1.

On February 9, 2015, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss in which they argued that Wyoming law applies to Plaintiffs claims, Wyoming has adopted a one-year statute of limitations on all actions for battery, Plaintiffs complaint states that he suffered injuries as the result of an attack on October 2, 2013, and Plaintiffs complaint was filed November 6, 2014 (35 days after the statute of limitations expired). Doc. No. 3. Thus, Defendants conclude that the Court must dismiss Plaintiffs claims for failure to state a claim.

Plaintiff responded to the motion on March 17, 2015. Doc. No. 8. In his response, Plaintiff argues that he was "under a legal disability at the time the cause of action accrued" and thus under Wyoming Statute section 1-3-114, Plaintiff may bring the action within three years after the disability is removed. Plaintiff contends that Defendants beat him so severely he suffered a traumatic brain injury, rib fractures, and respiratory failure. As a result, he was hospitalized between October 2, 2013 and November 5, 2013 and was incapacitated the entire time. He contends that he was in ICU for 26 days, 15 of which he was in a coma. Plaintiff argues that he was under a legal disability while in the coma and the disability continued for 45 days after Plaintiff was released from the hospital.

Plaintiff relies on the affidavit of his Mother, Allene Dana, to support his argument that he was legally disabled and unable to "discover" his injuries for 45 days after his release from the hospital. Ms. Dana states that Plaintiff could not reason well or remember things, was very confused, could not understand what happened to him, and thought he had been in a helicopter accident for 45 days after the accident. Plaintiff contends that whether a Plaintiff suffered from a legal disability is a question of fact to be submitted to the jury to determine the length and scope of the disability. The Court finds it telling that Defendants did not file a reply brief to address Plaintiffs arguments.

On February 1, 2016, the Court found that Plaintiffs reliance on his mother's affidavit required the Court to convert the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss into a Motion for Summary Judgment. Accordingly, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d), the Court provided the parties notice of the conversion and requested the parties to submit any additional documents or exhibits they wished the Court to consider on the issue of whether Plaintiffs claim was timely filed. Neither party submitted any additional documents or exhibits by the deadline. Thus, the Court will perform its analysis based on what was submitted to the Court in the original briefing.

The Court finds that these matters are fully briefed and are ripe for disposition. The Court will first discuss the standard of review and the law regarding statutes of limitation, discovery of injury, and legal disability. Next, the Court will apply the law to the instant case.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is appropriate where "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A dispute of fact is genuine if a reasonable juror could resolve the disputed fact in favor of either side. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute of fact is material if under the substantive law it is essential to the proper disposition of the claim. Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 144 F.3d 664, 670 (10th Cir. 1998). When the Court considers the evidence presented by the parties, "[t]he evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in the non-movant's favor." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.

The party moving for summary judgment has the burden of establishing the nonexistence of a genuine dispute of material fact. Lynch v. Barrett, 703 F.3d 1153, 1158 (10th Cir. 2013). The moving party can satisfy this burden by either (1) offering affirmative evidence that negates an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim, or (2) demonstrating that the nonmoving party's evidence is insufficient to establish an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(A)-(B).

Once the moving party satisfies this initial burden, the nonmoving party must support its contention that a genuine dispute of material fact exists either by (1) citing to particular materials in the record, or (2) showing that the materials cited by the moving party do not establish the absence of a genuine dispute. See Id. The nonmoving party must "do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus, v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Rather, to survive a summary judgment motion, the nonmoving party must "make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of [every] element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Further, when opposing summary judgment, the nonmoving party cannot rest on allegations or denials in the pleadings but must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine dispute of material fact for trial. See Travis v. Park City Mun. Corp., 565 F.3d 1252, 1258 (10th Cir. 2009).

When considering a motion for summary judgment, the court's role is not to weigh the evidence and decide the truth of the matter, but rather to determine whether a genuine dispute of material fact exists for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. Credibility ...


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