Nehring v. Russell

In Nehring v. Russell, 582 P.2d 67 (Wyo. 1978), the Court held the automobile guest statute violated the equal protection provisions by distinguishing between paying and nonpaying guest passengers with regard to their right to sue for injuries as a result of a driver's negligence. While the Court recognized the legitimate legislative objective of promoting hospitality by generous drivers, we questioned whether the classification prescribed by statute had a rational relation to that objective. 582 P.2d at 78. The Court quoted the New Mexico Supreme Court to expose the basic flaw in the relationship: "The classification fails not because it draws some distinction between paying and nonpaying guests, but because it penalizes nonpaying guests by depriving them completely of protection from ordinary negligence. . . . No matter how laudable the State's interest in promoting hospitality, it is irrational to reward generosity by allowing the host to abandon ordinary care and by denying to nonpaying guests the common law remedy for negligently inflicted injury." Id. The Court held the guest statute exceeded all bounds of rationality and constituted a denial of uniform operation under the Wyoming Constitution. Id. at 79.