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Norris v. Besel

Supreme Court of Wyoming

May 30, 2019

DAVID NORRIS and LISA NORRIS, husband and wife, Appellants (Plaintiffs),
v.
SHELLY BESEL, Appellee (Defendant).

          Appeal from the District Court of Campbell County The Honorable John R. Perry, Judge.

          Representing Appellant James L. Edwards, Stevens, Edwards, Hallock & Carpenter, P.C., Gillette, Wyoming. Argument by Mr. Edwards.

          Representing Appellee Randall T. Cox, The RT Cox Law Firm; Alex Berger, Berger & Brown, Attorneys, Gillette, Wyoming. Argument by Mr. Berger.

          Before DAVIS, C.J., and FOX, KAUTZ, BOOMGAARDEN, and GRAY, JJ.

          BOOMGAARDEN, JUSTICE.

         [¶1] Appellants, David and Lisa Norris, hired Leonard Besel, d/b/a Leonard's Home Improvement, to remodel their home. Mr. Besel terminated the contract prior to completing the project and Mr. and Mrs. Norris filed suit. The Norrises named Mr. Besel's wife, Shelly Besel, as a defendant, alleging she was a partner of her husband's contracting business. Mrs. Besel denied any ownership interest and moved for summary judgment. The district court granted the motion and dismissed Mrs. Besel from the litigation with prejudice. We affirm.

         ISSUES

         [¶2] The Norrises state their issue on appeal as:

Whether the decision of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Shelly Besel was correct?
A. Does a material issue of fact exist based on the evidence presented as to Shelly Besel's status vis a vis the business?
B. Was Shelly Besel entitled to judgment as a matter of law?

         FACTS

         [¶3] Mrs. Norris posted an inquiry on the Gillette Area Classifieds Facebook page seeking potential contractors to remodel a home in Pine Haven, Wyoming. Mrs. Besel responded to the inquiry on January 13, 2016, and stated:

My husband has been in business for over 20 years and has vast experience in painting[, ] drywall[, ] flooring[, ] roofing[, ] window installation[, ] and much more. His business is Leonard[']s Home Improvement[.] [H]e is insured and bonded[.]

         She also provided her husband's telephone number. The Norrises contacted Mr. Besel directly, and, on March 18, 2016, the Norrises, as homeowners, and Mr. Besel, as the owner of Leonard's Home Improvement, executed a written contract setting forth the terms of the remodel project.

         [¶4] Several months later, Mrs. Norris sent Facebook messages to Mrs. Besel when Mr. Besel did not return the Norrises' phone calls or respond to their text messages. Each time, Mrs. Besel indicated she would pass along the message to her husband or stated she would have him call them. Mr. Besel terminated the contract in late August.

         [¶5] Mr. and Mrs. Norris filed a complaint asserting claims for breach of contract and breach of warranty. The complaint named Mr. and Mrs. Besel, d/b/a Leonard's Home Improvement, as defendants. Mrs. Besel moved to dismiss herself from the lawsuit and filed an affidavit of non-involvement. The district court denied the motion. After the parties conducted discovery, Mrs. Besel moved for summary judgment, disavowing any partnership interest in Leonard's Home Improvement.[1] The district court granted her motion following a hearing.

         [¶6] Mr. Besel filed a bankruptcy petition, thus causing the district court to stay the remainder of the court proceedings. Mrs. Besel did not seek bankruptcy protection and, on the Norrises' request, the district court entered a final judgment dismissing Mrs. Besel from the litigation to allow an immediate appeal.

         STANDARD ...


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