By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
An Idaho couple is suing a Wyoming Department of Transportation snowplow driver for negligence over a 2019 accident in Teton County and their former attorney on allegations he failed to file legal documents on time.
Jacquelyn and Jeffrey Battle are suing Alex F. Freeburg, a Jackson attorney, for failing to file notice of a claim against Shirley Weerheim, a former snowplow driver, and the state of Wyoming in a timely manner.
According to documents filed in U.S. District Court, Weerheim was operating a snowplow in Teton County on January 29, 2019 when it collided with a car, pushing that car into the one driven by the Battles.
The lawsuit accused Weerheim of driving “carelessly and recklessly” on a highway at the time of the accident and seeks damages from the DOT and her on allegations of negligence.
“Ms. Weerheim was following too closely, traveling too fast for conditions and failed to keep a proper lookout and was otherwise negligent in the operation of the snowplow,” the lawsuit alleged.
Freeburg, meanwhile, was accused of professional negligence for failing to file a claim on the Battles’ behalf with the state in a timely fashion.
Under Wyoming law, to obtain damages from a government entity or employee, person must first file a claim with the agency involved. If the claim is denied, then a lawsuit can commence. The claim must be filed within two years of the incident.
According to the lawsuit, on Jan. 27, 2021, Freeburg sent notices of governmental claims to the state General Services Division. The notices were received by the state on Feb. 1, 2021, just beyond the two-year time period for filing such claims.
Freeburg was notified that same day by the GSD that the claims had been rejected as untimely, since more than two years had passed since the date of the wreck.
Around March 1, 2021, Freeburg contacted the Battles to advise them he had missed the filing deadline for their case. They were “shocked and dismayed,” the lawsuit said, adding Freeburg offered no remedy or explanation.
According to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, Freeburg not only failed to timely file the sufficient claims notices, but also failed to “timely investigate the claims or to take any appropriate action” on behalf of the Battles. They also claim he was negligent in other ways, such as failing to meet the applicable standards of care for attorneys.
The Battles are asking for damages for medical expenses incurred both in the past and “which can reasonably be expected to be incurred in the future,” loss of wages in the past and future, past and future pain and suffering and loss of physicality in Jacquelyn Battle due to injuries sustained in the crash and loss of enjoyment of life.