Matthews v. Wyoming Dept. of Agriculture, No. 85-7

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
Writing for the CourtBefore THOMAS; CARDINE; THOMAS; ROONEY, Justice, concurring in part and dissenting in part, with whom THOMAS
Citation719 P.2d 216
PartiesJames MATTHEWS doing business as Upton Processing, and James Matthews doing business as Newcastle Pack, Appellant (Plaintiff), v. WYOMING DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, John Orton as Commissioner, Robert E. Fetzner, individually and as Director, and Douglas Krogman, individually and as Inspector, Appellees (Defendants).
Decision Date16 May 1986
Docket NumberNo. 85-7

Page 216

719 P.2d 216
James MATTHEWS doing business as Upton Processing, and James Matthews doing business as Newcastle Pack, Appellant (Plaintiff),
v.
WYOMING DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, John Orton as Commissioner, Robert E. Fetzner, individually and as Director, and Douglas Krogman, individually and as Inspector, Appellees (Defendants).
No. 85-7.
Supreme Court of Wyoming.
May 16, 1986. *

Page 218

Gordon W. Schukei, Cheyenne, for appellant.

Steven R. Czoschke of Sheehan, Stevens & Sansonetti, Gillette, for appellees.

Before THOMAS, C.J., and ROSE, ** ROONEY, *** BROWN and CARDINE, JJ.

CARDINE, Justice.

James Matthews appeals from a summary judgment order issued by the district court in favor of the Wyoming Department of Agriculture and three of its employees. The district court held that the Wyoming Governmental Claims Act, §§ 1-39-101 through 1-39-119, W.S.1977, Cum.Supp.1985, barred all of Matthews' claims for damages. We affirm in part and reverse in part.

FACTS

Appellant Matthews operates a commercial meat processing plant in Upton, Wyoming under a state license which subjects him to regulation by the Wyoming Department of Agriculture. Sections 35-7-701 through 35-7-710, W.S.1977, Cum.Supp.1985 (Wyoming Wholesome Meat Act of 1969). On July 25, 1984, appellant initiated this action against the department; its commissioner, John Orton; the administrator of the state meat inspection program, Robert Fetzner; and a meat inspector, Douglas Krogman. Orton was named in his official capacity while Fetzner and Krogman were sued in both their official and individual capacities. Appellant sought to enjoin all the appellees from restricting the use of his cooling facilities and animal holding pens, and from otherwise interfering with his operations. He also sought compensatory and punitive damages for loss of business.

On November 13, 1984, appellees filed a joint summary judgment motion supported by a memorandum and affidavits. The motion was limited to the action for damages and relied upon § 1-39-104(a), W.S.1977, Cum.Supp.1985, which states in part:

"A governmental entity and its public employees while acting within the scope of duties are granted immunity from liability for any tort except as provided by W.S. 1-39-105 through 1-39-112."

Appellees also discussed § 1-39-112, the law enforcement exception, which states:

"A governmental entity is liable for damages resulting from tortious conduct of law enforcement officers while acting within the scope of their duties."

Appellees argued that they enjoyed governmental immunity because they were public employees of a governmental entity and because none of the exceptions to § 1-39-104(a), including the law enforcement exception, applied. In their affidavits, appellees Orton, Fetzner and Krogman outlined their official duties, emphasizing that none of those duties involved law enforcement. But neither Fetzner nor Krogman, who were sued in their individual capacities, stated whether they were acting within the scope of their official duties when the alleged tortious acts took place. The only evidence involving the actions of Fetzner and Krogman appears in transcripts they gave at a hearing on a motion to dismiss and a hearing on appellant's preliminary injunction claim. Although these transcripts have been included in the record on appeal, they were not attached to appellees' summary judgment motion or otherwise available to the district court. Appellees never mentioned the prior hearings in their summary judgment motion or brief accompanying that motion. If the district court based its summary judgment on the testimony contained in the transcripts, the court did so purely from memory.

Page 219

The district court granted injunctive relief to appellant but also granted summary judgment to all appellees on all of appellant's damage suits. Appellant has raised the propriety of the summary judgment on appeal.

IMMUNITY UNDER THE GOVERNMENTAL CLAIMS ACT

Appellant has sued all the appellees, including the department, in their official capacities. A person acting in an official capacity is, by definition, acting within the scope of his duties. Therefore, the exception in § 1-39-104(a) which permits suit against governmental employees who act outside the scope of their duties cannot apply to these "official capacity" claims. The basic immunity language of § 1-39-104(a), supra, bars appellant's "official capacity" claims unless one of the other statutory exceptions to immunity applies.

The only exception that could arguably apply is the law enforcement exception, § 1-39-112, supra. Factually there is no genuine issue concerning the law enforcement aspects of appellees' duties. Appellees Orton, Fetzner and Krogman all submitted uncontradicted affidavits detailing their official duties. Commissioner Orton's affidavit is typical:

"5. I do not have the power under the Wyoming Statutes dealing with the Act, nor is it my duty under those statutes to hold in custody any person accused of a criminal offense or of a violation of the Act, or to arrest any person charged with committing a crime or a violation of the Act, nor is it one of my duties nor within my authority to maintain public order or to carry a weapon in the performance of my duties under the Act.

"6. That the Attorney General or the county and prosecuting attorney where the violation occurred has the responsibility pursuant to Wyoming Statute § 35-7-709 to charge persons with violations of the Act and to initiate criminal action under the Act."

Because the department can act only through its employees and because the department's liability in this case derives solely from the acts of the three individual appellees, there was no need for the department to submit additional affidavits detailing the law enforcement powers of the department as a whole. 1 The only official duties relevant to the department's liability in this case are the duties of the three individual appellees which were fully covered by their affidavits.

Once the appellees established their official duties as a matter of fact, they were entitled to summary judgment if, as a matter of law, those duties did not make them law enforcement officers. We recently interpreted the term "law enforcement officers," for purposes of § 1-39-112 to mean only those public officials charged with traditional peace-keeping duties. Hurst v. State, Wyo., 698 P.2d 1130, 1134 (1985).

It is clear from appellees' affidavits that they are not charged with traditional peace-keeping duties and are not law enforcement officers. They have no power to maintain public order, to carry a weapon, or to hold or arrest persons accused of violating the act. Criminal enforcement of the act is delegated entirely to either the attorney general or the county or prosecuting attorney where a violation occurs. The law enforcement exception of § 1-39-112 does not apply to appellees. The portion of appellant's suit claiming damages against appellees in their official capacities is barred by § 1-39-104(a). The district court

Page 220

properly granted summary judgment in favor of all appellees, including the department, to the extent they were sued in their official capacities.

CONDUCT BY FETZNER AND KROGMAN OUTSIDE THEIR OFFICIAL DUTIES

In a summary judgment proceeding, the movant has " 'a definite burden to clearly demonstrate there is no genuine issue of material fact * * *.' " Hickey v. Burnett, Wyo., 707 P.2d 741, 744 (1985), quoting Kover v. Hufsmith, Wyo., 496 P.2d 908, 910 (1972).

"A material fact is one which, if proved, would have the effect of establishing or refuting one of the essential elements of the cause of action or defense asserted by the parties." Colorado National Bank v. Miles, Wyo., 711 P.2d 390, 393 (1985).

Until the movant has established that there is no issue of material fact requiring a trial, the non-moving party has no obligation to support his pleadings with affidavits or other evidence. O'Donnell v. City of Casper, Wyo., 696 P.2d 1278, 1287 (1985).

Appellant sued appellees Fetzner and Krogman in their individual as well as official capacities. He alleged in his complaint that they committed wrongful acts outside the scope of their authority as public employees:

"12. The defendant Robert E. Fetzner has falsely, maliciously and without any legal or statutory basis or authority and in excess of and beyond the scope of his employment, accused plaintiff of committing criminal acts.

* * *

* * *

"14. The defendant Douglas Krogman and Defendant Robert E. Fetzner have subjected the plaintiff James Matthews to a continuing pattern of harassment in plaintiff's daily operations and use of plaintiff's facilities and further said defendants have unfairly, arbitrarily and capriciously and maliciously applied standards, without any legal or statutory basis or authority, on plaintiff's operations and facilities."

The Governmental Claims Act bars suit against governmental employees only to the extent that they act within the scope of their duties. Therefore, appellees Fetzner and Krogman were entitled to summary judgment on the claims against them in their individual capacities only if they could establish that they acted solely within their official duties when they dealt with appellant. But the affidavits filed by Fetzner and Krogman in support of their motion for summary judgment do not establish these material facts.

Appellees can supply the necessary material facts only if testimony from prior hearings in the case could be considered by the court at the summary judgment hearing. The prior testimony was presented at a preliminary injunction hearing and at a hearing on a motion to dismiss. At the preliminary injunction hearing the trial judge made it clear that he viewed appellees' testimony only in the context of the law of injunctions. He was looking for a risk of irreparable harm, inadequate remedy at law, and probability of success on the merits. And...

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15 practice notes
  • Stratman v. Admiral Beverage Corp., No. 87-247
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • August 24, 1988
    ...regardless of how appellant responded. Davenport v. Epperly, supra, 744 P.2d 1110; Matthews v. Wyoming Dept. of Agriculture, Wyo., 719 P.2d 216 In conclusion, we hold that genuine issues of material fact exist relating to (1) whether Admiral was a joint employer of Stratman; and (2) whether......
  • Deckert v. Lang, No. 88-194
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • May 23, 1989
    ...correct as any evidence which is admissible to the court at the time of trial.' " Matthews v. Wyoming Department of Agriculture, 719 P.2d 216, 221 (Wyo.1986) (quoting Lane Company v. Busch Page 1289 Development, Inc., 662 P.2d 419, 426 (Wyo.1983)). W.R.C.P. 56(e), and cases decided thereund......
  • O'Hare v. Hulme, S-19-0093
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • March 3, 2020
    ...is transcribed and authenticated" and "submitted with the motion or already filed with the court." Matthews v. Wyo. Dep’t of Agriculture , 719 P.2d 216, 221-22 (Wyo. 1986). Here, Ms. O’Hare submitted a transcript of the preliminary injunction hearing and relied on it in her motion for summa......
  • Estate of Obra, Matter of, No. 87-198
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • January 27, 1988
    ...filed late in rule contravention, as sufficient to sustain entry of summary judgment. Matthews v. Wyoming Department of Agriculture, Wyo., 719 P.2d 216 Page 276 There is no question in this case the proper procedure was not followed; however, our inquiry is whether this defect was waived by......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
15 cases
  • Stratman v. Admiral Beverage Corp., No. 87-247
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • August 24, 1988
    ...regardless of how appellant responded. Davenport v. Epperly, supra, 744 P.2d 1110; Matthews v. Wyoming Dept. of Agriculture, Wyo., 719 P.2d 216 In conclusion, we hold that genuine issues of material fact exist relating to (1) whether Admiral was a joint employer of Stratman; and (2) whether......
  • Deckert v. Lang, No. 88-194
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • May 23, 1989
    ...correct as any evidence which is admissible to the court at the time of trial.' " Matthews v. Wyoming Department of Agriculture, 719 P.2d 216, 221 (Wyo.1986) (quoting Lane Company v. Busch Page 1289 Development, Inc., 662 P.2d 419, 426 (Wyo.1983)). W.R.C.P. 56(e), and cases decided thereund......
  • O'Hare v. Hulme, S-19-0093
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • March 3, 2020
    ...is transcribed and authenticated" and "submitted with the motion or already filed with the court." Matthews v. Wyo. Dep’t of Agriculture , 719 P.2d 216, 221-22 (Wyo. 1986). Here, Ms. O’Hare submitted a transcript of the preliminary injunction hearing and relied on it in her motion for summa......
  • Estate of Obra, Matter of, No. 87-198
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • January 27, 1988
    ...filed late in rule contravention, as sufficient to sustain entry of summary judgment. Matthews v. Wyoming Department of Agriculture, Wyo., 719 P.2d 216 Page 276 There is no question in this case the proper procedure was not followed; however, our inquiry is whether this defect was waived by......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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