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SH v. Campbell County School District

Supreme Court of Wyoming

February 6, 2018

SH, a minor child, and BRUCE and DIANE HOKANSON, as grandparents, legal guardians, and next friends of SH, Appellants (Plaintiffs),
v.
CAMPBELL COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT, a body corporate in the State of Wyoming, by and through its governing body; and the BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE CAMPBELL COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT, in its and their official capacities, Appellees (Defendants).

          Appeal from the District Court of Campbell County The Honorable Thomas W. Rumpke, Judge

          Representing Appellants: C. John Cotton, Cotton Law Offices, P.C., Gillette, Wyoming.

          Representing Appellees: Tracy J. Copenhaver, Copenhaver, Kath, Kitchen & Kolpitcke, LLC, Powell, Wyoming.

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

          FOX, Justice.

         [¶1] SH received special education services at the Campbell County School District (School District) in accordance with an Individual Education Plan (IEP), pursuant to the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. She was injured when she slipped and fell on the school playground, and she filed a complaint against the School District to recover damages for her injuries. SH claimed that the Wyoming Governmental Claims Act did not bar her suit against the School District, alleging that the IEP was a contract, and therefore the Act's exception to immunity for contract claims applied. The district court granted the School District's motion to dismiss, finding that the IEP was not a contract and there was no exception to the School District's governmental immunity. We affirm.

         ISSUE

         [¶2] Is SH's IEP a contract that would provide an exception to governmental immunity under the Wyoming Governmental Claims Act?

         FACTS

         [¶3] SH's grandparents, Bruce Hokanson and Diane Hokanson, are her legal guardians. They filed the complaint on her behalf, alleging that on January 13, 2016, SH slipped and fell on an icy school playground, sustaining serious injuries, including a fractured femur. This occurred, the complaint alleges, as a result of the School District's breach of the "IEP contract, " which provides for "adult supervision throughout the school day." The complaint asserts claims against the School District for breach of contract and for negligence. The district court held that an IEP is not a contract because it lacks the elements of offer, acceptance, and consideration, and it granted the School District's motion to dismiss. SH timely appealed.

         DISCUSSION

         [¶4] The School District is subject to the Wyoming Governmental Claims Act, which provides that "[a] governmental entity and its public employees while acting within the scope of duties are granted immunity from liability for any tort except as provided [by the Act]." Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 1-39-104(a) (LexisNexis 2017). Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 1-39-104(a) provides an exception to governmental immunity when the action is based on a contract. Thus, to proceed with her action, SH must establish that the IEP is a contract.

          Is SH's IEP a contract that would provide an exception to governmental immunity under the Wyoming Governmental Claims Act?

         A. ...


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