from the District Court of Uinta County The Honorable Joseph
B. Bluemel, Judge
Representing Appellants: Richard H. Honaker, Honaker Law
Offices, LC, Rock Springs, Wyoming; Robert L. Stepans and
Ryan R. Shaffer, Meyer, Shaffer & Stepans, PLLP,
Missoula, Montana. Argument by Mr. Shaffer.
Representing Appellee: Bruce C. Burt, Law Office of Bruce C.
Burt, Midvale, Utah.
BURKE, C.J., and HILL, DAVIS, FOX, and KAUTZ, JJ.
Cindy Williams was injured when she slipped and fell outside
a store operated by Plains Tire & Battery, Co. Inc.
(Plains) in Evanston, Wyoming. She filed a complaint alleging
that Plains was negligent in failing to maintain the area in
a reasonably safe condition. Her husband, William Williams,
filed a loss of consortium claim. Plains filed a motion for
summary judgment, which the district court granted, finding
that the Williams failed to present a genuine issue of
material fact as to whether Plains breached a duty to
maintain its property in a reasonably safe condition. We
reverse and remand.
The primary issue for our determination is whether the
district court erred in granting summary judgment for Plains.
On September 27, 2010, Mrs. Williams and her brother, Wayne
Campbell, took the Williams' trailer to a store operated
by Plains in Evanston, Wyoming for a repair. They entered the
building through a side door that led into the repair shop
and found their way to the front office. After arranging for
the repair, they left the same way they had come.
They returned to the store that afternoon to pick up the
trailer. They again entered the building through the side
door and made their way to the front office. Mrs. Williams
paid for the repairs, and they left the store, this time
using the main customer door. They turned left and headed
across the front of the building to the location where the
trailer was parked on the side of the building.
Photographs of the area show what appears to be an asphalt
parking area in the front and on the side of the building and
a narrow gravel strip running along the side of the building
between the asphalt and the building. Mrs. Williams claims
that as she stepped off the asphalt onto the gravel, she
slipped and fell. Mr. Campbell caught her, but it was
apparent that she had broken a bone in her leg. Doctors
subsequently found that Mrs. Williams had suffered a compound
fracture of her left ankle.
On June 27, 2013, Mrs. Williams filed a complaint against
Plains, alleging that it breached its duty of ordinary care
to maintain its premises in a reasonably safe condition for
members of the public. More specifically, she asserted that
Plains allowed an unnatural accumulation of gravel to develop
that created a slippery condition that in turn caused her
fall. She sought damages, including past and future medical
expenses and loss of earning capacity.
Plains answered the complaint, denying that it was negligent.
Subsequently, Mrs. Williams filed an amended complaint that
named her husband as a co-plaintiff and alleged a loss of
consortium claim on his behalf. Plains filed an answer
denying the claims in the amended complaint.
On October 3, 2016, Plains filed a motion for summary
judgment. Citing extensively from Mrs. Williams' and Mr.
Campbell's deposition testimony, Plains asserted there
was no evidence showing why Mrs. Williams fell or that the
rocks or gravel was an "unnatural accumulation
" Plains pointed to Mrs. Williams'
deposition testimony to the effect that she could not
remember where, how or why she fell. Absent evidence showing
how the fall occurred, Plains contended, the Williams could
not establish that a duty was owed, and therefore Plains was
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
The Williams responded, arguing that the gravel area where
Mrs. Williams fell was an artificial, man-made condition, and
that Plains had a duty to its customers to exercise ordinary
care to maintain the area in a reasonably safe condition to
protect them from foreseeable harm. They asserted that Plains
breached its duty by failing to maintain the area in a
reasonably safe condition.
In support of their argument, the Williams attached excerpts
of deposition testimony, interrogatory responses,
photographs, the affidavit and report of an expert witness,
and an interview and accident report of Plains' store
manager. In accordance with W.R.C.P. 56.1, the Williams filed
a statement of material facts precluding summary judgment,
which is a useful summary of their contentions. Among the facts
alleged to be disputed in the statement were the following:
• When Mrs. Williams and Mr. Campbell arrived at
Plains' store to pick up the trailer, it was parked on
the west side of the property;
• Mr. Campbell parked his truck near the trailer on the
west side of the property;
• When Mrs. Williams and Mr. Campbell left the building
after paying for the repairs, they walked along the edge of
the building toward the trailer and the unpaved, gravel
• Mrs. Williams fell when she stepped onto the gravel
• The gravel slope on Plains' property was created
to facilitate drainage ...