Champion Well Service, Inc. v. NL Industries

In Champion Well Service, Inc. v. NL Industries, 769 P.2d 382 (Wyo. 1989), Champion Well Service claimed that NL Industries negligently injured one of Champion's key employees. Champion argued that, as a result of the employee's injury, Champion suffered economic loss even though Champion suffered no direct injury. Id. at 382. In concluding that Champion was not entitled to the damages claimed the Court noted: We agree that NL owed a duty of care to Champion to avoid the risk of causing economic damages. But the economic damages recoverable in these circumstances are those that result from injury to, or loss of use of, property, not injury to third persons. Thus, NL owed a duty of care to Lang to avoid negligently causing him injury. But to hold that NL owed a duty to diverse third persons, including Champion, to avoid injury to Lang would be to adopt a rule that is too broad, unwieldy, and impractical in present day society. Surely Lang's injury might impact his friends, his fishing buddies, his business partners, his employer, his grocery man, or his cleaning lady. They might have suffered damages, or they might not. None had any assurance that their relationship with Lang would continue for any particular period of time. Even personal service contracts are practically unenforceable insofar as they seek to force an employee to work. Claimed damages would be a product of total speculation and conjecture. If we adopted appellant's theory, every multi-national corporation whose employee was negligently injured by a third party in an auto accident, a ball game, at work, or at a party, would have a claim for damage. We decline appellant's invitation to adopt this theory for recovery. We are convinced that the cause of action argued by Champion would erase the bright line which "has traditionally marked negligence claims for economic harm as off limits." Prosser & Keeton, Law of Torts, 129, p. 1001 (5th Ed. 1984). Therefore, we hold the district court properly dismissed Count II of Champion's complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (Id. at 384-85.)