MISTY WOOD, a/k/a MISTY WOOD CRASHLEY, as the Wrongful Death Personal Representative of the Estate of David L. Crashley, Appellant (Plaintiff),
CRST EXPEDITED, INC., an Iowa Corporation, JARED CHAVEZ and LUIS FONTANEZ-BERMUDEZ, individually, Appellees (Defendants).
from the District Court of Carbon County The Honorable Wade
E. Waldrip, Judge.
Representing Appellant: Larry B. Jones and Lindsey T. Krause
of Simpson, Kepler & Edwards, LLC, the Cody, Wyoming
division of Burg Simpson Eldredge Hersh and Jardine, P.C.,
Cody, Wyoming. Argument by Ms. Krause.
Representing Appellees: Khale J. Lenhart and Amanda M. Good
of Hirst Applegate, LLP, Cheyenne, Wyoming. Argument by Mr.
BURKE, C.J., and HILL, [*] DAVIS, FOX, and KAUTZ, JJ.
Misty Wood, on behalf of the Estate of David L. Crashley (the
decedent), brought a wrongful death action against CRST
Expedited, Inc. (CRST), a commercial trucking company, and
two of its drivers. Ms. Wood alleged the drivers illegally
and negligently parked a CRST semi tractor-trailer in an I-80
emergency lane and caused the decedent's death when the
vehicle he was driving collided with the tractor-trailer. The
district court found that parking the tractor-trailer in the
emergency lane was not, based on the undisputed facts, a
proximate cause of the accident, and entered summary judgment
in favor of Appellees. We reverse.
Ms. Wood presents a single issue on appeal, which we rephrase
Were there disputed issues of material fact that precluded
the district court's entry of summary judgment?
At around midnight on the night of February 10, 2014, Jared
Chavez and Luis Fontanez-Bermudez, two CRST drivers, set out
from Salt Lake City, Utah, driving a CRST tractor-trailer
eastbound on I-80. Mr. Chavez took the first driving shift
while Mr. Fontanez-Bermudez slept in the sleeper berth. At
around 6:45 a.m., on February 11th, approximately one mile
west of Rawlins, Mr. Chavez pulled over, parked the
tractor-trailer in the emergency lane, turned on the
tractor-trailer's hazard lights, and informed Mr.
Fontanez-Bermudez that he felt drowsy and wanted to change
drivers. Mr. Chavez parked the tractor-trailer such that
portions of the rig were within ten inches of the eastbound
lanes of I-80. The location where Mr. Chavez parked the
tractor-trailer was 1.05 miles past an off ramp leading to a
truck stop, and .85 miles from the next highway exit.
Multiple signs leading up to the location where Mr. Chavez
pulled over indicated that parking was not allowed except for
Within minutes after Mr. Chavez stopped the tractor-trailer,
the decedent, driving a Mazda CX-9 at or near highway speeds,
collided with the rear of the tractor-trailer. The speed
limit on that portion of the highway was 75 m.p.h. It appears
to be undisputed that the tractor-trailer was parked
completely within the emergency lane at the time of the
At the time of the accident, the weather was clear, the road
was dry, and it was dawn, with the sun still below the
horizon. There were no signs that the decedent braked or
attempted to avoid the collision, and it is not known why the
decedent failed to maintain his proper lane of travel. The
decedent suffered immediately fatal injuries, and Mr. Chavez
was cited for illegally parking in an emergency lane.
On January 26, 2016, Ms. Wood filed a wrongful death
complaint against CRST, Mr. Chavez, and Mr.
Fontanez-Bermudez, followed by an amended complaint on
February 4, 2016. Ms. Wood alleged that Mr. Chavez and Mr.
Fontanez-Bermudez were negligent in their illegal parking of
the CRST tractor-trailer in the I-80 emergency lane. She
further alleged that CRST was negligent in its training and
supervision of its drivers and was also vicariously liable
for the drivers' negligence. Appellees filed timely
answers to the amended complaint.
On November 17, 2016, Appellees filed a motion for summary
judgment. Appellees asserted they were entitled to summary
judgment as a matter of law because Mr. Chavez's act of
parking in the emergency lane, even if illegal, was not the
proximate cause of the decedent's accident. On January
11, 2017, Ms. Wood filed her opposition to Appellees'
summary judgment motion. After a hearing, the district court
granted the motion for summary judgment. This timely appeal
We apply the following standard of review to a district
court's summary judgment decision:
Summary judgment is appropriate when there are no genuine
issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. W.R.C.P. 56(c); Metz
Beverage Co. v. Wyoming Beverages, Inc., 2002 WY 21,
¶ 9, 39 P.3d 1051, 1055 (Wyo. 2002). "A genuine
issue of material fact exists when a disputed fact, if it
were proven, would establish or refute an essential element
of a cause of action or a defense that the parties have
asserted." Id. Because summary judgment
involves a purely legal determination, we undertake de
novo review of a trial court's summary judgment
decision. Glenn v. Union Pacific R.R. Co., 2008 WY
16, ¶ 6, 176 P.3d 640, 642 (Wyo. 2008).
Fugle v. Sublette Cty. Sch. Dist. No. 9, 2015 WY 98,
¶ 5, 353 P.3d 732, 734 (Wyo. 2015). We consider the
record from a viewpoint most favorable to the party opposing
summary judgment, giving that party all favorable inferences
that can be drawn reasonably from the facts set forth in the
affidavits, depositions, and other material properly
appearing in the record. Id.
The issue of proximate cause is generally one to be decided
by the jury, and resolution of that issue depends on the
foreseeability of the risk presented by the actor's
conduct. Endresen v. Allen, 574 P.2d 1219, 1222
(Wyo. 1978) ("[W]hat is reasonably to be foreseen is
generally a question for the jury."). According to one
The central goal of the proximate cause requirement is to
limit the defendant's liability to the kinds of harms he
risked by his negligent conduct. Judicial decisions about
proximate cause rules thus attempt to discern whether, in the
particular case before the court, the harm that resulted from
the defendant's negligence is so clearly outside the
risks he created that it would be unjust or at least
impractical to impose liability.
The most general and pervasive approach to proximate cause
holds that a negligent defendant is liable for all the
general kinds of harms he foreseeably risked by his negligent
conduct and to the class of persons he put at risk by that
conduct. Conversely, he is not a proximate cause of, and not
liable for injuries that were unforeseeable. This does not
mean that the defendant must be the sole proximate cause of
the plaintiff's injury. On the contrary, several
wrongdoers are frequently proximate causes of harm.
Dan B. Dobbs, The Law of Torts § 180, at 443-44
(2000) (footnote omitted).
In order to evaluate whether there is a factual issue
regarding proximate cause in this case, it is essential that
we understand the proper causal connection that must be
established. The parties offer differing perspectives on that
issue. Appellant contends that the proper test of proximate
cause involves an analysis of the relationship between the
conduct of Mr. Chavez in illegally parking on the shoulder of
the highway and the injuries suffered by the decedent.
"The focus of the analysis is whether 'reasonable
minds' can reach different conclusions regarding the
proximate cause of [the decedent's] death."
Appellees contend that Appellant must establish that the act
of parking on the shoulder caused the decedent to lose
control of his vehicle. According to Appellees:
"[P]arking on the side of the road would not, in
ordinary experience, be expected to cause someone to leave
the lanes of travel. As such, parking on the side of the road
cannot be a cause of this accident." The district
court applied the standard proposed by Appellees and set
forth the basis for its decision in the order granting
Defendant[s'] parking at that spot and time, whether or
not it was legal, simply did not cause this accident. Nothing
about parking in the emergency lane caused [the decedent] to
drive into the back of the trailer. While it greatly
aggravated the consequences of [the decedent's] conduct,
Defendants' unlawful stop in the emergency lane did not
cause [the decedent] to leave the lanes of travel in his
vehicle and drive in the emergency lane.
reasons that we explain below, we must conclude that the
district court did not apply the proper standard. Appellant
is not required to prove that parking on the shoulder of the
highway caused the decedent to lose control of his vehicle.
Rather, he must prove that parking on the shoulder of the
road was a proximate cause of his injuries. "[T]he
ultimate test of proximate cause is foreseeability of
injury. In order to qualify as a legal
cause, the conduct must be a substantial factor in bringing
about the plaintiff's injuries."
Lucero v. Holbrook, 2012 WY 152, ¶ 17, 288 P.3d
1228, 1234 (Wyo. 2012) (emphasis added).
This is a negligence case. Negligence consists of a duty on
the part of the defendant and a violation of the duty which
proximately causes injury to the plaintiff. ABC Builders,
Inc. v. Phillips, 632 P.2d 925, 931 (Wyo. 1981). Stated
in terms of the allegations in this case, the questions that
must be answered are: Did Mr. Chavez owe a duty to the
decedent and others similarly situated? Did he breach that
duty by parking his tractor-trailer rig on the shoulder of
I-80? Did breach of that duty proximately cause injury to the
decedent? Ostensibly, this appeal involves only the issue of
proximate cause but, in this case, a proper proximate cause
determination cannot be made without exploration of the duty
owed to the decedent. Duty, like proximate cause, involves
the question of foreseeability:
The primacy of foreseeability in determining whether a duty
exists has been echoed by numerous courts and commentators.
For example, in Beugler v. Burlington Northern &
Santa Fe Ry., 490 F.3d 1224 (10th Cir. 2007), the Tenth
Circuit Court of Appeals stated that
Many factors inform the duty analysis, but the most important
consideration is foreseeability. Generally a defendant owes a
duty of care to all persons who are foreseeably endangered by
his conduct with respect to all risks which make the conduct
unreasonably dangerous. Foreseeability establishes a
'zone of risk, ' which is to say that it forms a
basis for assessing whether the conduct creates a generalized
and foreseeable risk of harming others.
Id. at 1228 (quoting Iglehart v. Bd. of County
Comm'rs of Rogers County, 60 P.3d 497, 502 (Okla.
2002)); see also Henderson v. United States, 846
F.2d 1233, 1234 (9th Cir. 1988); Winschel v. Brown,
171 P.3d 142, 146 (Alaska 2007); 57A Am.Jur.2d
Negligence § 121, at 196 (2004) ("The most
important consideration in the determination of whether the
defendant owed the plaintiff a duty is whether the defendant
was foreseeably endangered by the defendant's
conduct.") (footnote omitted).
Glenn v. Union Pac. R. Co., 2011 WY 126, ¶ 34,
262 P.3d 177, 193-94 (Wyo. 2011).
We have not had the occasion to address proximate cause in a
factually similar context. However, the California Supreme
Court addressed foreseeability issues in a case presenting
facts nearly identical to those in this case. Cabral v.
Ralphs Grocery Co., 248 P.3d 1170 (Cal. 2011). In
[a] truck driver working for Ralphs Grocery Company (Ralphs)
stopped his tractor-trailer rig alongside an interstate
highway in order to have a snack. Plaintiff's husband,
decedent Adelelmo Cabral, driving his pickup truck home from
work, veered suddenly off the freeway and collided at high
speed with the rear of the stopped trailer, resulting in his
own death. (Cabral was not intoxicated at the time; experts
opined he either fell asleep at the wheel or lost control due
to an undiagnosed medical condition.) The jury found both
decedent and the Ralphs driver to have been negligent and to
have caused the accident, but allocated 90 percent of the
fault to decedent and only 10 percent to the Ralphs driver.
Id., 248 P.3d at 1172. Appellants challenged the verdict
on appeal, asserting that Ralphs "owed Cabral no duty to
avoid stopping near the freeway for a nonemergency."
Id., 248 P.3d at 1176. The court framed the issue as
whether a freeway driver owes other drivers a duty of
ordinary care in choosing whether, where and how to stop on
the side of the road. Because the general duty to take
ordinary care in the conduct of one's activities . . .
indisputably applies to the operation of a motor vehicle, the
issue is also properly stated as whether a categorical
exception to that general rule should be made exempting
drivers from potential liability to other freeway users for
stopping alongside a freeway.
Id. In evaluating whether a duty existed, the court
first considered "the foreseeability of harm to the
plaintiff" arising from the defendant's conduct. It
had no difficulty in concluding that potential harm to other
motorists was "clearly foreseeable." Id.,
248 P.3d at 1177.
In the generalized sense of foreseeability pertinent to the
duty question, that a vehicle parked by the side of a freeway
may be struck by another vehicle leaving the freeway,
resulting in injury to either vehicle's occupants, is
clearly foreseeable. Drivers are supposed to control their
vehicles and keep them on the traveled roadway, but common
experience shows they do not always do so. Freeway drivers
may be intoxicated, distracted, blinded by the weather or
sun, sleepy or sick, and for any of these reasons or others
may drive off the roadway. Mechanical problems with their
vehicles can also force motorists to suddenly leave the
freeway. If they do so at freeway speeds and collide with
another vehicle parked alongside the road, they are likely to
be injured or injure other occupants of the vehicles, or
both. This general foreseeability is reflected in the
Official Reports, in that numerous decisions have involved
collisions between vehicles leaving a highway and vehicles or
other obstacles on the roadside. As we observed in Bigbee
v. Pacific Tel. & Tel. Co. (1983) 34 Cal.3d 49, 58,
192 Cal.Rptr. 857, 665 P.2d 947 (albeit in discussing an
issue of breach, not duty), "it is not uncommon for
speeding and/or intoxicated drivers to lose control of their
cars and crash into poles, buildings or whatever else may be
standing alongside the road they travel-no matter how
straight and level that road may be."
Evidence at trial showed that safety standards and guidelines
have been formulated with the goal of avoiding collisions
between vehicles leaving freeways and trucks or other
obstacles alongside the freeway. A highway engineer testified
that freeway safety standards disapproved placing any
"massive obstacle" within 30 feet of the traffic
lanes. Where feasible, existing obstacles-objects massive or
large enough to cause rapid deceleration or change in
direction to a vehicle leaving the freeway-are to be removed.
Where they cannot be removed, relocated or redesigned to bend
or break, they are to be protected with guardrails or similar
devices. The Ralphs transportation manager in charge of
driver training and discipline testified that when he learned
Ralphs drivers were stopping on the freeway side for
nonemergency reasons he instructed them not to do so. He
regarded such stopping as a danger to the drivers themselves
and to other motorists "should they leave the
roadway." The existence of guidelines seeking to keep
the shoulder area free of massive obstacles supports a
conclusion the possibility of vehicles leaving the freeway
and colliding with obstacles is generally foreseeable.
Id., 248 P.3d at 1177-78 (footnotes omitted).
The court also rejected a defense claim that there was not a
sufficiently close connection between the defendant's
negligence and the collision.
Unlike the situations in Bryant-and
Richards-no third party negligence intervened
between the Ralphs driver's negligent conduct and
Adelelmo Cabral's injury. Ralphs did not merely place
decedent in a position to be acted upon by [a] negligent
third party. Rather, the conduct of the Ralphs driver that
the jury found negligent, stopping his tractor-trailer
alongside an interstate highway for a nonemergency reason,
placed by the roadway a massive, if temporary, obstacle not
previously there. It thus directly created the risk of
collision for any vehicle leaving the freeway at that point,
the same risk that eventuated and resulted in Cabral's
Id., 248 P.3d at 1181 (quotation marks and citation
omitted). The court went on: "To the extent
Horn acted negligently in stopping alongside the freeway, as
the jury found he did, it is because he unreasonably created
a risk of precisely the type of event that occurred."
The court also rejected Ralphs' claim that the stop was
not a proximate cause of the collision.
While potential liability differs in the two situations
(emergency and nonemergency), causation does not. Under the
evidence at trial, a jury could find Horn's stop was a
substantial factor in causing the collision whether or not it
was made for an emergency-though if made for an emergency,
the stop would presumably not have been found negligent.
Id., 248 P.3d at 1184 (emphasis omitted).
In Cabral, the court found that a duty existed under
the general duty of ordinary care owed by drivers to one
another. We have recognized a similar duty in Wyoming.
"One owes the duty to every person in our society to use
reasonable care to avoid injury to the other person in any
situation in which it could be reasonably anticipated or
foreseen that a failure to use such care might result in such
injury." McClellan v. Tottenhoff, 666 P.2d 408,
412 (Wyo. 1983), superseded by statute on unrelated
grounds, as recognized in Daniels v. Carpenter,
2003 WY 11, 62 P.3d 555 (Wyo. 2003) (quoting Alegria v.
Payonk, 101 Idaho 617, 619, 619 P.2d 135, 137 (1980)).
There is also another source for finding that Mr. Chavez owed
a duty to the decedent and other motorists using that portion
of I-80. Reasonable inferences from the evidence in the
record support the allegation that Mr. Chavez parked
illegally on the shoulder. He received a citation for violating
Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 31-5-504(a)(i)(M) (LexisNexis 2017)
(a) Except when necessary to avoid conflict with other
traffic or in compliance with law or the directions of a
police officer or traffic-control device, no person shall:
(i) Stop, stand or park a vehicle:
(M) At any place where official traffic-control devices
signs in the vicinity prohibited parking on the shoulder
unless the parking was for "emergency" purposes.
Violation of a statute is, at a minimum, evidence of
negligence if the purpose of the statute is, in whole or
part, "to protect a class of persons which includes the
one whose interest is invaded." Distad v.
Cubin, 633 P.2d 167, 175 (Wyo. 1981). If the violation
is unexcused and the legislative enactment is adopted by the
Court as defining the standard of conduct of a reasonable
person, the violation "is negligence in itself."
Frost v. Allred, 2006 WY 155, ¶ 12, 148 P.3d
17, 21 (Wyo. 2006). Determination of whether the statute
applies in this case is relevant to the issue of
foreseeability. If the statute applies and is relevant to
determining the standard of care or duty, it is so only
because the statute was intended to protect the class of
persons that includes the decedent. In other words, if the
statute applies, it does so because injury to motorists on
I-80 arising from the conduct was foreseeable. There is
nothing in the record to indicate that the statute under
which Mr. Chavez was cited was not intended to protect
motorists on that portion of I-80. In the summary judgment
context, reasonable inferences would place the decedent in
the class of individuals intended to be protected by the
statute and the prohibition against parking. If potential
harm to the decedent was foreseeable for purposes of
establishing duty, it is also foreseeable for purposes of
establishing proximate cause.
The thrust of the rules about class of person and type of
risk, harm, or interest is sometimes expressed by saying that
violation of the statute is not negligence per se unless
violation is a proximate cause of the harm suffered.
Proximate cause is part of the language of common law tort
analysis that is often equivalent to the class of person/type
of risk or harm analysis in cases of statutory violation. The
class of person/type of risk or harm language may be a little
more precise, but courts usually appear to have the same
ideas in mind when they use the language of proximate cause.
Dobbs, § 137, at 325-26.
Although it does not appear to be an issue in the case before
us, we would also note that the Cabral court
specifically rejected a request for a liability limitation
based upon public policy considerations. The court determined
that there was no justification for "creating a duty
exception immunizing drivers from potential liability for
negligently stopping their vehicles alongside freeways."
Cabral, 248 P.3d at 1181-82. As the Cabral
Indeed, one might ask under what circumstances Ralphs would
have us recognize a duty of ordinary care in stopping
alongside a freeway, if not in these. If stopping 16 feet
from the traffic lanes exempts a driver from the duty of
care, does the same hold for parking six feet from the lane?
Six inches? If we are to create immunity for a truck driver
stopping for a few minutes to have a snack, should we also do
so for one who decides to sleep for hours by the roadside
rather than pay for a motel room? Would the categorical
exemption Ralphs seeks still apply if a tractor-trailer
driver parked an inch from the traffic lanes, on the outside
of a curve, leaving the rig there all night without lights?
To ask these questions is to see why a categorical exemption
is not appropriate. The duty of reasonable care is the same
under all these circumstances; what varies with the specific
facts of the case is whether the defendant has breached that
duty. That question, as discussed earlier, is generally one
to be decided by the jury, not the court.
Id., 248 P.3d at 1183 (emphasis omitted).
We agree with the reasoning of the California Supreme Court.
The dangers to highway users presented by a parked
tractor-trailer along I-80 are no less foreseeable in Wyoming
than they are in California. In Cabral, the parked
vehicle arguably posed less of a danger. It was parked 16
feet off the traveled portion of the highway. In this case,
portions of the tractor-trailer were within ten inches of the
eastbound lanes of I-80. As in Cabral, the parked
vehicle was "massive." Appellant's expert
estimated the weight of the tractor-trailer at 60, 000
pounds. The danger described in Cabral is reflected
in the report of Appellant's expert. He noted that the
posted speed limit was 75 m.p.h., and that the damage to the
decedent's vehicle was "consistent with an impact at
freeway speeds." The tractor-trailer was stationary and
"during the collision [the decedent's vehicle] would
have sustained a change in velocity of between 56 and 74
mph." Based upon his review of the accident scene and
highway crash statistics, he opined that
[i]t is unknown if the tractor-trailer had not been illegally
parked, if [decedent's vehicle] would have continued to
travel off of the paved shoulder and onto the grassy shoulder
of the highway or if he would have remained on the shoulder
and brought his vehicle to a safe stop. Assuming he did run
off the road at speeds of 60 to 80 mph, statistics show the
[l]ikelihood of him ...