Wyoming's Supreme Court on Thursday stayed a lawsuit filed over a propane tank explosion, agreeing that a similar lawsuit in Utah should be settled first.
The court ruled in favor of the V-1 Oil Co. in its lawsuit against the estate of Michael James Woodward in state district court in Fremont County and Rich County, Utah.According to the ruling, Woodward, a Wyoming resident, was driving a semitrailer tractor on a highway in Rich County in October 1986 when the vehicle collided with a cow.
The collision caused the truck to travel across an adjacent field and crash into a propane storage tank owned by V-1, causing an explosion that killed Woodward and caused substantial damage to V-1 property.
V-1 filed lawsuits in Fremont County and Rich County against Woodward, accusing him of negligence, and against the owner of the cow.
"V-1 filed suit in Wyoming out of a fear that it might waive its right to recover against (Woodward's) estate if it did not file suit in the Wyoming district court having probate jurisdiction over the estate," the ruling said.
V-1 in November 1987 asked for a stay of the Wyoming proceedings pending a decision in the Utah case, but state District Judge Robert Ranck denied the request, saying he believed the Utah case could take some time to reach trial and would not "promote a speedy efficient system for liquidating the estate of (Woodward)."
The Supreme Court, however, ruled that because the question to be decided is one of liability, the case should be heard in Utah, where the accident occurred.
"The Utah district court could resolve all liability questions together and enter a judgment binding against all of the parties," the ruling said. "A trial in Utah where the district court has subject matter jurisdiction over the action and personal jurisdiction over all the defendants in this case would be the most efficient in this regard.
"Here, the place of the alleged tort is Utah and the negligence laws of Utah should control. The forum most likely to resolve V-1's negligence action expeditiously and in furtherance of the best interests of the administration of justice sits in Rich County, Utah."