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Judge to dismiss rest of Archer lawsuit

Apr 23, 2017 From staff reports

District court judge Norman Young is set to dismiss the remainder of a lawsuit by the parents of Sophia Archer, the 7-year-old who was struck and killed by an elderly driver while crossing Sunset Drive in 2015.

The crosswalk's paint was significantly faded, prompting Archer's parents to sue the Wyoming Department of Transportation, the Riverton school district and the city itself.

Young dismissed the complaint against WYDOT and the school district last year, and a proposed order for dismissal for the city is awaiting his signature.

Young ruled from the bench April 5 that the city's attorneys should draft the order. He also decided at that time that all defendants had governmental immunity in the case.

Immunity

In limited cases, governmental immunity is waived under the Wyoming Governmental Claims Act.

The Archers' attorneys argued that the city's responsibility falls under the "public utility exception" in the law. However, Young found that case law indicates that exception does not include issues of inadequate roadways.

The law explicitly excludes claims concerning "maintenance, including maintenance to compensate for weather conditions, of any bridge, culvert, highway, roadway, street, alley, sidewalk or parking area."

Appeal

The Archers appealed the dismissal of the WYDOT complaint to the Wyoming Supreme Court last month. Their attorneys argued that WYDOT should be liable for giving a license to driver Sandra Pennock, given that the 77-year-old had severely poor eyesight and later acknowledged that she "should not have been driving."

The Supreme Court dismissed that appeal Tuesday, saying the district court's decision was not appealable because it is only an "interlocutory order."

"The court agrees with WYDOT that the (decision) is not a final order, because appellants' claims against other defendants remain pending in district court," the court ruled.

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