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Bogdanski v. Budzik

Supreme Court of Wyoming

January 24, 2018

MARIUSZ BOGDANSKI, Appellant (Plaintiff),
v.
DAMIAN BUDZIK, Appellee (Defendant). MARIUSZ BOGDANSKI, Appellant (Plaintiff),
v.
FEDEX GROUND PACKAGE SYSTEM, INC., Appellee (Defendant).

          Appeal from the District Court of Uinta County The Honorable Joseph B. Bluemel, Judge

          Representing Appellant:Collin C. Hopkins of The Law Offices of Collin Hopkins, P.C., Riverton, WY*; Milo W. Lundblad and Jerome A. Urbik of Brustin & Lundblad, Ltd., Chicago, IL; and Cameron S. Walker of Schwartz, Bon, Walker & Studer, LLC, Casper, WY. Argument by Mr. Urbik.

          Representing Appellee:Paul Kapp and Patrick M. Brady of Sundahl, Powers, Kapp & Martin, LLC, Cheyenne, WY. Argument by Mr. Kapp.

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

          DAVIS, Justice.

         [¶1] Mariusz Bogdanski and Damian Budzik were codrivers of a commercial semi-truck that was involved in an accident on Interstate 80 east of Evanston, Wyoming. Bogdanski was injured in the accident and filed an action against Budzik, alleging that his negligence caused the accident. He also sued FedEx Ground Package System, Inc. (FedEx), the company whose trailers they were hauling, alleging both direct negligence and vicarious liability for Budzik's negligence. The district court granted summary judgment to both Budzik and FedEx, and Bogdanski appeals the order in favor of FedEx. We affirm summary judgment in favor of Appellee Budzik, and the summary judgment on Bogdanski's direct negligent training claim. However, we reverse the ruling granting summary judgment against FedEx on Bogdanski's claim of vicarious liability for Budzik's claimed negligence, and we remand to the district court for further proceedings.

         ISSUES

         [¶2] We restate the issues raised by this appeal as follows:[1]

1. Can Bogdanski maintain a direct negligence claim in addition to a vicarious liability claim when FedEx has stipulated that it will be vicariously liable for Budzik's negligence, if any?
2. Did the district court err in granting FedEx's motion for summary judgment on Bogdanski's vicarious liability claim?

         FACTS

         [¶3] In February of 2011, Mariusz Bogdanski and Damian Budzik were employed as commercial truck drivers by BZ Trucking, Inc., a company operating out of Burbank, Illinois. Bogdanski was the more experienced driver and began working for BZ Trucking in 2005. Damian Budzik obtained his commercial driver's license in 2008 and began working for BZ Trucking that same year.

         [¶4] For the first year of Budzik's employment with BZ Trucking, he was provided on-the-job training by being paired with more experienced drivers. Budzik was paired with one driver for the first three months of his training, and then with Bogdanski for the remainder of the year. After Budzik completed his year of training, he and Bogdanski remained driving partners.

         [¶5] In 2011 BZ Trucking had a contract with FedEx to use BZ's trucks and drivers to haul FedEx trailers. Pursuant to that contract, Budzik and Bogdanski picked up two FedEx trailers in Bedford, Illinois to be delivered to Sacramento, California, on February 16, 2011. The trip was to be non-stop with Bogdanski and Budzik each driving alternating eleven-hour shifts. A shift change occurred at about 2:00 a.m. on February 17th in Rawlins, Wyoming. Budzik completed an inspection of the tractor and trailers, and then took over driving while Bogdanski rested in the truck's sleeper compartment.

         [¶6] When Budzik began his driving shift in Rawlins, it was snowing, but not heavily. As Budzik continued to drive west on Interstate 80, it began to snow more heavily, reaching what Budzik described as a six out of ten in severity, with snow accumulating on the road's surface. About thirty miles east of Evanston, Wyoming, Budzik came upon traffic stopped in both westbound lanes. He was driving approximately forty-five to fifty miles per hour when he encountered the stopped traffic, and he activated his flashers and pulled from the right lane into the left to allow a greater distance over which to stop the truck.

         [¶7] The traffic ahead of Budzik remained stopped for around five to ten minutes. When the traffic began to move again, Budzik found that he could not get his truck to move. He tried for about one to two minutes to get it moving and then woke Bogdanski to ask for help. Bogdanski described what happened next:

Q. So he woke you up. Did he want you to do something? What did he want you to do?
A. He needed my help.
Q. Did you - to do what?
A. Just to - we were - we work in a team, so I needed to sit down and decide what is going to be our next step.
Q. And did you do that?
A. Yes. We were going to inspect the truck to see why the truck is not able to move forward.
Q. So after he woke you up and you got out of the sleeper compartment, from there, where did you go?
A. It was wintertime, so I needed also some time to dress myself properly. I went out, exited.
* * *
Q. So I take it, somehow it was decided that you had to go out?
A. That period of time, Damian was assigned to be a driver. I went - when one is assigned, the other one did not take over and sit back behind the wheel.
Q. Because of the hour restrictions, right?
A. Yes. So I was off duty.
Q. So the plan was that you were going to go out of the truck and try and figure out why you were not getting traction?
A. Basically, I also was at that point more experienced than Damian. I wanted to go outside and look around the truck and - trying to figure out why the truck can't move forward.

         [¶8] When Bogdanski exited the truck, he found all of the truck and trailer exterior lights were on, including the emergency lights, the pulsating lights, and the headlights. He inspected the entire exterior of the truck and trailers and confirmed that the only problem was that the driver wheels were spinning. He then concluded they would need to place chains on some of the tires to get the truck moving and that they would also need to place warning triangles to secure the truck's location.

         [¶9] The chains and warning triangles were kept on a catwalk between the tractor and the trailers, and Bogdanski climbed onto the catwalk to get them. While Bogdanski was on the catwalk, another commercial truck driven by Viktor Marinov rear-ended the stopped tractor-trailer. The impact threw Bogdanski from the catwalk, and he landed on the shoulder of the road. He was taken by ambulance to a hospital in Evanston, Wyoming, where he was treated and released. The next day he and Budzik drove the truck, without trailers, first to Salt Lake City and then back to Illinois. Upon his return to Illinois, Bogdanski applied for and received Illinois workers' compensation medical and disability benefits for injuries to his right shoulder, right hip, cervical spine, lumbar spine, and left arm.

         [¶10] In February of 2013, Bogdanski filed an action in the Superior Court of California, Sacramento County, against Viktor Marinov, the driver of the other truck involved in the accident, as well as a number of parties associated with Marinov. On February 10, 2015, Bogdanski filed a complaint in the Third Judicial District, Uinta County, Wyoming, against many of the same parties named in the California action, and added Budzik and FedEx.[2] Bogdanski's claims against FedEx included direct negligence and vicarious liability for Budzik's alleged negligence.[3] In the count concerning FedEx's vicarious liability, the complaint alleged that Budzik "carelessly and negligently":

a. Negligently drove on roads in weather conditions that made it highly probable that his truck would become stranded on the highway;
b. Failed to pull onto the shoulder when it became apparent that heavy traffic and road conditions were going to force him to stop his truck and become stranded on the highway;
c. Failed to heed mandatory tire chain requirements; and
d. Failed to activate his lights and/or emergency flashers so as to be visible to other vehicles on the highway.

         [¶11] Bogdanski's claim against Budzik was for negligence. In that count, the complaint alleged Budzik "carelessly and negligently":

a. Failed to pull on to the shoulder when traffic stopped;
b. Failed to drive in the right lane;
c. As Mr. Marinov testified, failed to turn on his lights and/or emergency flashers to warn other vehicles on the highway that he was stranded;
d. Negligently attempted to continue driving on terrain and in weather conditions that made for reduced traction; and
e. Failed to utilize traction aids to prevent his truck from becoming stranded.

         [¶12] On May 11, 2015, FedEx filed a written stipulation in which it agreed to be responsible for Budzik's negligence, if any such negligence were found. The stipulation stated:

1. On February 17, 2011, Damian Budzik was employed by BZ Trucking, Inc., an independent contractor who provides services to FedEx Ground. Mr. Budzik was driving a tractor with plate number 1000349 (State of Indiana), and that tractor was at the location of the accident that is the subject of the Complaint . . . .
2. If the vehicle is found to have been negligently operated while performing actions within the scope of the agency relationship between FedEx Ground and Damian Budzik, FedEx Ground agrees to be responsible for any such negligence.
3. This stipulation will not be shown or read to the jury.

         [¶13] On August 1, 2016, Budzik filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that he was entitled to coemployee immunity because Bogdanski had received workers' compensation benefits for his injuries. Bogdanski opposed the motion. He asserted the evidence showed Budzik was not entitled to immunity because he engaged in willful and wanton misconduct by driving in a snowstorm at night and by getting the truck stuck.

         [¶14] On October 14, 2016, FedEx filed its own motion for summary judgment asserting multiple grounds on which it was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. FedEx urged the district court to hold that a plaintiff may not proceed against a principal on independent negligence theories of negligent hiring or training after the principal has admitted vicarious liability.[4] FedEx also asserted that there were no facts in the record showing that either FedEx or Budzik breached a duty of care or that their actions proximately caused Bogdanski's injuries. Finally, FedEx argued Bogdanski could not recover from it on a vicarious liability claim because his claims against Budzik were barred by coemployee immunity under the applicable workers' compensation law.[5]

         [¶15] On December 1, 2016, the district court entered an order granting Budzik's summary judgment motion. It found that Bogdanski's coemployee claims against Budzik were barred because of his receipt of workers' compensation benefits, and that this was true regardless of whether the court applied Wyoming or Illinois workers' compensation law.

         [¶16] On the same date, the district court entered an order granting FedEx's summary judgment motion. The court concluded that Wyoming would adopt the McHaffie rule, and on that basis ruled that FedEx was entitled to judgment as a matter of law on Bogdanski's negligent training claim. With respect to the remaining vicarious liability claims, the court found the opinions of Bogdanski's expert to be based on speculation, and it concluded that Bogdanski had failed to oppose FedEx's motion with evidence showing any issue of material fact.

          [¶17] Bogdanski filed a timely notice of appeal from the district court's order granting the FedEx summary judgment motion.[6]

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         [¶18] Our standard of review on summary judgment has been stated often and consistently:

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 negligent actions. Cook v. Shoshone First Bank, 2006 WY 13, ¶ 12, 126 P.3d 886, 889 (Wyo. 2006). However, summary judgments have been upheld in negligence cases where the record did not establish a genuine issue of material fact. Id.

Uinta County v. Pennington, 2012 WY 129, ¶ 11, 286 P.3d 138, 141-42 (Wyo. 2012).

The party requesting summary judgment bears the initial burden of establishing a prima facie case that no genuine issue of material fact exists and that summary judgment should be granted as a matter of law. W.R.C.P. 56(c); Throckmartin v. Century 21 Top Realty, 2010 WY 23, ¶ 12, 226 P.3d 793, 798 (Wyo. 2010). Until the movant has made a prima facie showing that there are no genuine issues of material fact, the nonmovant has no obligation to respond to the motion with materials beyond the pleadings. Id.
Once a prima facie showing is made, the burden shifts to the party opposing the motion to present evidence showing that there are genuine issues of material fact. Boehm v. Cody Cntry. Chamber of Commerce, 748 P.2d 704, 710 (Wyo. 1987) (citing England v. Simmons, 728 P.2d 1137, 1140-41 (Wyo. 1986)). The party opposing the motion must present specific facts; relying on conclusory statements or mere opinion will not satisfy that burden, nor will relying solely upon allegations and pleadings. Boehm, 748 P.2d at 710. However, the facts presented are considered from the vantage point most favorable to the party opposing the motion, and that party is given the benefit of all favorable inferences that may fairly be drawn from the record. [Union Pacific R. Co. v. ] Caballo Coal Co., ¶ 12, 246 P.3d [867] at 871 [(Wyo. 2011)].
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) ...

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