The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the District Court granting summary judgment to our client, the owner of a stolen vehicle.
The Plaintiff on behalf of herself and her two minor children filed suit against our client who left her car unattended with the motor running in her private driveway while she briefly returned to her home to retrieve her pocketbook. In the interim, a methamphetamine user, stole her vehicle and later got into a high-speed chase with the police, which ended when the car he was driving collided with a vehicle driven by the plaintiff, mother. The complaint alleged that our client breached a duty to them of due care by leaving her car unattended with the keys in the ignition. The district court granted the motion for summary judgment filed on behalf of our client on the basis that no duty was owed to the appellants under either the common law or by statute, and that the Plaintiff`s act of leaving her keys in her car with the motor running was not the proximate cause of the accident.
The Wyoming Supreme Court decided that our client did not owe a duty to the Plaintiffs:
"We cannot agree with the [Plaintiffs] that the [Defendant] “essentially deliver[ed] [the] vehicle” to a drug-impaired thief. The fact that the [Defendant`s] conduct may have contributed in some way to the accident that occurred does not make her morally culpable. Certainly, [the thief], who was driving the vehicle at a high rate of speed in an attempt to elude the police, was in a better position to prevent the harm to the appellants than was the [Defendant]. In truth, the same can be said about the police officer or officers involved in the pursuit. And sadly, the same can even be said about [the Plaintiff] because the accident occurred at an intersection that [the Plaintiff] entered against a red light."
The Supreme Court refused to impose a duty upon our client in the circumstances presented in this case stating, "It must be remembered that the imposition of a duty not to leave the motor running in a vehicle in one’s driveway would apply across the board, and would create potential liability for every person in Wyoming who, on a cold winter day, starts his or her car to warm it up and defrost the windshield before driving upon the public highways."