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RB v. Big Horn County School District No. 3

Supreme Court of Wyoming

February 7, 2017

RB, JR., an infant, by and through his next friends, ROBBY & CORRINA BROWN, Appellants (Plaintiffs),
v.
BIG HORN COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 3, Appellee (Defendant).

         Appeal from the District Court of Big Horn County The Honorable Steven R. Cranfill, Judge

          Representing Appellants: Philip E. Abromats and Letitia C. Abromats of Philip E. Abromats, P.C., Greybull, Wyoming. Argument by Ms. Abromats.

          Representing Appellee: Nicholas T. Haderlie and Christopher C. Voigt of Crowley Fleck PLLP, Sheridan, Wyoming. Argument by Mr. Haderlie.

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

          FOX, Justice.

         [¶1] RB and his friends were enjoying some of the exhilarating qualities of ice on the sidewalk at Greybull Middle School when RB fell and suffered a broken tooth, fractured nose, and some facial lacerations. He sued Big Horn County School District No. 3 (School District), alleging that it was negligent in failing to remove the ice that had accumulated on the sidewalk. The district court granted the School District's motion for summary judgment, and RB appeals. We affirm.

         ISSUES

         [¶2] 1. Is the failure to file a W.R.C.P. 56.1 statement of undisputed material facts fatal to RB's appeal?

         2. Is the question of whether there was a natural accumulation of snow and ice a fact issue that should have been submitted to a jury?

         3. Does the Greybull snow removal ordinance establish a heightened duty of care?

         4. Is RB's comparative negligence a fact issue that must go to a jury?

         FACTS [1]

         [¶3] On February 20, 2014, RB and his classmates left the Greybull Middle School gymnasium after their P.E. class and were returning to the classroom building next door. While they were between buildings, RB and some friends spotted a patch of ice on the sidewalk and began running and sliding on it. According to one student, the group was having a contest to see who could slide the farthest, and another student testified that they were sliding to see who could "do the coolest trick." RB took his second turn to slide, lost his balance, and fell on the ice, breaking a tooth, fracturing his nose, and lacerating his face.

         [¶4] The ice patch was described as large and of varying thickness. It was obvious and not hidden from view in any way. RB and other witnesses testified that it did not appear as if anyone had done anything to make the accumulation of ice worse than it would have been naturally. One witness, however, testified that the students, including RB, had taken snow from the grass and sprinkled it onto the ice in order to make it more slippery. Ice melt had been applied to the patch by School District maintenance personnel.

          [¶5] The Town of Greybull had 0.01 inches of snow on February 20, 2014, the day of the accident. There was no snow the previous day. The greatest amount of precipitation received in Greybull in February was 0.08 inches on February 9. The maintenance director for the School District and other witnesses testified that the district's practice is to remove snow and apply ice melt daily when snow or ice is present. There is no evidence in the record that it failed to do so on the day of the accident.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         [¶6] We apply the following standard of review to a district court's grant of summary judgment in a negligence case:

We review a summary judgment in the same light as the district court, using the same materials and following the same standards. Gayhart v. Goody, 2004 WY 112, ¶ 11, 98 P.3d 164, 168 (Wyo. 2004). Summary judgment is proper only when there are no genuine issues of material fact, and the prevailing party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id. . . . .
. . . .
Summary judgments are not favored in negligence actions and are subject to exacting scrutiny. Erpelding v. Lisek, 2003 WY 80, ¶ 10, 71 P.3d 754, 757 (Wyo. 2003). However, even in negligence actions, "where the record fails to establish an issue of material fact, [and when the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law], the entry of summary judgment is proper." Allmaras v. Mudge, 820 P.2d 533, 536 (Wyo. 1991) (alteration in original) (citing MacKrell v. Bell H2S Safety, 795 P.2d 776, 779 (Wyo. 1990)).

Amos v. Lincoln Cty. Sch. Dist. No. 2, 2015 WY 115, ¶ 15, 359 P.3d 954, 958-59 (Wyo. 2015) (some citations omitted).

         DISCUSSION

         I.Is the failure to file a W.R.C.P. 56.1 statement of undisputed ...


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