Davis v. Board of County Com'rs of Carbon County, s. 4024

Decision Date21 March 1972
Docket NumberNos. 4024,4025,s. 4024
Citation495 P.2d 21
PartiesMargaret E. DAVIS, Appellant (Plaintiff below), v. BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF the COUNTY OF CARBON, Appellee (Defendant below), Olson Enterprises, Inc., and Torginol of America, Inc., a subsidiary of Torginol Industries, Inc. (Defendants below). OLSON ENTERPRISES, INC., and Torginol of America, Inc., a subsidiary of Torginol Industries, Inc., Appellants (Defendants below), v. BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF the COUNTY OF CARBON, Appellee (Defendant below), Margaret E. Davis (Plaintiff below).
CourtWyoming Supreme Court

McClintock, Mai, Urbigkit & Moriarity, Edward P. Moriarity, Walter C. Urbigkit, Jr., Cheyenne, for appellant Davis.

John A. MacPherson and T. Michael Golden, of Brimmer & MacPherson, Rawlins, for appellants Olson and Torginol.

William S. Bon, Casper, for appellee.

Before McINTYRE, C. J., and PARKER, McEWAN, and GUTHRIE, JJ.

Mr. Justice PARKER delivered the opinion of the court.

Margaret E. Davis sued Olson Enterprises, Inc., for $75,000, alleging that on January 2, 1970, she was entering a public building, owned by it and rented for public purposes on a long term lease, and that she had fallen because of the slick condition of the front doorway-sidewalk area, negligently built, constructed, created, and maintained by it. She later, after Olson had by motion asserted a lease on the property to the County of Carbon, amended her complaint to include the county as a third-party defendant. Olson answered, setting up plaintiff's negligence and assumption of the risk, and also filed a third-party complaint alleging that it had leased the property to the county, which under the terms of the lease had agreed to indemnify and hold the lessor free and harmless from any and all claims or demands for damage to property or injury to persons as a result of the use and occupation of the demised premises by virtue of which it prayed that plaintiff's complaint against it be dismissed and that if the complaint be found valid against Olson that it have judgment for reimbursement from the county. Still later, upon plaintiff's motion and amended complaint Torginol of America, Inc., the producer of the substance with which the front area had been covered, was brought in as a defendant. After various depositions had been taken defendant county moved for summary judgment and upon hearing the court granted the motion as against the plaintiff, and against Olson and Torginol on their cross-claims, rendering summary judgment for the county and finding there was no just reason for delay. An appeal by the plaintiff as well as by Olson and Torginol has resulted, the question before us being the propriety of the judgment, which in effect held the county not liable.

Plaintiff here argues that the doctrine of governmental immunity is anachronistic, outmoded, and a court-created defense, which is inequitable and should be abrogated by court pronouncement. Additionally she contends that in any event the doctrine is not applicable to the present situation because the county was engaged in a proprietary function; had a statutory duty to keep the building in repair; had waived any governmental immunity within the limits of the liability insurance it had procured; failed to properly maintain the walk and created a nuisance; and further, the county was liable on the contract with Olson. Olson and Torginol also argue there is no valid reason for recognizing and giving effect to the rule of governmental immunity and further insist the county must be bound to uphold the terms and conditions of the lease agreement.

Governmental Immunity

The primary argument as to the inapplicability of governmental immunity under the present state of the law in this jurisdiction 1 merits no extended discussion in a situation such as the one before us since we have often addressed ourselves to the problem and see no reason for reviewing our position. One recent statement in Lutheran Hospitals and Homes Society of America v. Yepsen, Wyo., 469 P.2d 409, 410, should suffice:

'We have had occasion several times lately to say we are aware of the inequities which often arise by reason of the rule of governmental immunity; that such inequities tend to be more numerous with increasing governmental activities; but that any change in the rule must be effected by the legislature rather than the courts. (Citing authorities.) * * *'

It may be noted in passing that in the present case at oral argument when queried about the relative duties of the court and the legislature concerning the doctrine counsel responded that an effort had been made at the recent session by those interested to have the legislature change the law to eliminate governmental immunity but had not been successful and hence the courts should undertake the task. We think this circumstance rather than being a cause for us to issue a ukase abrogating the doctrine presents an additional reason why the people in the State, acting through their elected representatives, should be the ones to make the determination. In that connection it may be well to mention that the doctrine in Wyoming is not court created. It was adopted by statute (§ 8-17, W.S.1957) as we explained with particularity in Maffei v. Incorporated Town of Kemmerer, 80 Wyo. 33, 338 P.2d 808, 80 Wyo. 61, 340 P.2d 759; and our conclusion there is as applicable now as then, 338 P.2d at 816:

'We can agree that a rule of law which is merely the product of judicial decision, born of the necessities of particular circumstances, is subject to judicial repudiation when the reasons which gave rise to its judicial adoption have failed or no longer exist. We do not, however, agree that an ancient doctrine firmly imbedded in that great body of Anglo-Saxon law which we inclusively refer to as the 'Common Law', and which became that law through early usage and custom, can be judicially abrogated any more than courts are authorized to abolish statutory law because in their opinion the reason for the legislative enactment no longer justified the continuance of the law. * * *'

This court cannot properly and will not interest itself in attempting to alter except by essential interpretation matters which have been passed upon by the legislature. 2

We direct our attention then to the remaining questions presented by the appeals, all of which are peripheral and more or less dependent upon the principal issue just discussed.

Proprietary Function of County

Turning to the assertion that the leasing and maintenance of the building constituted a proprietary as distinguished from a governmental function and at least a determination as to the maintenance aspect was a question for the trier of fact, we observe that the Wyoming cases cited are not persuasive, 3 and we are aware of no...

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4 cases
  • White v. State
    • United States
    • Wyoming Supreme Court
    • 19 Diciembre 1989
    ...at the point of near solitary regression. Compare Jivelekas v. City of Worland, 546 P.2d 419 (Wyo.1976); Davis v. Board of County Com'rs of Carbon County, 495 P.2d 21 (1972), overruled sub nom. Collins v. Memorial Hospital of Sheridan County, 521 P.2d 1339 (Wyo.1974); Maffei v. Incorporated......
  • Jivelekas v. City of Worland
    • United States
    • Wyoming Supreme Court
    • 2 Febrero 1976
    ...accomplish the rejection of the doctrine of sovereign immunity we must contemplate our holding in Maffei, as reinforced by Davis v. Board of County Comm'rs, supra. 19 We must determine whether we are possessed of the jurisdiction to abrogate the doctrine. In Maffei this court held that it d......
  • Collins v. Memorial Hospital of Sheridan County
    • United States
    • Wyoming Supreme Court
    • 15 Mayo 1974
    ...of Maffei v. Incorporated Town of Kemmerer, 80 Wyo. 33, 338 P.2d 808, rehearing denied 340 P.2d 759, and Davis v. Board of County Commissioners of County of Carbon, Wyo., 495 P.2d 21. From the framework and factual situation of this case, when it is carefully viewed, the result is apparent ......
  • Awe v. University of Wyoming
    • United States
    • Wyoming Supreme Court
    • 17 Marzo 1975
    ...occasions refused tort recovery in the presence of insurance, the act of procurement being ultra vires. Davis v. Board of County Commissioners of Carbon County, Wyo.1972, 495 P.2d 21; Maffei v. Incorporated Town of Kemmerer, 1959, 80 Wyo. 33, 338 P.2d 808, reh.den. 340 P.2d 759; Price v. St......

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