Justia Idaho Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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Jun Yu appealed the dismissal of his claims for alleged violations of 42 U.S.C. section 1983 and breach of contract. Idaho State University dismissed Yu from its doctoral program in clinical psychology in May 2013, with his final administrative appeal denied on October 2, 2013. Yu, a citizen of the People’s Republic of China, was completing his Ph.D. in clinical psychology at Idaho State University. He completed all the requisite coursework, wrote and defended his dissertation, but still had to complete a one-year clinical internship. After not matching any programs with the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers, Yu set up an alternative internship with the Cleveland Clinic Center for Autism in Ohio. However, he was dismissed from the Ohio internship early due to performance concerns and subsequently dismissed from Idaho State University’s doctoral program. After exhausting his appeals with the university, Yu received a final letter on October 2 that denied his appeal and immediately made his dismissal effective. In March 2014, Yu filed a notice of tort claim against ISU pursuant to the Idaho Tort Claims Act (ITCA), alleging negligent infliction of emotional distress and a violation of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Right Act. Eighteen months later he filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho alleging violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, deprivation of constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. section 1983, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Yu later amended his complaint to include allegations of denial of procedural and substantive due process, promissory estoppel, and breach of contract, totaling 18 claims against ISU. No individual defendants were named in the notice of claim or in his federal action. The Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Yu’s claims because they were untimely. View "Yu v. ID State University" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was whether Brent Austin filed a timely complaint for additional worker's compensation benefits with the Idaho Industrial Commission when it was filed more than a year after his employer, Bio Tech Nutrients, and its surety, Employers Compensation Insurance Company, (collectively “Defendants”) stopped paying worker’s compensation benefits. The Commission held that the one-year statute of limitations to file a complaint was tolled because the Defendants did not send a Notice of Claim Status (“NOCS”) when they submitted Austin’s final payment; as such, the Commission concluded Austin’s complaint was timely filed. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court determined the Commission was correct in tolling the statute of limitations, and affirmed. View "Austin v. Bio Tech Nutrients" on Justia Law

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This appeal centered on the distribution of water to water right 95-0734 in the Twin Lakes-Rathdrum Creek Drainage Basin. Sylte Ranch, LLC, was the current claimant on water right 95- 0734, which dated from 1875 and provided natural flow stockwater from Rathdrum Creek. In September 2016, Idaho Department of Water Resources (IDWR) issued a letter of instructions to the local watermaster in response to a complaint that he was releasing storage water from Twin Lakes contrary to a 1989 Final Decree that established all existing rights to Twin Lakes’ surface waters, tributaries, and outlets. These instructions led Sylte to file a Petition for Declaratory Ruling, arguing that IDWR should set aside and reverse the instructions because they improperly limited water right 95-0734 to Twin Lakes’ natural tributary inflow. Twin Lakes Improvement Association, et al., and Twin Lakes Flood Control District intervened in the case. Following cross motions for summary judgment, IDWR issued a Final Order, in which it upheld the instructions and granted intervenors’ motion for summary judgment. Sylte then sought judicial review and the district court affirmed IDWR’s Final Order. Sylte timely appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s determination to uphold IDWR’s Final Order because the instructions complied with the plain language of the 1989 Final Decree. View "Sylte v. IDWR" on Justia Law

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This case involved a dispute over how the Idaho Public Employee Retirement Board calculated the annual cost of living adjustment (COLA) for retirees who participated in the Firemen’s Retirement Fund (FRF). The Idaho Industrial Commission held that the definition of “paid firefighter” included part-time firefighters. The effect of the Commission’s decision resulted in a smaller annual COLA for retired firefighters. On appeal, the Idaho Retired Firefighters Association, and Sharon Koelling and John Anderson alleged the Board’s inclusion of part-time firefighters violated statutory and constitutional provisions. The Association and the Individual Claimants sought a ruling from the Idaho Supreme Court reversing the Commission’s decision, and a ruling that would exclude part-time firefighters from the Board’s annual COLA calculations, the effect of which would be an increase in the annual COLA applicable to retired firefighters. The Supreme Court vacated the Commission’s decision because it lacked the necessary jurisdiction to decide the question presented to it. View "Idaho Retired Firefighters v. Public Employy Retirement Bd" on Justia Law

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Buck and Laurie Graybill appealed an award of attorney fees to Regdab, Inc., following entry of a default judgment against them in an action to foreclose on a mechanic’s lien. Graybill objected to the award of attorney fees and costs because Regdab failed to plead in its complaint a specific dollar amount for attorney fees in the event of default as required by Idaho Rule of Procedure 54(e)(4)(B). The district court ruled that the Rule 54(e)(4)(B) pleading requirement was inconsistent with Idaho Code section 45-513, the provision which mandated an award of certain costs and reasonable attorney fees in mechanic’s lien foreclosure actions. The district court then granted Regdab’s motion for default judgment and awarded the principal amount owed on the mechanic’s lien plus $8,134.62 in attorney fees and costs. Graybill appealed. The Idaho Supreme Court agreed with Graybill that Regdab was required to plead a specific amount of attorney fees to be awarded in the event of default. Accordingly, the Supreme Court vacated the default judgment and remanded this case with instruction to enter a default judgment consistent with the Supreme Court's opinion. View "Regdab, Inc. v. Graybill" on Justia Law

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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