Atwater v. Gaylord, 2362

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
Citation184 P.2d 437,63 Wyo. 492
Docket Number2362
PartiesRICHARD M. ATWATER, also known as RICHARD M. ATWATER, 3rd., Plaintiff and Appellant, v. J. L. GAYLORD, Defendant and Respondent
Decision Date09 September 1947

APPEAL from District Court, Uinta County; H. R. CHRISTMAS, Judge.

Suit by Richard M. Atwater, also known as Richard M. Atwater, 3d against J. L. Gaylord to recover unpaid overtime compensation, liquidated damages, and attorney's fees allegedly due under Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, §§ 1-19, 29 U.S.C. A. §§ 201-219. Judgment for defendant, and plaintiff appeals.

Judgment affirmed.

For the Plaintiff and Appellant, the cause was submitted upon the brief and also oral argument of Louis Kabell, Jr., of Evanston, Wyoming.


The obligation to pay minimum wages and overtime compensation under Fair Labor Standards Act, although of a contractual nature, in order that contractual remedy of assumpsit may be made applicable thereto, constitutes a quasi contract, and is a liability created by statute governed by the two-year statute of limitations. Rem. Rev. Stat. Sec. 165, Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, Secs. 6, 7, 16 (b), 29 U. S. C. A Sec. 206, 207, 216(b). Cannon v. Miller (Wash.) 155 P. 2d. 500.

State courts are somewhat differently situated than federal courts. The latter operate under one government; the state courts are bound, not only by the Constitution and laws of the state but also by the Constitution of the United States as well as by the laws passed pursuant thereto. State v Hiteshew, 42 Wyo. 147, 292 P. 2, 4.

State statutes should be so construed as to harmonize with federal legislation on the same subject and facilitate the administration of justice, but if there is an unreconcilable conflict, the state statute must yield. 59 C. J. 1053.

Provisions of Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 are remedial and must not be interpreted or applied in a narrow grudging manner. Fullerton v. Lamm, et al. (Ore.) 163 P. 2d. 941.

The liquidated damages provided by Fair Labor Standards Act for failure of employer to pay minimum wages are compensation and not a penalty or punishment by the government. Overnight Motor Transp. Co., Inc. v. Missal, 316 U.S. 572, 62 S.Ct. 1216.

Where the subject matter of a contract is exclusively one of a national cognizance, and congress has enacted a law for its complete regulation, the parties will be presumed to have contracted with reference to the act of congress and its effect on the subject matter, and not with reference to the state law. 17 C. J. S. 784, Sec. 330.

The court may, in its discretion, receive a statement of an inference or judgment as to the proper method of carrying on certain mining operations, and other matters connected with mining, provided, but not unless, it is made to appear that the witness possesses the necessary skill and experience to render his influence of value. 22 C. J. 680, Sec. 771.

As a general rule, a witness may testify directly to a composite fact, although in a sense his testimony may include his conclusion from other facts. In the multitudinous affairs of everyday life, it is extremely difficult to distinguish between opinion on the one hand and fact or knowledge on the other. Moreover, objections that proposed testimony states a conclusion only are sometimes pushed to captious extremes. The true solution seems to be that such questions are left for the practical discretion of the trial court. Often the simplest and most satisfactory method is to permit a witness to state a fact as he knows it and leave the ground of his belief to be developed by cross-examinaiton. 20 A. J. 643, Sec. 771.

By moving for a directed verdict, the maker of the motion admits the truth of whatever competent evidence the opposing party has introduced, not only of all that the testimony proves, but of every material or ultimate fact which it tends to prove, together with all fair and reasonable inference or conclusions of fact favorable to the adverse party, fairly or reasonably inferable or deducible therefrom by a jury. Northwest States Utilities Co. v. Brouilette, 51 Wyo. 132, 65 P. 2d. 223.

In determining whether a factual situation brings about interstate commerce under Fair Labor Standards Act, courts should be liberal rather than strict and not limit beneficence of the act to labor by technical interpretations. Deine v. Levy, et al., 39 F.Supp. 44, Dist. Ct. W. D. La.

The courts take judicial notice of the general course of business and the usual methods of transacting it. Judicial notice will be taken of the community's standard of prudent business methods, of the ordinary rules and necessities of business, of such matters connected with a business which is one of the main enterprises within the jurisdiction as are common knowledge to all of the people of the jurisdiction. 23 C. J. 62, Sec. 1813.

A cause of action arising under the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (29 USC §§ 206-207) for overtime compensation and liquidated damages is based upon the statute, rather than on the contract of employment, although the statute may be said to enter in and become a part of the contract. Cannon v. Miller, 155 P. 2d. 500.

Where employer at all times knew amount of overtime he was obligated to pay for under employment contract and knew that each pay day employee was expected to sign prepared statement of regular hours and overtime employed, which was always the same, the fact that no demand for wages due had been made or that employer acted in good faith or was in fact ignorant of overtime claimed by employee was not defense to employer's liability for unpaid overtime compensation. Wilson Oil Co. v. Hardy, et al. (N. M.) 164 P. 2d. 209.

In interpreting Fair Labor Standards Act, decisions of Supreme Court of the United States are binding upon state courts and decisions of lower federal courts are persuasive and usually followed unless a conflict requires a choice between one or more announced interpretations. Skelly Oil Co. v. Jackson (Okla.) 148 P. 2d. 182.

The interpretation placed on a statute by the executive agency charged with the duty of administering it should be given great weight by a court, but the court should not follow that interpretation if it appears to be clearly erroneous. Graves v. Armstrong Creamery Co., 154 Kan. 365, 118 P. 2d. 613.

The application of Fair Labor Standards Act depends upon the character of the employees' activities, and not the business of the employer. Sykes v. Lochmann, 156 Kan. 223, 132 P. 2d. 620.

Whether an employee is engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce within the meaning of the act depends upon the character of the employment, and not upon the nature of the employer's business. 150 A. L. R. 589.

For the Defendant and Respondent, the cause was submitted upon the brief of Patrick J. Quealy and Ivan S. Jones, both of Kemmerer, Wyoming, and oral argument by Mr. Jones.


The compensation, benefit or penalty imposed by the "Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938" are not contractual obligations within the meaning of the Wyoming Mechanic's Lien Statutes.

The laws of another jurisdiction ordinarily bear no relation to local statutes in the sense that they may become a part thereof. There has been no intention manifested on the part of Congress to apply our lien laws to overtime wages and penalties provided by the Act under consideration. The presumption is that a contract is governed by the laws of the forum. Pace v. National Bank, 190 Okla. 503; 125 P. 2d. 178.

The phrase "liability created by statute" means a liability which would not exist but for the statute. 37 C. J. 783.

As to conclusions upon matters within the scope of common knowledge and experience, the jury is a tribunal well fitted to perform this task. To permit a witness to state to the jury his opinions as to the conclusions to be drawn from the concrete facts which he has observed would be to invade the peculiar province of the jury; and therefore conclusions of that character are universally excluded. Gibson v. United States, CCA 9th (1937) 88 F. 2d. 358.

Whether or not the qualification of a witness with respect to knowledge or special experience is sufficiently established is a matter resting largely in the discretion of the trial court, whose determination is usually final and will not be disturbed by an appellate court except in extreme cases where it is manifest that the trial court has fallen into error or has abused its discretion. Johnson v. Hanover Fire Insurance Co., 59 Wyo. 120, 137 P. 2d. 615.

The duty rested on plaintiff to establish by preponderance of evidence actually adduced at the trial, that their activities amounted to engagement in interstate commerce. Drake v. Hirsch, 40 Fed. Sup. 290.

The application of the Act depends upon the character of the employee's activities. The burden was upon the plaintiff to prove that in the course of performing services for defendant and without regard to the nature of its business, he was, as such employee, engaged in interstate commerce or in the production of goods for interstate commerce within the meaning of the Act. Brooks Packing Company v. Willis, 192 Okla. 538, 137 P. 2d. 923.

The court cannot take judicial notice of the interstate nature of the defendant's business, or of the plaintiff's activities connected therewith. Harland Oil Company v. Patterson, 153 P. 2d. 622.

The burden is on the claimant to prove that he engaged in the production of goods for interstate commerce. The actual existence of this fact is absolutely essential to the employee's right to recover under the act. Kirschbaum Co. v. Walling, Supreme Court of the U. S. 316 U.S. 517 524, 62 S.Ct. 1116, 86 L.Ed. 1638, 1648; ...

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  • Sealy v. Mitchell, 16750.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • 18 de novembro de 1957
    ...Straughn v. Schlumberger Well Surveying Corp., D.C.Tex., 72 F.Supp. 511; West v. Texas Co., D.C. La., 65 F.Supp. 97; Atwater v. Gaylord, 63 Wyo. 492, 184 P.2d 2 On the argument his counsel described him as a "doodle-bug" operator who, like many others in the colorful history of the oil busi......

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