Halliburton Energy Services, Inc. v. Gunter, No. 06-205.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
Writing for the CourtVoigt
Citation2007 WY 151,167 P.3d 645
PartiesHALLIBURTON ENERGY SERVICES, INC., Appellant (Defendant), v. Retha GUNTER, a personal representative of the estate of James Albert Bates, Appellee (Plaintiff). In the Matter of the Estate of James Albert Bates, Deceased: Halliburton Energy Services, Inc., Appellant (Intervenor), v. Retha C. Gunter, personal representative of the estate of James Albert Bates, Appellee (Plaintiff).
Decision Date20 September 2007
Docket NumberNo. S-07-0076.,No. 06-205.
167 P.3d 645
2007 WY 151
HALLIBURTON ENERGY SERVICES, INC., Appellant (Defendant),
v.
Retha GUNTER, a personal representative of the estate of James Albert Bates, Appellee (Plaintiff).
In the Matter of the Estate of James Albert Bates, Deceased:
Halliburton Energy Services, Inc., Appellant (Intervenor),
v.
Retha C. Gunter, personal representative of the estate of James Albert Bates, Appellee (Plaintiff).
No. 06-205.
No. S-07-0076.
Supreme Court of Wyoming.
September 20, 2007.

[167 P.3d 647]

Representing Appellant: Roger E. Shumate and James C. Worthen of Murane & Bostwick, LLC, Casper, Wyoming. Argument in Case No. 06-205 by Mr. Shumate.

Representing Appellee: Kent W. Spence and M. Kristeen Hand of The Spence Law Firm, LLC, Jackson, Wyoming. Argument in Case No. 06-205 by Mr. Spence.

Before VOIGT, C.J., and GOLDEN, HILL, and BURKE, JJ., and PRICE, D.J.

VOIGT, Chief Justice.


[¶ 1] The underlying question in these related cases is whether the personal representative appointed to pursue a civil wrongful death action under Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 1-38-102(a) (LexisNexis 2007) must be a resident of the State of Wyoming, as is required for intestate estate administrators under the probate code, Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 2-4-201(c) (LexisNexis 2007). We decline to answer that question because the probate court did not err in denying a wrongful death action defendant's motion to intervene in the probate for the purpose of challenging appointment of the personal representative, and because that wrongful death action defendant likewise does not have standing to challenge that appointment in the wrongful death action, itself.

FACTS

[¶ 2] James Bates was fatally injured in an oil rig accident in Lincoln County, Wyoming, on December 23, 2003. His brother, Kenneth Bates, was appointed by the probate court on April 13, 2005, as administrator of his intestate estate. Subsequently, the decedent's sister, Retha Gunter, was appointed as substitute administrator for the specific purpose of pursuing a wrongful death action. Gunter is not a resident of the State of Wyoming.

[¶ 3] Gunter has filed two wrongful death actions: one in the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming, and one in the District Court of Lincoln County. Halliburton is one of several named defendants in both actions. The present controversy has reached this Court via two separate routes. Halliburton filed a motion to intervene in the probate action for the purpose of seeking a declaratory judgment in regard to application of the residency requirement for probate estate administrators to wrongful death action personal representatives. That motion was denied, and has been appealed. In the federal court wrongful death action, the same question has been certified to this Court by the Federal District Court.1

167 P.3d 648
DISCUSSION

Intervention

[¶ 4] "Intervention" is the process by which a non-party becomes a party to a lawsuit, either as an additional plaintiff or an additional defendant. Black's Law Dictionary 840 (8th ed.2004). In Wyoming, the right of intervention is governed by W.R.C.P. 24, which reads in pertinent part as follows:

(a) Intervention of right. — Upon timely application anyone shall be permitted to intervene in an action:

(1) When a statute confers an unconditional right to intervene; or

(2) When the applicant claims an interest relating to the property or transaction which is the subject of the action and the applicant is so situated that the disposition of the action may as a practical matter impair or impede the applicant's ability to protect that interest, unless the applicant's interest is adequately represented by existing parties.

(b) Permissive intervention. — Upon timely application anyone may be permitted to intervene in an action:

(1) When a statute confers a conditional right to intervene; or

(2) When an applicant's claim or defense and the main action have a question of law or fact in common. . . .

. . . .

[¶ 5] We described our standard for the review of the denial of a motion to intervene of right in Masinter v. Markstein, 2002 WY 64, ¶ 7, 45 P.3d 237, 240-41 (Wyo.2002) (quoting State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Colley, 871 P.2d 191, 194 (Wyo.1994) (citations omitted)):

Questions of law and judicial discretion are presented by the denial of a motion to intervene. This court accords no deference to a district court's decisions on issues of law. Therefore, if the district court erroneously denied intervention as of right under the first, second or third conditions of W.R.C.P. 24(a)(2), we will reverse. However, the determination of the timeliness of an application to intervene is a matter within the discretion of the district court. The district court is permitted to weigh the timeliness of an application to intervene in light of the circumstances of the particular case, including whether the applicant may have sought intervention earlier. Therefore, to prevail on an appeal from a finding that an application to intervene is untimely, an abuse of discretion must be demonstrated.

[¶ 6] "An applicant who fails to meet any of [the conditions of W.R.C.P. 24(a)(2)] is not permitted to intervene as of right. . . ." State Farm v. Colley, 871 P.2d at 194. In that regard, intervention of right is not available to a non-party whose interest in the litigation, rather than being a "significantly protectable interest," is merely "contingent," or reflects no more than a "concern" in the outcome. Id.; Platte County Sch. Dist. No. 1 v. Basin Elec. Power Coop., 638 P.2d 1276, 1279 (Wyo.1982).

[¶ 7] The district court relied upon the reasoning of Murg v. Barnsdall Nursing Home, 2005 OK 73, 123 P.3d 21 (Okla.2005), in concluding that Halliburton was not entitled to intervene of right in the probate action. The court in Murg held that the nursing home...

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22 practice notes
  • Skaf v. Wyo. Cardiopulmonary Servs., P.C., S-20-0266
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • September 27, 2021
    ...harm from the action[. A] remote possibility of injury is not sufficient to confer standing." Halliburton Energy Servs., Inc. v. Gunter , 2007 WY 151, ¶ 11, 167 P.3d 645, 649 (Wyo. 2007) (quoting Sinclair Oil Corp. v. Wyoming Pub. Serv. Comm'n , 2003 WY 22, ¶ 13, 63 P.3d 887, 894–95 (Wyo. 2......
  • Skaf v. Wyo. Cardiopulmonary Servs., S-20-0266
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • September 27, 2021
    ...harm from the action[. A] remote possibility of injury is not sufficient to confer standing." Halliburton Energy Servs., Inc. v. Gunter, 2007 WY 151, ¶ 11, 167 P.3d 645, 649 (Wyo. 2007) (quoting Sinclair Oil Corp. v. Wyoming Pub. Serv. Comm'n, 2003 WY 22, ¶ 13, 63 P.3d 887, 894-95 (Wyo. 200......
  • Operation Save Am. v. City of Jackson, Mun. Corp., No. S–11–0149.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • April 10, 2012
    ...Dev. v. Park Cty. Bd. of Cty. Comm'rs, 2008 WY 88, ¶ 6, 189 P.3d 260, 262 (Wyo.2008) (quoting Halliburton Energy Services, Inc. v. Gunter, 2007 WY 151, ¶ 10, 167 P.3d 645, 649 (Wyo.2007) ) ("The existence of standing is a legal issue that we review de novo. "). [¶ 17] Constitutional challen......
  • Ultra Res. Inc. A Wyo. Corp. v. Doyle, No. S-08-0258
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • March 23, 2010
    ...standing. Sinclair Oil Corp. v. Wyo. PSC, 2003 WY 22, ¶ 13, 63 P.3d 887, 894-95 (Wyo.2003). Halliburton Energy Serv., Inc. v. Gunter, 2007 WY 151, ¶ 11, 167 P.3d 645, 649 (Wyo.2007). Standing is a jurisdictional issue, involving a question of law that may be raised at any time, and is revie......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
22 cases
  • Skaf v. Wyo. Cardiopulmonary Servs., P.C., S-20-0266
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • September 27, 2021
    ...harm from the action[. A] remote possibility of injury is not sufficient to confer standing." Halliburton Energy Servs., Inc. v. Gunter , 2007 WY 151, ¶ 11, 167 P.3d 645, 649 (Wyo. 2007) (quoting Sinclair Oil Corp. v. Wyoming Pub. Serv. Comm'n , 2003 WY 22, ¶ 13, 63 P.3d 887, 894–95 (Wyo. 2......
  • Skaf v. Wyo. Cardiopulmonary Servs., S-20-0266
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • September 27, 2021
    ...harm from the action[. A] remote possibility of injury is not sufficient to confer standing." Halliburton Energy Servs., Inc. v. Gunter, 2007 WY 151, ¶ 11, 167 P.3d 645, 649 (Wyo. 2007) (quoting Sinclair Oil Corp. v. Wyoming Pub. Serv. Comm'n, 2003 WY 22, ¶ 13, 63 P.3d 887, 894-95 (Wyo. 200......
  • Operation Save Am. v. City of Jackson, Mun. Corp., No. S–11–0149.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • April 10, 2012
    ...Dev. v. Park Cty. Bd. of Cty. Comm'rs, 2008 WY 88, ¶ 6, 189 P.3d 260, 262 (Wyo.2008) (quoting Halliburton Energy Services, Inc. v. Gunter, 2007 WY 151, ¶ 10, 167 P.3d 645, 649 (Wyo.2007) ) ("The existence of standing is a legal issue that we review de novo. "). [¶ 17] Constitutional challen......
  • Ultra Res. Inc. A Wyo. Corp. v. Doyle, No. S-08-0258
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • March 23, 2010
    ...standing. Sinclair Oil Corp. v. Wyo. PSC, 2003 WY 22, ¶ 13, 63 P.3d 887, 894-95 (Wyo.2003). Halliburton Energy Serv., Inc. v. Gunter, 2007 WY 151, ¶ 11, 167 P.3d 645, 649 (Wyo.2007). Standing is a jurisdictional issue, involving a question of law that may be raised at any time, and is revie......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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