Meyer v. Kendig, No. 5554

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
Writing for the CourtBefore ROSE, C. J., RAPER, THOMAS and ROONEY, JJ., and GUTHRIE; ROONEY; ROSE
Citation641 P.2d 1235
PartiesJoseph J. MEYER, Joseph L. Meyers, Donnie R. Haney, Dale Saathoff, and Dan Muirhead, Appellants (Defendants), v. Pamela Sue KENDIG, Appellee (Plaintiff).
Decision Date12 March 1982
Docket NumberNo. 5554

Page 1235

641 P.2d 1235
Joseph J. MEYER, Joseph L. Meyers, Donnie R. Haney, Dale Saathoff, and Dan Muirhead, Appellants (Defendants),
v.
Pamela Sue KENDIG, Appellee (Plaintiff).
No. 5554.
Supreme Court of Wyoming.
March 12, 1982.

Page 1236

Wade Brorby and Thomas D. Roberts, of Morgan & Brorby, Gillette, and Michael A. Williams and Craig R. Maginness, of Sherman & Howard, Denver, Colo., attys. in good standing, Bar of Colorado, for appellants.

Edward P. Moriarity and Gary L. Shockey, of Spence, Moriarity & Schuster, Jackson, for appellee.

Carl L. Lathrop and Nick Kalokathis, of Lathrop & Uchner, P. C., Cheyenne, filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of The Wyoming Mining Association.

Gerald A. Stack, Deputy Atty. Gen., Crim. Div., Allen C. Johnson, Senior Asst. Atty. Gen., and Carl J. Hildebrand, Asst. Atty. Gen., filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of the State of Wyoming.

J. N. Murdock, of Vlastos, Reeves & Murdock, P. C., Casper, filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of the Defense Lawyers' Association of Wyoming.

Donald J. Sullivan, Stephen H. Kline, and Sharon A. Fitzgerald, Cheyenne, filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of The Wyoming Trial Lawyers Association.

Before ROSE, C. J., RAPER, THOMAS and ROONEY, JJ., and GUTHRIE, J., Ret.

ROONEY, Justice.

This appeal is from a judgment rendered on a jury verdict which found that appellee-plaintiff's injuries were caused in part by the negligence of appellants. One of the issues presented on appeal is whether or not the trial court erred in denying appellants' motion to strike the allegations of ordinary negligence in the complaint as improper under § 27-12-103(a), W.S.1977. 1 In denying the motion, the trial court ruled that such section was unconstitutional under Art. 1, § 34 2, Art. 3, § 27 3, and Art. 10, § 4 4 of the Wyoming Constitution.

Page 1237

Inasmuch as we find such ruling to be error, we reverse and remand the case for a new trial.

Appellants are co-employees of appellee. All were employees of AMAX Coal Company. Appellee was employed as a truck driver on a surface mining operation in Campbell County. She was injured in a collision with a truck being driven by appellant Muirhead. The negligence of the other appellants was alleged to consist of failure to adequately train appellant Muirhead, allowing him to drive with a hearing impediment, and requiring a blind side backing procedure at a dump site. Appellant Meyer was the Assistant Mine Superintendent. Appellant Meyers was the third-shift General Foreman. Appellant Haney was the Mine Safety Representative. Appellant Saathoff was the third-shift Stripping Foreman. 5

Other than the constitutional issue, we will address those other issues presented on this appeal which will probably again arise in further proceedings in this case, Chicago and N.W. Ry. Co. v. City of Riverton, 70 Wyo. 84, 119, 247 P.2d 660 (1952); McGuire v. McGuire, Wyo., 608 P.2d 1278 (1980). Facts relative thereto will be set out in connection with the discussion thereof.

CONSTITUTIONALITY OF § 27-12-103(a), W.S.1977 6

Prior to an amendment in 1914, Art. 10, § 4, Wyoming Constitution, consisted only of the first two sentences of the present section. 7 Pursuant to the amendment, the predecessor to Wyoming's present Worker's Compensation Act was passed by the legislature in 1915. The act was the legislative embodiment of compromise between employers and employees who recognized the need for a new system to compensate employees for employment related injuries.

" * * * (T)he legislature was substituting one entirely new system for another that it deemed unwise and not meeting justly and equitably the circumstances of present-day employments, in providing certain and speedy relief without the difficulty, expense and delays of litigation." Stephenson v. Mitchell, Wyo., 569 P.2d 95, 98 (1977).

See Barnette v. Doyle, Wyo., 622 P.2d 1349 (1981); Zancanelli v. Central Coal & Coke Co., 25 Wyo. 511, 173 P. 981 (1918); 1 Larson, Workmen's Compensation Law, §§ 4, 5; 99 C.J.S. Workmen's Compensation, § 5; 81 Am.Jur.2d Workmen's Compensation, § 2; Pan American Petroleum Corporation

Page 1238

v. Maddux Well Service, Wyo., 586 P.2d 1220 (1978).

Worker's compensation laws were enacted as a form of industrial insurance for victims of industrial accidents, regardless of any fault or breach of duty on the part of the employer. Barnette, supra, at 1352; Markle v. Williamson, Wyo., 518 P.2d 621, 624 (1974); Bence v. Pacific Power and Light Co., Wyo., 631 P.2d 13, 15 (1981). In return for their contributions to the compensation fund, employers were granted immunity from suits. 8 In return, for relinquishing their right to common-law actions against the employers when there was cause therefor in event of work-related injuries, the employees received speedy relief for such injuries, regardless of lack of fault on the part of the employer and without cost and delay attendant to legal action. Barnette, supra, at 1352, quoting from Boggs v. Blue Diamond Coal Co., 590 F.2d 655, 658 (6th Cir. 1979), cert. denied 444 U.S. 836, 100 S.Ct. 71, 62 L.Ed.2d 47 (1979); Zancanelli, supra, at 543, 173 P. 981.

Before a 1975 amendment, the Worker's Compensation Act did not refer to immunity for co-employees as does § 27-12-103(a). It was held in In Re Byrne, 53 Wyo. 519, 86 P.2d 1095 (1939) and in Zancanelli, supra, that the act abolished common-law doctrines of respondeat superior and fellow-servant rule, and that the act was intended to be in the nature of insurance and not compensation for negligence. Over thirty years later, in Markle v. Williamson, supra, the specific language of the act was held to grant immunity only to the employer and not to preclude the common-law right of one employee to sue a fellow employee. 9

The Markle v. Williamson opinion, supra, brought an immediate reaction from the legislature. At its next session, it placed into the act the present language relative to immunity of co-employees for all but culpable 10 negligence. 11 We are now presented with a question as to the constitutionality of such legislative action.

When the constitutionality of a statute is assailed, we are governed by the following standards:

"Statutes are presumed to be constitutional unless affirmatively shown to be otherwise, and one who would deny the constitutionality of a statute has a heavy burden. The alleged unconstitutionality must be clearly and exactly shown beyond any reasonable doubt. Stephenson v. Mitchell ex rel. Workmen's Compensation Department, Wyo.1977, 569 P.2d 95, 97; see also cases digested at West's Wyoming Digest, Constitutional Law, Key No. 48(1). One who assails a classification must carry the burden of showing that it does not rest on a reasonable basis, but is essentially arbitrary, and if any

Page 1239

state of facts can be reasonably conceived which sustain the classification, such facts will be assumed. Mountain Fuel Supply Co. v. Emerson, Wyo.1978, 578 P.2d 1351, 1355; McGowan v. State of Maryland, 1961, 366 U.S. 420, 81 S.Ct. 1101, 6 L.Ed.2d 393; Carmichael v. Southern Coal & Coke Co., 1937, 301 U.S. 495, 509, 57 S.Ct. 868, 872, 81 L.Ed. 1245, 109 A.L.R. 1327. * * * " Nickelson v. People, Wyo., 607 P.2d 904, 910 (1980).

"Courts have a duty to uphold the constitutionality of statutes which the legislature has enacted if that is at all possible, and any doubt must be resolved in favor of constitutionality. Witzenburger v. State, Wyo.1978, 575 P.2d 1100, 1112; Lund v. Schrader, Wyo.1971, 492 P.2d 202, 206. * * * " Washakie County School District Number One v. Herschler, Wyo., 606 P.2d 310, 319 (1980), reh. denied, cert. denied 449 U.S. 824, 101 S.Ct. 86, 66 L.Ed.2d 28 (1980).

And since an ordinary interest is involved in this case, the following standard also applies:

" * * * When an ordinary interest is involved, then a court merely examines to determine whether there is a rational relationship between a classification made by the statute or statutes being viewed and a legitimate state objective. * * * " Washakie County School District Number One v. Herschler, supra, 606 P.2d at 333.

Appellee argues that the first sentence of Art. 10, § 4, Wyoming Constitution, 12 prohibits the legislature from granting immunity to co-employees for negligence, regardless of degree. She acknowledges the propriety of immunity granted to employers because of the subsequent language in Art. 10, § 4 of the Wyoming Constitution. Such first sentence states that "no law shall be enacted limiting the amount of damages to be recovered * * * " (emphasis added). Section 27-12-103(a) does not limit the amount of damages to be recovered. It limits the cause of action available for a recovery. The fact that the first sentence of Art. 10, § 4 relates only to the amount of damages is exemplified by the second sentence which pertains to the "right to recover." 13 A "limitation in amount" and a "right to recover" were regarded as separate issues and treated separately by the framers of the Wyoming Constitution. See Journal and Debate of the Constitutional Convention of the State of Wyoming, pp. 443-454 and 614-616 (1889). The plain language of such first sentence and its ordinary meaning reflects its prohibition to be against laws limiting the "amount of damages." Section 27-12-103(a) does not do that. This fact is determinative of the constitutionality of such section insofar as Art. 10, § 4 of the Wyoming Constitution is concerned. Furthermore, if the first sentence of Art. 10, § 4, were given the broad application urged by appellee, it would conflict with, and would make enactments impermissible on, such subjects as comparable negligence, statutes of limitation, contribution among joint tortfeasors, etc.

Given the basic thrust of the Worker's Compensation Act-speedy relief for the worker for work-related injuries without the difficulty, expense and delays of litigation, Stephenson v. Mitchell, supra,-it would seem incongruous to make the...

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45 practice notes
  • Greenwalt v. Ram Restaurant Corp., No. 01-103.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • June 26, 2003
    ...special laws, "means only that the statute must operate alike upon all persons in the same circumstances." Meyer v. Kendig, 641 P.2d 1235, 1240 (Wyo.1982); see also Mountain Fuel Supply Company v. Emerson, 578 P.2d 1351, 1356 (Wyo.1978). We have also noted that the prohibition aga......
  • Campbell County School Dist. v. State, No. O
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • November 8, 1995
    ...pass Page 1274 general rather than special laws so a statute operates alike upon all persons in the same circumstances. Meyer v. Kendig, 641 P.2d 1235, 1240 (Wyo.1982); Simons v. Laramie County School Dist. No. One, 741 P.2d 1116, 1124-25 (Wyo.1987). The purpose served by the identification......
  • Estabrook v. American Hoist & Derrick, Inc., No. 84-411
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of New Hampshire
    • August 15, 1985
    ...Parsons, 141 W.Va. 752, 92 S.E.2d 913 (1956); Oliver v. Travelers Insurance Co., 103 Wis.2d 644, 309 N.W.2d 383 (1981); Meyer v. Kendig, 641 P.2d 1235 These cases include instances in which the co-employee cause of action was eliminated by later amendment to the basic statute. See Meyer v. ......
  • Wessel v. Mapco, Inc., No. 87-146
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • March 30, 1988
    ...the law then in effect, would have been entitled to maintain a Wyoming suit for co-employees' culpable negligence. Meyer v. Kendig, Wyo., 641 P.2d 1235 (1982); Markle v. Williamson, Wyo., 518 P.2d 621 (1974); Note, Torts--Workmen's Compensation--Liability of Fellow Employees Under the Wyomi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
45 cases
  • Greenwalt v. Ram Restaurant Corp., No. 01-103.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • June 26, 2003
    ...special laws, "means only that the statute must operate alike upon all persons in the same circumstances." Meyer v. Kendig, 641 P.2d 1235, 1240 (Wyo.1982); see also Mountain Fuel Supply Company v. Emerson, 578 P.2d 1351, 1356 (Wyo.1978). We have also noted that the prohibition aga......
  • Campbell County School Dist. v. State, No. O
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • November 8, 1995
    ...pass Page 1274 general rather than special laws so a statute operates alike upon all persons in the same circumstances. Meyer v. Kendig, 641 P.2d 1235, 1240 (Wyo.1982); Simons v. Laramie County School Dist. No. One, 741 P.2d 1116, 1124-25 (Wyo.1987). The purpose served by the identification......
  • Estabrook v. American Hoist & Derrick, Inc., No. 84-411
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of New Hampshire
    • August 15, 1985
    ...Parsons, 141 W.Va. 752, 92 S.E.2d 913 (1956); Oliver v. Travelers Insurance Co., 103 Wis.2d 644, 309 N.W.2d 383 (1981); Meyer v. Kendig, 641 P.2d 1235 These cases include instances in which the co-employee cause of action was eliminated by later amendment to the basic statute. See Meyer v. ......
  • Wessel v. Mapco, Inc., No. 87-146
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • March 30, 1988
    ...the law then in effect, would have been entitled to maintain a Wyoming suit for co-employees' culpable negligence. Meyer v. Kendig, Wyo., 641 P.2d 1235 (1982); Markle v. Williamson, Wyo., 518 P.2d 621 (1974); Note, Torts--Workmen's Compensation--Liability of Fellow Employees Under the Wyomi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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