Beaulieu v. Florquist, No. 02-276.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
Writing for the CourtVOIGT, Justice.
Citation86 P.3d 863,2004 WY 31
Docket NumberNo. 02-276.
Decision Date25 March 2004
PartiesWilliam N. BEAULIEU and April D. Beaulieu; and William N. Beaulieu and April D. Beaulieu, as parents and natural guardians of minor children Cheyenne Rochelle Beaulieu and Skilar Jonea Beaulieu, Appellants (Plaintiffs), v. Bruce A. FLORQUIST and The City of Rawlins, Appellees (Defendants).

86 P.3d 863
2004 WY 31

William N. BEAULIEU and April D. Beaulieu; and William N. Beaulieu and April D. Beaulieu, as parents and natural guardians of minor children Cheyenne Rochelle Beaulieu and Skilar Jonea Beaulieu, Appellants (Plaintiffs),
v.
Bruce A. FLORQUIST and The City of Rawlins, Appellees (Defendants)

No. 02-276.

Supreme Court of Wyoming.

March 25, 2004.


86 P.3d 864
Representing Appellants: Walter Urbigkit, Cheyenne, Wyoming

Representing Appellees: Loyd E. Smith of Murane & Bostwick, LLC, Cheyenne, Wyoming.

86 P.3d 865
Before HILL, C.J., and GOLDEN, LEHMAN, and VOIGT, JJ., and BROOKS, D.J

VOIGT, Justice.

[¶ 1] This is an appeal from a summary judgment granted to a municipality and its employee in a tort action because the appellants' claim failed to comply with the requirements of the Wyoming Constitution. We affirm.

ISSUES

[¶ 2] The parties have worded the issues in unnecessarily complex and argumentative fashion. We find the dispositive issues to be:

1. Does Wyo. Const. art. 16, § 7 require a claim filed under the Wyoming Governmental Claims Act, Wyo. Stat. Ann. §§ 1-39-101, et seq. (Lexis 1999), to be signed by the claimant?1

2. Does Wyo. Const. art. 16, § 7 require a claim filed under the Wyoming Governmental Claims Act to be certified to under penalty of perjury?

3. Should the doctrine of judicial estoppel apply to bar any of the appellants' arguments?

4. If the claim in this case was defective, should it be saved by the equitable doctrines of equitable estoppel, waiver, or laches?

5. If the claim in this case was defective, should it be saved by the doctrine of substantial compliance?

6. Did the decision in Beaulieu v. Florquist, 2001 WY 33, 20 P.3d 521 (Wyo.2001) (Beaulieu I), establish the "law of the case" so as to prohibit the appellees from contesting the validity of the second governmental claim?

FACTS

[¶ 3] This case is before us a second time. The salient facts may be gleaned from our prior opinion. On December 19, 1996, a vehicle driven by a Rawlins city employee, Bruce Florquist, struck a vehicle occupied by William N. Beaulieu, his wife, April D. Beaulieu, and their daughter, Cheyenne Rochelle Beaulieu.2 Within a week of the accident, a "Notice of Claim" appeared in the office of the Rawlins city attorney, asserting personal injury and property damage. After receiving a settlement offer from the city's insurer, Mr. Beaulieu hired an attorney, who filed a second claim with the city on June 29, 1998. When there was no response from the city, the Beaulieus filed suit on June 14, 1999. Beaulieu I, 2001 WY 33, ¶¶ 4-6, 20 P.3d at 524-25.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

[¶ 4] Summary judgments are governed by W.R.C.P. 56. Our standard for reviewing summary judgments has been recited many times and need not be repeated here. See Beaulieu I, 2001 WY 33, ¶¶ 8-10, 20 P.3d at 525-26.

DISCUSSION

CLAIMANT'S SIGNATURE CERTIFIED TO UNDER PENALTY OF PERJURY

[¶ 5] In Beaulieu I, the district court granted summary judgment to the appellees on the ground that the lawsuit was time barred by Wyo. Stat. Ann.§ 1-39-114.3

86 P.3d 866
Beaulieu I, 2001 WY 33, ¶ 7, 20 P.3d at 525. On appeal, this Court reversed because, inasmuch as the "Notice of Claim" that appeared in the city attorney's office in December of 1996 did not comply with any of the requirements of Wyo. Const. art. 16, § 7, it was not a valid claim under the Wyoming Governmental Claims Act, so the appellees could not rely upon the statute of limitations found in that Act.4 Beaulieu I, 2001 WY 33, ¶¶ 13-17, 20 P.3d at 526-27. We summarized our holding as follows
We hold that the City of Rawlins is a political subdivision to which the requirements of art. 16, § 7 are applicable. A valid claim against such a municipality must be in writing and certified under penalty of perjury, which means it must be signed. Further, it must be presented to the officer or officers charged with the duty of auditing it. Such claims are subject to the same rules that have been established with respect to claims against the State. In any action against the municipality, it is necessary to allege with specificity that the claim was filed and the date it was filed. Obviously the document upon which the City of Rawlins relies in this case fails to satisfy those criteria.

Id., 2001 WY 33, ¶ 17, 20 P.3d at 527.

[¶ 6] The claim at issue in Beaulieu I was an unsigned, undated "Notice of Claim" that "appeared" in the city attorney's office soon after the accident.5 Presently at issue is a second claim, this one having been signed by the Beaulieus' attorney and filed with the Rawlins City Clerk on June 29, 1998. Beaulieu I, 2001 WY 33, ¶ 6, 20 P.3d at 525. This "Governmental Claim," as it was entitled, was not signed by any of the claimants, nor was it certified under penalty of perjury.

[¶ 7] The appellees challenged the second claim by renewing their motion for summary judgment. The renewed motion contended that the second claim failed to satisfy the requirements for a governmental claim found in Wyo. Const. art. 16, § 7, as established by Beaulieu I, and that, therefore, the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. After hearing, the district court granted the motion. Relying on Beaulieu I, the district court concluded that the second claim, not being signed by a claimant and not being certified under penalty of perjury, was invalid. Furthermore, again citing Beaulieu I, the district court held that the proper filing of a claim is a jurisdictional prerequisite to the filing of a complaint.

[¶ 8] The district court was correct. Beaulieu I made it clear that governmental claims must meet the requirements of Wyo. Const. art. 16, § 7, including the requirement that such claims must be signed and certified under penalty of perjury. Beaulieu I, 2001 WY 33, ¶¶ 13-18, 20 P.3d at 526-27. Further, Beaulieu I made it just as clear that the claim "must be signed by the claimant or the charge of perjury could not lie." Id., 2001 WY 33, ¶ 5, 20 P.3d at 527 (emphasis added).

[¶ 9] Central to the district court's disposition of these first two issues was its conclusion that the signature and certification deficiencies in the second claim meant that a proper claim had not been filed with the governmental entity, and that, therefore, the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. We affirm that conclusion and add the following discussion to clarify the law in that regard.

[¶ 10] Many cases have come before this court involving the statutory and constitutional

86 P.3d 867
requirements for making a claim against a governmental entity.6 In resolving the issues raised in those cases, we have created a rule whereby, in order to invoke the jurisdiction of the district court, the complaint must allege the filing of a claim with the governmental entity and it must allege the date of that filing. Amrein v. Wyoming Livestock Bd., 851 P.2d 769, 771 (Wyo.1993); Awe v. University of Wyoming, 534 P.2d 97, 102 (Wyo.1975), overruled on other grounds by Dye by Dye v. Fremont County School Dist. No. 24, 820 P.2d 982, 986 (Wyo.1991).

[¶ 11] Many of our prior cases have dealt with the necessity of alleging such filing and the date of filing under Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 1-39-113 (LexisNexis 2003), or similar statute, as a condition precedent to suit.7 See, for example, Garnett v. Brock, 2 P.3d 558, 561 (Wyo.2000); Routh v. State ex rel. Wyoming Workers' Compensation Div., 952 P.2d 1108, 1117 (Wyo.), cert. denied, 525 U.S. 814, 119 S.Ct. 49, 142 L.Ed.2d 38 (1998); Boyd v. Nation, 909 P.2d 323, 325 (Wyo. 1996); Amrein, 851 P.2d at 771; Dee v. Laramie County, 666 P.2d 957, 959 (Wyo. 1983); and Board of Trustees of University of Wyoming v. Bell, 662 P.2d 410, 414 (Wyo. 1983). However, as early as Utah Const. Co. v. State Highway Commission, 45 Wyo. 403, 19 P.2d 951, 953 (1933), we held that statutes granting the right to sue the state must be construed in consonance with the constitution, and that plaintiffs cannot comply with the constitution by reducing a claim to judgment and then filing that judgment as a claim against the state. The gist of that dual holding is that a claim filed with the governmental entity must meet the constitutional, as well as the statutory, requirements. In Beaulieu I, 2001 WY 33, ¶ 13, 20 P.3d at 526, we reiterated that precept: "It never has been questioned that a claim against the State must comply with the requirements of Wyo. Const. art. 16, § 7." A logical inference from that statement is that, just as in the case of a plaintiff's failure to allege his claim's compliance with statutory requirements, failure to allege his claim's compliance with constitutional requirements results in a lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

[¶ 12] Unfortunately, our precedent on this issue is not consistent. Even in Beaulieu I, 2001 WY 33, ¶ 14, 20 P.3d at 527, where we recognized that governmental claims must meet constitutional requirements, we also noted that this court "has ruled that the execution requirements of art. 16, § 7 can be waived by failing to assert the issue in the trial court...." That suggests that the constitutional requirements are not jurisdictional, because the question of subject matter jurisdiction can be raised at any time and is not waived even if not raised below. Boyd, 909 P.2d at 325 (quoting United Mine Workers of America Local 1972 v. Decker

86 P.3d 868
Coal Co., 774 P.2d 1274, 1283-84 (Wyo.1989)); Nicholaus v. Nicholaus, 756 P.2d 1338, 1342 (Wyo.1988); Bell, 662 P.2d at 415. We have, in fact, previously stated that the constitutional signature and certification requirements, unlike the statutory filing requirements, are not jurisdictional:
The State ... contends that an omission of the correct certification results in a failure of subject matter jurisdiction, and the issue can be raised at any time in the proceeding. We do not agree with this contention. The failure to verify or certify as the constitution now reads is nothing more than
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31 practice notes
  • Bell v. Schell, No. 03-241
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • December 2, 2004
    ...all required information; and (3) based on Martinez v. City of Cheyenne, 791 P.2d 949 (Wyo. 1990), overruled by Beaulieu v. Florquist, 2004 WY 31, 86 P.3d 863 (Wyo. 2004) (Beaulieu II). Clark's failure to certify the initial notice of claim under penalty of perjury was not fatal to the [¶7]......
  • Wooster v. Carbon County School Dist. No. 1, No. 04-146.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • April 14, 2005
    ...2003) be cured by presentment of a non-defective notice of claim after that period has passed?2 3. Is the holding of Beaulieu v. Florquist, 2004 WY 31, ¶ 8, 86 P.3d 863, 866 (Wyo.2004) (Beaulieu II) that governmental claims, when presented, must meet the requirements of Article 16, § 7 of t......
  • Harmon v. Star Valley Med. Ctr., Star Valley Care Ctr., Amy Bort, C. N.A., No. S–13–0208.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • July 16, 2014
    ...although substantive, are not jurisdictional, and that they therefore can be waived. Accordingly, we overrule Beaulieu v. Florquist, 2004 WY 31, ¶ 9, 86 P.3d 863, 866 (Wyo.2004) ( Beaulieu II ); Bell v. Schell, 2004 WY 153, ¶ 34, 101 P.3d 465, 475 (Wyo.2004); and Wooster v. Carbon County Sc......
  • Laughter v. BOARD OF COUNTY COM'RS, No. 04-113.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • April 28, 2005
    ...Schell, 2004 WY 153, ¶ 10, 101 P.3d 465, 468 (Wyo.2004); Yoak v. Ide, 2004 WY 32, ¶ 6, 86 P.3d 872, 874 (Wyo.2004); Beaulieu v. Florquist, 2004 WY 31, ¶ 11, 86 P.3d 863, 867 (Wyo.2004) (Beaulieu II); Beaulieu v. Florquist, 2001 WY 33, ¶ 15, 20 P.3d 521, 527 (Wyo.2001) (Beaulieu I). Specific......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
31 cases
  • Bell v. Schell, No. 03-241
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • December 2, 2004
    ...all required information; and (3) based on Martinez v. City of Cheyenne, 791 P.2d 949 (Wyo. 1990), overruled by Beaulieu v. Florquist, 2004 WY 31, 86 P.3d 863 (Wyo. 2004) (Beaulieu II). Clark's failure to certify the initial notice of claim under penalty of perjury was not fatal to the [¶7]......
  • Wooster v. Carbon County School Dist. No. 1, No. 04-146.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • April 14, 2005
    ...2003) be cured by presentment of a non-defective notice of claim after that period has passed?2 3. Is the holding of Beaulieu v. Florquist, 2004 WY 31, ¶ 8, 86 P.3d 863, 866 (Wyo.2004) (Beaulieu II) that governmental claims, when presented, must meet the requirements of Article 16, § 7 of t......
  • Harmon v. Star Valley Med. Ctr., Star Valley Care Ctr., Amy Bort, C. N.A., No. S–13–0208.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • July 16, 2014
    ...although substantive, are not jurisdictional, and that they therefore can be waived. Accordingly, we overrule Beaulieu v. Florquist, 2004 WY 31, ¶ 9, 86 P.3d 863, 866 (Wyo.2004) ( Beaulieu II ); Bell v. Schell, 2004 WY 153, ¶ 34, 101 P.3d 465, 475 (Wyo.2004); and Wooster v. Carbon County Sc......
  • Laughter v. BOARD OF COUNTY COM'RS, No. 04-113.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • April 28, 2005
    ...Schell, 2004 WY 153, ¶ 10, 101 P.3d 465, 468 (Wyo.2004); Yoak v. Ide, 2004 WY 32, ¶ 6, 86 P.3d 872, 874 (Wyo.2004); Beaulieu v. Florquist, 2004 WY 31, ¶ 11, 86 P.3d 863, 867 (Wyo.2004) (Beaulieu II); Beaulieu v. Florquist, 2001 WY 33, ¶ 15, 20 P.3d 521, 527 (Wyo.2001) (Beaulieu I). Specific......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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