Halpern v. Wheeldon, No. 94-147

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
Writing for the CourtBefore GOLDEN; MACY
Citation890 P.2d 562
PartiesMarc HALPERN, Appellant (Plaintiff), v. Chancy WHEELDON and Kim Wheeldon, d/b/a Mill Iron Ranch, Appellees (Defendants).
Decision Date24 February 1995
Docket NumberNo. 94-147

Page 562

890 P.2d 562
Marc HALPERN, Appellant (Plaintiff),
v.
Chancy WHEELDON and Kim Wheeldon, d/b/a Mill Iron Ranch, Appellees (Defendants).
No. 94-147.
Supreme Court of Wyoming.
Feb. 24, 1995.

Page 563

Robert B. Ranck of Ranck & Schwartz, Jackson, and Timothy W. Miller, Casper, Wyoming, for appellant.

Richard J. Mulligan, Jackson, for appellees.

Before GOLDEN, C.J., and THOMAS, MACY, TAYLOR and LEHMAN, JJ.

MACY, Justice.

Appellant Marc Halpern appeals from the district court's order which granted a summary judgment in favor of Appellees Chancy Wheeldon and Kim Wheeldon, who were doing business as the Mill Iron Ranch.

We reverse and remand.

Issues

Mr. Halpern presents these issues for our review:

1. Whether appellees owed a duty of reasonable care to appellant.

2. Whether being thrown while attempting to mount an oversized horse without a mounting block or proper assistance is an intrinsic risk of horseback riding that cannot reasonably be eliminated, altered or controlled.

3. Whether it was improper and erroneous for the district court to find that no dangerous condition was created by appellees.

Facts

Mr. Halpern and his family were vacationing in Teton County in May 1991. The Halperns contacted the Wheeldons to make arrangements for Mr. Halpern and his daughter to go horseback riding at the Wheeldons' ranch. The Wheeldons were involved in the business of renting horses and taking people on horseback rides for hire. Mrs. Halpern informed Mrs. Wheeldon that Mr. Halpern and his daughter had very little experience with horses. Mrs. Wheeldon assured Mrs. Halpern that the horses were docile and safe.

After the Halpern family had arrived at the ranch, Mr. Wheeldon and a ranch employee provided horses for Mr. Halpern and his daughter to ride. The ranch employee held the reins for Mr. Halpern while he

Page 564

attempted to mount his horse. When Mr. Halpern had difficulty mounting the horse, Mr. Wheeldon helped him by lifting him up onto the horse's back. The horse started to circle and back up, and eventually it began to buck. The horse pulled the reins away from the ranch employee and threw Mr. Halpern to the ground. Mr. Halpern's left ankle was severely broken as a result of the fall.

Mr. Halpern filed a lawsuit against the Wheeldons, alleging that the Wheeldons had been negligent by: (1) selecting a horse for him which was not docile, safe, or appropriate; (2) failing to secure the horse while he mounted; (3) failing to assist him while he was attempting to mount the horse; and (4) failing to warn him about the horse's erratic behavior. The Wheeldons filed a motion for a summary judgment. After considering the parties' arguments, the district court granted the Wheeldons' motion, and this appeal followed.

Discussion

"Summary judgment is appropriate when no genuine issue of material fact exists and when the prevailing party is entitled to have a judgment as a matter of law." Sandstrom v. Sandstrom, 884 P.2d 968, 971 (Wyo.1994). "A grant of summary judgment is reviewed from the viewpoint favorable to the party opposing the judgment. We accord no deference to the district court's decisions on issues of law." Smith, Keller & Associates v. Dorr & Associates, 875 P.2d 1258, 1264 (Wyo.1994) (citation omitted).

The district court stated that the Wheeldons were insulated from liability in this case pursuant to the Recreation Safety Act (the Act), WYO.STAT. §§ 1-1-121 to -123 (Supp.1992), 1 and granted a summary judgment in their favor. The district court specifically found: "Getting thrown off or falling from a horse is an inherent risk in riding any horse. The risk is therefore intrinsic to the sport and one which cannot be reasonably altered, eliminated or controlled." Mr. Halpern argues that the Act did not apply in this case because his injury did not result from a risk which is inherent to the sport of horseback riding. We agree that the district court misapplied the Act and, therefore, erred by granting a summary judgment in favor of the Wheeldons. 2

Section 1-1-123 of the Act provides:

(a) Any person who takes part in any sport or recreational opportunity assumes the inherent risk of injury and all legal responsibility for damage, injury or death to himself or other persons or property that results from the inherent risks in that sport or recreational opportunity.

(b) A provider of any sport or recreational opportunity is not required to eliminate, alter or control the inherent risks within the particular sport or recreational opportunity.

(c) Actions based upon negligence of the provider not caused by an inherent risk of the sport or recreational opportunity shall be preserved pursuant to W.S. 1-1-109 [the comparative negligence statute].

"Provider" is defined as being "any person or governmental entity which for profit or otherwise, offers or conducts a sport or recreational opportunity." Section 1-1-122(a)(ii). The statutory definition of "sport or recreational opportunity" includes dude ranching and horseback riding. Section 1-1-122(a)(iii). Section 1-1-122(a)(i) defines "inherent risk" as being "any risk that is characteristic of or intrinsic to any sport or recreational opportunity and which cannot reasonably be eliminated, altered or controlled."

This Court has never interpreted the provisions of the Act. Under our well-established rules of statutory construction, we "endeavor to interpret statutes in...

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52 practice notes
  • Estate of Harshman v. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, No. 01-CV-0100-B.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of Wyoming
    • April 29, 2002
    ...that the defendant owed him or her a duty of care." Cooperman v. David, 214 F.3d 1162, 1165 (10th Cir.2000); (quoting Halpern v. Wheeldon, 890 P.2d 562, 565 (Wyo. 1995)). Whether the Defendant in Page 1343 present case owed the Decedent a duty of care depends on whether, under the specific ......
  • Huff v. Shumate, No. 02-CV-1047-D.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of Wyoming
    • September 30, 2004
    ...the application of comparative negligence by limiting the duty which a provider owes to a participant. See also Halpern v. Wheeldon, 890 P.2d 562...
  • Moses Inc. v. Moses, S-21-0170
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • May 5, 2022
    ...for any harm suffered." Lucero v. Holbrook , 2012 WY 152, ¶ 7, 288 P.3d 1228, 1232 (Wyo. 2012) (citing 509 P.3d 351 Halpern v. Wheeldon , 890 P.2d 562, 565 (Wyo. 1995) ). [¶14] Whether a duty exists is a question of law. Cornella , 2022 WY 9, ¶ 26, 502 P.3d at 387 (citing Burns v. Sam , 202......
  • Moses Inc. v. Moses, S-21-0170
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • May 5, 2022
    ...responsibility for any harm suffered." Lucero v. Holbrook, 2012 WY 152, ¶ 7, 288 P.3d 1228, 1232 (Wyo. 2012) (citing Halpern v. Wheeldon, 890 P.2d 562, 565 (Wyo. 1995)). [¶14] Whether a duty exists is a question of law. Cornella, 2022 WY 9, ¶ 26, 502 P.3d at 387 (citing Burns v. Sam, 2021 W......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
52 cases
  • Estate of Harshman v. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, No. 01-CV-0100-B.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of Wyoming
    • April 29, 2002
    ...that the defendant owed him or her a duty of care." Cooperman v. David, 214 F.3d 1162, 1165 (10th Cir.2000); (quoting Halpern v. Wheeldon, 890 P.2d 562, 565 (Wyo. 1995)). Whether the Defendant in Page 1343 present case owed the Decedent a duty of care depends on whether, under the specific ......
  • Huff v. Shumate, No. 02-CV-1047-D.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of Wyoming
    • September 30, 2004
    ...the application of comparative negligence by limiting the duty which a provider owes to a participant. See also Halpern v. Wheeldon, 890 P.2d 562...
  • Moses Inc. v. Moses, S-21-0170
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • May 5, 2022
    ...for any harm suffered." Lucero v. Holbrook , 2012 WY 152, ¶ 7, 288 P.3d 1228, 1232 (Wyo. 2012) (citing 509 P.3d 351 Halpern v. Wheeldon , 890 P.2d 562, 565 (Wyo. 1995) ). [¶14] Whether a duty exists is a question of law. Cornella , 2022 WY 9, ¶ 26, 502 P.3d at 387 (citing Burns v. Sam , 202......
  • Moses Inc. v. Moses, S-21-0170
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • May 5, 2022
    ...responsibility for any harm suffered." Lucero v. Holbrook, 2012 WY 152, ¶ 7, 288 P.3d 1228, 1232 (Wyo. 2012) (citing Halpern v. Wheeldon, 890 P.2d 562, 565 (Wyo. 1995)). [¶14] Whether a duty exists is a question of law. Cornella, 2022 WY 9, ¶ 26, 502 P.3d at 387 (citing Burns v. Sam, 2021 W......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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