Articles Posted in Idaho Supreme Court - Civil

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This appeal arose out of a retaliation action under the Idaho Protection of Public Employees Act (the “Whistleblower Act”) and a negligent infliction of emotional distress claim against the Idaho State Police. Plaintiff Brandon Eller alleged the Idaho State Police (ISP) retaliated against him in two ways: (1) after he testified against another officer in a preliminary hearing; and (2) when he voiced objections to a new ISP policy requiring members of the Crash Reconstruction Unit to destroy draft and peer review reports. A jury awarded Eller $30,528.97 in economic damages under the Whistleblower Act and $1.5 million in non-economic damages for his negligent infliction of emotional distress claim. The district court then entered a memorandum decision and order reducing the award for Eller’s negligent infliction of emotional distress claim to $1,000,000 because Idaho Code section 6-926 capped the State’s liability for actions brought under the Idaho Tort Claims Act (ITCA) at $500,000 per occurrence. Both Eller and ISP timely appealed on several grounds, and their appeals were consolidated. After its review, the Idaho Supreme Court held the district court incorrectly applied the ITCA to Eller’s claim because the Whistleblower Act supplanted it. The district court’s rulings that the Whistleblower Act bars non-economic damage awards and that the ITCA caps Eller’s damages were vacated, and the matter remanded for a partial new trial regarding non-economic damages solely under the Whistleblower Act. View "Eller v. Idaho State Police" on Justia Law

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In the early 1980s, Ronald and Donna Phelps purchased seven parcels of property in Mores Creek Heights, a subdivision in Boise County. Two of those seven lots are at issue in this appeal (“Lot 26” and “Lot 27”). On October 1, 2004, the Phelpses recorded a quitclaim deed and trust transfer deed, transferring each of the seven lots into their trust. Each deed contained the statement “Mail Tax Statements to: Ronald O. Phelps, Donna J. Phelps, 1 Craftsbury Place, Ladera Ranch, CA 92694.” The Phelpses moved to this address in 2005 and resided there at the time of the bench trial on November 16, 2017. The Phelpses signed for the receipt of certified mail sent to the Ladera Ranch address from Boise County as late as May 18, 2013, and again on December 7, 2015; however, the Phelpses’ mailing address on file with Boise County beginning in 2009, and at all times relevant here, was P.O. Box 1047, El Toro, CA, 92630. Boise County mailed notices regarding property taxes on the lots to the Phelpses at the El Toro address beginning in 2009. The Phelpses did not pay property taxes on the lots for 2010 or any year thereafter. Jeffrey and Johnna Hardy (“the Hardys”) purchased two properties at a tax sale and brought action to quiet title against the Phelpses. The Phelpses counterclaimed against the Hardys and cross-claimed against Boise County, alleging that Boise County failed to provide them proper notice of tax deficiency. Following a bench trial, the district court entered judgment quieting title to the properties in the Hardys and denying the Phelpses’ counterclaim. The Phelpses appealed, asserting the lack of notice makes the Hardys’ deeds void. The Idaho Supreme Court determined Boise County’s efforts to notify the Phelpses of the tax deed satisfied the notice provisions of Idaho law, and were sufficient to satisfy due process requirements. The Court therefore affirmed judgment in favor of the Hardys. View "Hardy v. Phelps" on Justia Law

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Miranda Moser dislocated her right shoulder when she lifted a 24-pack of soda while working as a cashier for Rosauers Supermarkets, Inc. (“Rosauers”). Rosauers accepted the claim even though Moser had a pre-existing history of recurrent instability of her right shoulder. Moser underwent shoulder surgery. Afterward, she continued to suffer from “pseudosubluxation” and her surgeon, Dr. Adam Jelenek, recommended she receive a second opinion from a physician in Seattle. Rather than authorizing the request for referral, Rosauers arranged for Moser to be evaluated by Dr. Michael Ludwig who opined that Moser’s shoulder dislocation likely resulted from her pre-existing condition. Dr. Ludwig concluded that Moser had returned to her pre-injury baseline and that she did not require any further medical care. Rosauers filed a notice of medical exam to be performed by Dr. Joseph Lynch on February 5, 2018. Moser responded with a letter conveying she would not be attending the medical exam. Moser filed a Judicial Rule of Practice and Procedure (“J.R.P.”) 15 petition for a declaratory ruling, seeking an order on whether an employer could compel a claimant to attend an Idaho Code section 72-433 examination without first establishing the claimant was within her “period of disability,” which she argued was limited to a period when she was actually receiving benefits. Thereafter, Moser filed a notice that she would not attend the medical examination Rosauers had scheduled for April 2, 2018. The Commission held that following the claim of an accident, injury, or occupational disease, an employer may require a claimant’s attendance at such a medical examination. Moser appeals the Commission’s order. Finding no reversible error in the Commission’s judgment, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Moser v. Rosauers" on Justia Law

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The Idaho Board of Licensure of Professional Engineers and Professional Land Surveyors (the Board), through its executive director, Keith Simila, brought disciplinary proceedings against Chad Erickson for allegedly violating certain statutes and rules governing the surveying profession. Following an administrative hearing, the Board found that Erickson violated a number of the statutes and rules alleged and revoked his license as a professional land surveyor. Erickson appealed the revocation of his license to the district court. The district court upheld the Board’s finding that Erickson had committed certain violations; however, the district court reversed the portion of the Board’s Order revoking Erickson’s license and remanded the matter for further consideration of the appropriate sanction. Erickson appealed the district court’s decision, arguing that the evidence did not support the Board’s finding of any violations. In addition, Erickson argued numerous procedural errors made by the Board mandated reversal. The Idaho Supreme Court reversed, finding the Board's October 28, 2015 complaint against Erickson was time barred by IDAPA 10.01.02.011.01 and Idaho Code section 54-1220(2); the Board was aware of the allegations against him beginning in 2011, more than four years prior to the submission of the Executive Director’s complaint against him. "The failure to comply with a statute of limitations is jurisdictional and, therefore, this issue is dispositive." Accordingly, the district court’s Substituted Judicial Review Opinion was reversed and the Board’s Order was vacated because it was made upon unlawful procedure. View "Erickson v. Idaho Board of Licensure of Professional Engineers & Professional Land Surveyors" on Justia Law

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David Kosmann appealed a district court judgment relating to a dispute that arose from the sale of real property. He claimed the district court erred in enforcing an oral settlement agreement reached in mediation between Kosmann, Kevin Dinius, and Dinius & Associates, PLLC (collectively “Dinius”). Kosmann also argued the trial court erred in: (1) awarding attorney fees to Dinius as a sanction against Kosmann and his attorney; (2) declining to impose sanctions against Dinius and his attorney; and (3) striking an untimely memorandum and declaration in support of his motion to reconsider. After review of the trial court record, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part. The Supreme Court determined the district court did not err in enforcing the settlement agreement; the court also did not err in declining to impose sanctions against Dinius on ethics violations. However, the Supreme Court determined the district court abused its discretion in imposing I.R.C.P. 11 sanctions against Kossman and his counsel: the district court did not act consistently with the applicable legal standard for imposing sanctions pursuant to I.R.C.P. 11(b). The Supreme Court declined to address all other issues Kossman raised, and determined he was not entitled to attorney fees on appeal. "The record in this case is so tarnished with questionable conduct that it has presented this Court with a vexing ethical and legal dilemma. While we are gravely concerned over the potential ethical lapses which allegedly occurred during the mediation of this matter, there are no findings in the record concerning these matters. Therefore, as the trial court determined, we will leave to the Idaho State Bar, if properly called upon, the responsibility to investigate this matter further and make the necessary findings and conclusions as to the ethical issues presented." View "Kosmann v. Dinius" on Justia Law

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Denise M. Ehrlich appealed an Idaho Industrial Commission (the Commission) order that determined she was ineligible for unemployment benefits. The Commission affirmed the determination of the Idaho Department of Labor and the Appeals Examiner that Ehrlich willfully underreported her weekly earnings. On appeal, Ehrlich contended the Commission’s finding that she willfully misrepresented her wages was clearly erroneous. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the Commission’s decision. View "Ehrlich v. IDOL" on Justia Law

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Arturo Aguilar appealed the Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law and Order of the Idaho Industrial Commission in which it concluded the Idaho Industrial Special Indemnity Fund (ISIF) was not liable to him for worker’s compensation benefits. Aguilar was born in Mexico, spoke limited English and testified through a translator at his hearing. Aguilar, in the words of the Commission, is “a Mexican National and has resided illegally in the United States since approximately 1986.” Married, Aguilar and his wife had two daughters, the eldest of whom had cerebral palsy and was seriously disabled. Aguilar primarily worked as a manual laborer, including agricultural work, ranch work, and, for the last fifteen to sixteen years prior to the injury giving rise to this claim, concrete and cement work. During this latter line of employment, Aguilar sustained multiple back injuries. On December 11, 2006, Aguilar suffered another low back injury while screeding concrete. Following this latter injury, Aguilar was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease and a disc herniation at the L4-5 level of his spine. Because he was unable to get his pain to abate, he underwent back surgery, which resulted in the fusion of the L4-5 level of Aguilar’s spine. The Industrial Commission (the Commission) found that Aguilar was totally and permanently disabled and that he had pre-existing impairments that constituted subjective hindrances to his employment. However, the Commission rejected Aguilar’s claim that the ISIF was liable for benefits. Specifically, the Commission found Aguilar’s limitations and restrictions had not materially changed following the second injury. Having drawn that conclusion, the Idaho Supreme Court determined the Commission failed to apply the correct legal test in analyzing the ISIF’s liability. The Court also determined the Commission erred by failing to apply the disjunctive test for causation as set out in Idaho Code section 72-332. As a result of these two errors, the order set out in the Commission’s decision was vacated, and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Aguilar v. Idaho ISIF" on Justia Law

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In 2010, Kermit Jackson filed a complaint against Jennifer Crow arising from a 2008 automobile collision. No substantive action took place in the trial court until 2016 when Crow moved for summary judgment. In the interim, Crow filed for bankruptcy in 2014 listing Jackson as a potential unsecured creditor with a claim of unknown value. Jackson filed a proof of claim with the bankruptcy court and eventually received his pro rata share of the distribution of Crow’s assets. Crow received a bankruptcy discharge in 2014, releasing her from personal liability on the claim. Afterwards, Jackson proposed to move forward with this case against Crow as a nominal defendant, seeking to secure a judgment in order to recover from Crow’s insurer, rather than Crow personally. Crow’s motion for summary judgment argued that: (1) allowing Jackson’s case to go forward against her violated the permanent discharge injunction of 11 U.S.C. secs. 524 and 727; (2) even if this procedure did not violate the Bankruptcy Code’s permanent injunction, naming her as a nominal defendant was (a) not permitted by Idaho case law, the Idaho Rules of Civil Procedure, and Idaho’s no-direct-action rule, and (b) violated the Bankruptcy Code’s policy of providing her a financial “fresh start.” In a case of first impression, the district court ruled in favor of Crow, reasoning that allowing the case to proceed against Crow would violate 11 U.S.C. 524 by impermissibly causing negative economic consequences for Crow. The district court further reasoned that allowing Jackson to proceed directly against Crow’s insurer would violate the no-direct-action rule and permitting Jackson to proceed against Crow nominally was not permitted by the Idaho Rules of Civil Procedure or this Court’s precedent. The Idaho Supreme Court concluded the district court erred in granting Crow summary judgment: the district court misapplied the no-direct-action rule in this case. The judgment was vacated and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Jackson v. Crow" on Justia Law

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At issue in this appeal was the administrative order entered by Administrative District Judge Melissa Moody for the Fourth District declaring appellant, Mark Colafranceschi, a vexatious litigant pursuant to Idaho Court Administrative Rule 59. Colafranceschi and his former wife, Julie Neustadt had been involved in contentious litigation dating back to May 2016. The administrative district judge determined that Colafranceschi had satisfied I.C.A.R. 59(d)(1) because in the preceding seven years he had represented himself in at least three cases that were finally determined adversely to him, and he repeatedly relitigated outcomes in two cases, and propounded discovery requests for improper purposes. Colafranceschi appealed the order, arguing that the administrative judge erred in declaring him a vexatious litigant. The Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the administrative district judge’s order finding Colafranceschi a vexatious litigant and upheld the order prohibiting Colafranceschi from filing any new pro se litigation in the courts of this state without first obtaining leave of a presiding judge. View "Colafranceschi v. Moody" on Justia Law

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Burns Concrete, Inc., and Canyon Cove Development Company, LLP, (Canyon Cove), appealed a district court judgment in favor of Nora Mulberry and TN Properties, LLC, (collectively, Mulberry) regarding the extinguishment of a right of first refusal (ROFR). In 1999, Nora and Theodore Mulberry sold a piece of real property to Canyon Cove and included a ROFR to a nearby, distinct parcel of real property (ROFR Property). Twelve days later, Canyon Cove conveyed its interest in both the purchased property and the ROFR to Burns Concrete and recorded the deed to the purchased property with the Bonneville County, Idaho Recorder. In 2005, Nora Mulberry and her husband (now deceased) conveyed the ROFR Property to their wholly owned limited liability company, TN Properties, and subsequently recorded the deed with the Bonneville County Recorder. In 2016, Mulberry filed a complaint seeking declaratory judgment and subsequently a motion for partial summary judgment. The district court entered partial summary judgment in favor of Mulberry finding the ROFR was personal to Mulberry and Canyon Cove, and it was subsequently extinguished when Canyon Cove assigned it to Burns Concrete. On reconsideration, the district court held that the ROFR was a servitude appurtenant to the purchased property, and reaffirmed it was extinguished by Canyon Cove’s conveyance to Burns Concrete. Burns Concrete and Canyon Cove timely appealed. The Idaho Supreme Court reversed and remanded, finding: (1) the ROFR was personal to the parties, and thus, non-assignable; and (2) the ROFR was not extinguished when Canyon Cove purported to assign it to Burns Concrete. Therefore, the district court erred in ruling the ROFR was extinguished after Canyon Cove purported to assign it to Burns Concrete; the matter was remanded for a determination of the other issues raised in the complaint that were previously dismissed as moot. View "Mulberry v. Burns Concrete" on Justia Law