Bryant v. Hornbuckle, No. 86-99

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
Writing for the CourtBefore THOMAS; CARDINE
Citation728 P.2d 1132
PartiesJames Vernon BRYANT, Appellant (Plaintiff), v. Brent HORNBUCKLE, Appellee (Defendant), Amoco Oil Company, a Maryland corporation, (Defendant).
Decision Date10 December 1986
Docket NumberNo. 86-99

Page 1132

728 P.2d 1132
James Vernon BRYANT, Appellant (Plaintiff),
v.
Brent HORNBUCKLE, Appellee (Defendant),
Amoco Oil Company, a Maryland corporation, (Defendant).
No. 86-99.
Supreme Court of Wyoming.
Dec. 10, 1986.

Page 1134

Robert C. Wilson, Casper, for appellant.

John E. Brooks and John I. Henley of Vlastos, Brooks & Henley, and David E. Westling, (argued), Casper, for appellee.

Before THOMAS, C.J., and BROWN, CARDINE, URBIGKIT and MACY, JJ.

CARDINE, Justice.

In this personal injury action appellant James Bryant appeals from an order granting summary judgment in favor of appellee Brent Hornbuckle. The sole issue we must decide is whether the trial court correctly determined that no genuine issue of material fact existed on the question of whether appellee's conduct constituted culpable negligence of a coemployee under § 27-12-103, W.S.1977.

We affirm.

Appellant's claim arises from injuries sustained while operating a water truck for Hornbuckle Contracting. At the time appellant's injuries occurred, Hornbuckle Contracting was engaged in a water hauling job for Amoco Production Company which involved the hauling of fresh water to Amoco's well site and hauling waste production water from the site. Waste production water normally contained some petroleum residues. Appellant drove and operated one of the trucks used to haul the water. The truck was equipped with a pressurized holding tank, air pump, hose, and a valve which could be placed in an open or shut position. If the valve was mistakenly left in the shut position in the wintertime, it could become frozen in that position. When this occurred, the truck operator could free the valve by applying heat with a butane torch. This procedure for thawing frozen valves was widely used in the water hauling industry, and it was a procedure that foreman Brent Hornbuckle instructed his truck operators to follow.

When appellant showed up for work on January 20, 1982, he discovered that the valve on the truck that he was to operate that day was frozen shut. He proceeded to thaw the valve with a butane torch, as he had done some twenty times before without incident. But this time disaster struck. After applying heat for 20 or 30 minutes, appellant opened the valve and the fumes from the tank ignited. An instantaneous

Page 1135

explosion occurred, hurling appellant to the ground and igniting his clothing. He rolled on the ground but in his panic rolled too quickly to put out the flames. Another driver ran to the scene, helped appellant to a snowy area, and jumped on him, smothering the fire with his body.

As a result of the accident appellant sustained severe burns over his upper body, causing scarring and disfigurement and necessitating several skin grafting operations. He also suffered a dislocated shoulder. Appellant filed a worker's compensation claim from which he received $12,000 in temporary benefits, a $12,000 permanent disability award, and payment of medical expenses.

Appellant has now filed suit against Brent Hornbuckle and Amoco, alleging that both parties were negligent in failing to adequately train and supervise him and failing to warn him of the dangers involved in the valve thawing procedure. In order to recover against Brent Hornbuckle and avoid the exclusive remedy provision of the Wyoming Worker's Compensation Act, appellant must demonstrate that Mr. Hornbuckle was a "culpably negligent" coemployee. Section 27-12-103, W.S.1977.

A party seeking summary judgment has the burden of demonstrating that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. O'Donnell v. City of Casper, Wyo., 696 P.2d 1278, 1281 (1985). The purpose of summary judgment is to eliminate formal trials where only questions of law are involved and to pierce the formal allegations and reach the merits of a controversy where no material issue of fact is present. England v. Simmons, Wyo., 728 P.2d 1137 (1986). The standards we use in reviewing a trial court's grant or denial of summary judgment are stated in England v. Simmons, supra:

" 'When reviewing a summary judgment on appeal, we review the judgment in the same light as the district court, using the same information. * * * Upon examination of a summary judgment, we view the record from the vantage point most favorable to the party opposing the motion, giving him all favorable inferences which may be drawn from the facts.' " (Citations omitted.) at 1141, quoting Garner v. Hickman, Wyo., 709 P.2d 407, 410 (1985).

In support of his motion, Mr. Hornbuckle filed an affidavit in which he stated that the butane torch method for...

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34 practice notes
  • Wilder v. Cody Country Chamber of Commerce, No. 93-22
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • January 25, 1994
    ...56(c). Summary judgment serves the purpose of eliminating formal trials where only questions of law are involved. Bryant v. Hornbuckle, 728 P.2d 1132, 1135 (Wyo.1986). Summary judgment is inappropriate to resolve factual disputes, so the court does not weigh disputed evidence. Cordova v. Go......
  • Mariano & Associates, P.C. v. Board of County Com'rs of Sublette County, No. 86-206
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • May 14, 1987
    ...entitled to summary judgment. See Western Utility Contractors v. City of Casper, Wyo., 731 P.2d 24 (1986); Bryant v. Hornbuckle, Wyo., 728 P.2d 1132 Affirmed. --------------- 1 Politics and oil company influence might be perceived in the audit rejection. It was not until approximately 50 ye......
  • Miller v. State, No. 86-130
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • February 13, 1987
    ...requisite reliance existed in the facts of this case for the complainant to bring this criminal proceeding. Bryant v. Hornbuckle, Wyo., 728 P.2d 1132 (1986); Fitzgerald v. State, supra. F. Intent to defraud: The final and dispositive criminal-conviction requirement is intent to defraud. Thi......
  • Brebaugh v. Hales, No. 89-67
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • March 15, 1990
    ...intent to harm the worker or that the supervisor's actions had a high probability of causing harm to him. In Bryant v. Hornbuckle, 728 P.2d 1132 (Wyo.1986), the driver of a truck hauling waste production water containing some petroleum residues was injured in an explosion caused when he use......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
34 cases
  • Wilder v. Cody Country Chamber of Commerce, No. 93-22
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • January 25, 1994
    ...56(c). Summary judgment serves the purpose of eliminating formal trials where only questions of law are involved. Bryant v. Hornbuckle, 728 P.2d 1132, 1135 (Wyo.1986). Summary judgment is inappropriate to resolve factual disputes, so the court does not weigh disputed evidence. Cordova v. Go......
  • Mariano & Associates, P.C. v. Board of County Com'rs of Sublette County, No. 86-206
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • May 14, 1987
    ...entitled to summary judgment. See Western Utility Contractors v. City of Casper, Wyo., 731 P.2d 24 (1986); Bryant v. Hornbuckle, Wyo., 728 P.2d 1132 Affirmed. --------------- 1 Politics and oil company influence might be perceived in the audit rejection. It was not until approximately 50 ye......
  • Miller v. State, No. 86-130
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • February 13, 1987
    ...requisite reliance existed in the facts of this case for the complainant to bring this criminal proceeding. Bryant v. Hornbuckle, Wyo., 728 P.2d 1132 (1986); Fitzgerald v. State, supra. F. Intent to defraud: The final and dispositive criminal-conviction requirement is intent to defraud. Thi......
  • Brebaugh v. Hales, No. 89-67
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • March 15, 1990
    ...intent to harm the worker or that the supervisor's actions had a high probability of causing harm to him. In Bryant v. Hornbuckle, 728 P.2d 1132 (Wyo.1986), the driver of a truck hauling waste production water containing some petroleum residues was injured in an explosion caused when he use......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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