from the District Court of Lincoln County The Honorable
Marvin L. Tyler, Judge
Representing Appellants: Gary L. Shockey, Attorney at Law,
Representing Appellee The Town of Alpine: John D. Bowers,
Bowers Law Firm, PC, Afton, Wyoming
Representing Appellee Nelson Engineering: Lance E. Shurtleff,
Esq., Hall & Evans, LLC, Laramie, Wyoming
BURKE, C.J., and HILL, DAVIS, FOX, and KAUTZ, JJ.
Appellants The Tavern, LLC and SALL, LLC sued the town of
Alpine, asserting several claims stemming from Alpine's
financing and construction of a new sewage treatment
facility. Appellants challenged the legality of the
indebtedness Alpine incurred for the project, alleging that
the loans exceeded the constitutional and statutory debt
limitations imposed upon municipalities. They also asserted
that Alpine was inappropriately attempting to coerce them to
connect to the new waste facility and to abandon their
functional septic systems.
A few years later, as the initial case inched on, Appellants
filed another action against Alpine and Nelson Engineering.
Appellants claimed that Alpine and Nelson committed the torts
of abuse of process, civil extortion, and civil conspiracy by
making false reports to the Wyoming Department of
Environmental Quality that Appellants had violated the
agency's rules and regulations when they upgraded their
The actions were consolidated, and the parties filed various
motions on the respective claims. The district court granted
Alpine's motion to dismiss all claims against the town.
It also granted Nelson's motion for summary judgment on
the claims against the engineering firm.
Appellants now present a number of issues on appeal. For the
reasons set forth below, we reverse in part, affirm in part,
Appellants present many issues, some of which overlap, but we
discern the following questions to be distinct and
1. Did the district court err in granting Alpine's motion
to dismiss Appellants' claim for declaratory judgment
when it determined they had no standing to seek a declaration
that Alpine's loans for the new sewage treatment
facility exceeded the town's constitutional and statutory
2. Did the district court err in granting Alpine's motion
to dismiss Appellants' claim for injunctive relief to
stop Alpine from enforcing assessments and exactions for the
new sewerage system on Appellants?
3. Did the district court err in granting Alpine's motion
to dismiss Appellants' claim of inverse condemnation?
4. Did the district court err in granting Alpine's motion
to dismiss Appellants' claims for abuse of process, civil
extortion, and civil conspiracy because those claims are
barred by the Wyoming Governmental Claims Act?
5. Did the district court err in granting Nelson's motion
for summary judgment on Appellants' claim for abuse of
6. Did the district court err in granting Nelson's motion
for summary judgment on Appellant's claim for civil
In 2005, Alpine commissioned Nelson Engineering to conduct a
feasibility study to evaluate options to modify the
town's existing sewer and water treatment plant, or in
the alternative, to construct a new sewer treatment plant.
After studying the situation, Nelson recommended that Alpine
build a new sewer plant. Alpine adopted Nelson's
recommendation and the "Alpine Wastewater Treatment
Facilities Improvement Project" began.
Alpine passed resolutions authorizing application to the
Wyoming State Loan and Investment Board for loans to be used
as partial funding for the construction of the new sewage
facility. The town then entered into loan agreements and
executed promissory notes with the WSLIB. Alpine borrowed
roughly $3, 843, 530 from the State of Wyoming at a 2.5%
interest rate for a twenty-year term.
Appellants own and operate a recreational vehicle campground
and tavern in Alpine. Their operations have not required
hookups to Alpine's sewer system because their property
has several septic tanks. The prospect of being required to
hook up to the new sewage facility and therefore being
obligated to pay associated sewer connection fees and usage
rates led them to sue Alpine.
In their initial action, CV-2009-176, Appellants brought four
claims. They sought a declaratory judgment that Alpine's
indebtedness for the project was illegal because the loans
exceeded the constitutional and statutory debt limitations
imposed upon municipalities. The second claim sought an
injunction to prevent Alpine from compelling them to connect
to the new waste facility and from forcing them to abandon
their functional septic systems. The third claim requested a
writ of mandamus and/or injunctive relief requiring Alpine to
provide reasoning regarding its denial of a de-annexation
petition Appellants had filed. In their fourth claim,
Appellants asserted a taking of their property by inverse
Sometime after the complaint in CV-2009-176 was filed,
Alpine's attorney sent an email to Appellants' attorney
stating that if they continued with the lawsuit, the town
would report them to the DEQ for alleged violations of the
agency's rules and regulations for improvements to
Appellants' septic system. Appellants continued with
their case. A few weeks later, an engineer employed by
Nelson, Leon Kjellgren, sent a letter alleging that their
septic systems violated agency regulations to the DEQ. Mr.
Kjellgren stated in his letter that he was acting on behalf
of and representing Alpine.
Because of Mr. Kjellgren's letter, the DEQ issued an
order requiring Appellants to obtain permits from that
agency. Appellants argued, however, that Alpine had already
inspected, approved, and issued permits for the improvements
to their septic system. Appellants appealed the order to the
Wyoming Environmental Quality Council, and while that appeal
was pending, the parties reached an agreement that resulted
in DEQ issuing a permit for the RV park system.
As a result of the episode with the DEQ, Appellants filed a
second action, CV-2011-132, against Alpine and Nelson. In
that complaint, Appellants asserted three claims: (1) abuse
of process; (2) civil extortion; and (3) civil conspiracy.
The initial case was stalled while Appellants worked
everything out with DEQ, and so when Appellants filed their
second action, the cases were consolidated.
The parties then filed various motions. Alpine moved to
dismiss all the claims against it pursuant to W.R.C.P.
12(b)(6). Nelson moved for summary judgment pursuant
to W.R.C.P. 56 on all claims against them in CV-2011-132, in
which Alpine joined. Appellants moved for partial summary
judgment on the declaratory judgment claim against Alpine,
asking the court to declare that the loans it had obtained
for the project violated its constitutional and statutory
debt limits. The district court provided the parties ample
time to fully brief and supplement their arguments, and held
a hearing on all motions. Following the hearing, the district
court issued three decision letters on the respective
The first was filed March 7, 2016 and titled
"Decision Regarding Defendant Town of Alpine's
Second Motion to Dismiss, " and it was later
incorporated verbatim into the district court's
"Order Granting In Part and Denying In Part The Town
of Alpine's Second Motion to Dismiss." The
court dismissed Appellants' claims in CV-2009-176 for
failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
Specifically, it determined that they lacked standing to
bring a declaratory judgment action challenging the
indebtedness incurred for the sewer treatment project, and
that therefore it did not have jurisdiction to act upon that
claim. It also dismissed the second claim, which asked for
injunctive relief, for failure to state a claim because the
complaint did not demonstrate any irreparable harm. Regarding
the third claim, the district court determined that as a
matter of law the remedy of mandamus was not applicable
because Alpine did not owe a clear duty to Appellants
regarding their petition for de-annexation. The fourth claim,
inverse condemnation, was dismissed because the complaint did
not assert any facts that would entitle Appellants to such
relief, and also because they did not comply with statutory
requirements for inverse condemnation.
In the same decision letter/order, the district court also
dealt with the claims against Alpine in CV-2011-132. It
granted Alpine's motion to dismiss and dismissed the
three claims asserted in that action. Specifically, it
determined that the claims for abuse of process, civil
extortion, and civil conspiracy were barred by the Wyoming
Governmental Claims Act.
The second March 7, 2016 decision letter, which dealt with
Nelson's motion for summary judgment, in which Alpine had
joined, is titled "Decision Regarding
Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Re: Complaint in
Civil No. CV-2001-132-DC), " and it was later
incorporated verbatim into the "Order Granting
Summary Judgment in Favor of Defendants in Civil Action No.
CV-2011-132-DC." The district court concluded that
there were no genuine issues of material fact concerning the
claims of abuse of process, civil extortion, and civil
conspiracy, and that therefore Nelson and Alpine both were
entitled to judgment as a matter of law on that basis.
The third decision letter, also filed March 7, 2016, is
titled "Decision Regarding Plaintiff's Motion
For Partial Summary Judgment (Re: Complaint in Civil No.
CV-2009-176-DC), " and it was later incorporated
verbatim in "Order Denying Plaintiff's Motion
For Partial Summary Judgment." Although the
district court dismissed Appellants' claim for
declaratory judgment for lack of standing, pursuant to
Alpine's motion to dismiss, it also denied
Appellants' motion for partial summary judgment on the
same claim. It determined that Appellants failed to make the
requisite prima facie showing that no genuine issues
of material fact existed as to whether the system in question
was a sewage or a water works system under the constitution
and statutes. The previous ruling on standing would have been
sufficient to dispose of the claims made in this motion - if
Appellants had no standing, questions of fact became
The combination of the orders granting Alpine's and
Nelson's respective motions effectively dismissed all of
Appellants' claims. Appellants timely perfected this
We will first address the district court's dismissal of
Appellants' claims against Alpine for failing to state a
claim upon which relief could be granted. We will then attend
to the claims against Nelson, which the district court
dismissed by summary judgment.
Relating to ...