Justia Idaho Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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This case arose from an Idaho Industrial Commission determination denying an application for unemployment benefits. William Wittkopf appealed pro se the Commission’s determination that he was ineligible for unemployment benefits because he voluntarily quit his job without good cause and he willfully made a false statement or willfully failed to report a material fact in his unemployment application. On appeal, Wittkopf challenged the factual findings made by the Commission and argued it violated his right to due process by taking into consideration the fact that he voluntarily terminated his employment approximately two and a half years prior to applying for unemployment benefits. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court concluded: (1) Wittkopf failed to provide a cogent argument on appeal regarding whether his right to due process was violated; (2) the Commission’s determination that Wittkopf voluntarily terminated his employment at Stewart’s Firefighter without good cause and without exhausting all reasonable alternatives was supported by substantial and competent evidence; and (3) the Commission’s determination that Wittkopf willfully made a false statement or willfully failed to report a material fact in order to obtain benefits was supported by substantial and competent evidence. Accordingly, the Commission’s decision and order denying Wittkopf’s application for unemployment benefits was affirmed. View "Wittkopf v. Stewart's Firefighter Food Catering, Inc." on Justia Law

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At issue in this appeal was whether claimant Curtis Stanley filed a timely complaint against the Industrial Special Indemnity Fund ("ISIF") when Stanley filed his complaint more than five years after his industrial accident and more than one year after receiving his last payment of income benefits. The Idaho Industrial Commission (“Commission”) held it did not have continuing jurisdiction to entertain Stanley’s complaint against ISIF for non-medical benefits. The Commission found Idaho Code section 72-706 barred Stanley’s complaint and dismissed it. Stanley appealed, arguing continuing jurisdiction over medical benefits alone was sufficient to confer jurisdiction over complaints against ISIF and that the Commission erred in determining section 72-706 barred his complaint. Finding the Commission erred in determining section 72-706 barred Stanley's complaint, the Idaho Supreme Court reversed the Commission’s decision. View "Stanley v. Idaho Industrial Special Indemnity Fund" on Justia Law

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Holly Cook appealed an administrative order entered by an Administrative District Judge (“ADJ”) declaring her to be a vexatious litigant pursuant to Idaho Court Administrative Rule 59. The order prohibited Cook from filing any new litigation pro se in Idaho without first obtaining leave of the court where the litigation was proposed to be filed. Ms. Cook petitioned for a divorce from her husband (“Mr. Cook”) in 2015. During the lengthy and contentious divorce proceedings, Ms. Cook had assistance of counsel for portions of the proceedings, but represented herself pro se when she did not. Some aspects of the divorce proceedings were appealed to the district court. Mr. Cook filed a moved that Ms. Cook declared a vexatious litigant. Neither party requested a hearing on Mr. Cook’s motion. The district judge presiding over the appeal referred the matter to the ADJ. The ADJ found that Ms. Cook largely failed to appear at dates set in scheduling orders that she (with and without counsel) agreed to. She failed at obtaining continuances, at having the trial judge disqualified, and to move the court for reconsideration of many intermediate decisions. She attempted to collaterally attack the default judgment of divorce, and at some point, was held in contempt for failing to respond to court orders during the divorce proceedings. Separate from the divorce proceedings, the ADJ noted Ms. Cook had filed nine pro se civil protection orders, all of which had been dismissed in favor of the parties from whom she sought protection. The Idaho Supreme Court determined the ADJ abused its discretion in declaring Ms. Cook a vexatious litigant; the ADJ did not review the merits and reason for dismissal in the nine civil protection actions, causing the ADJ to conclude incorrectly the final determinations were adverse to her. Furthermore, with respect to the divorce proceedings, the Court determined the ADJ abused its discretion by failing to make factual findings that Ms. Cook repeatedly attempted to relitigate issues already finally decided by the magistrate court. The Supreme Court concluded the ADJ did not make sufficient findings to support the conclusion that Ms. Cook’s filings were frivolous, unmeritorious, or filed with the intent to cause unnecessary delay. Accordingly, the Court reversed the prefiling order and remanded to allow the ADJ the opportunity to reconsider this matter. View "Cook v. Wiebe" on Justia Law

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Choice Feed, Inc. sued Ray and Susan Montierth, alleging that Ray breached an oral agreement to sell his feedlot property to Choice Feed once he arranged a 1031 tax deferred agreement. Although Ray collected money from Choice Feed that was to go toward the purchase of the feedlot property, he never arranged the 1031 exchange. Instead, without notice to Choice Feed, Ray sold the feedlot property to someone else while continuing to accept monthly payments from Choice Feed. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury found in favor of Choice Feed on one count of fraud against Ray, awarded compensatory damages, and assessed $250,000 in punitive damages. Ray moved for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, which the district court granted in part, thereby reducing the jury’s awards of both the compensatory and punitive damages. Ray appealed the jury’s verdict, including the compensatory and punitive damages that were reduced by the district court. Choice Feed cross-appealed the district court’s decision granting Ray’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and the resulting reduction in damages. After its review, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court on all issues raised in Ray’s direct appeal: (1) to deny Ray’s motion to dismiss for Choice Feed’s failure to plead fraud with particularity; (2) to give jury instructions that conformed with the evidence presented at trial; (3) to allow Choice Feed to seek improvement expenses as damages at trial; (4) to allow the jury to consider punitive damages; and, (5) to consider punitive damages in its prevailing party analysis and its conclusion that Choice Feed was the prevailing party. The Supreme Court also rejected Ray’s argument that Choice Feed did not have standing to bring suit or that it was not the real party in interest and the Court declined to add a tenth element of a transfer or sale of property to common law fraud. On Choice Feed’s cross-appeal, the Supreme Court reversed the district court’s decision to grant Ray’s JNOV motion and reduce the compensatory damage and punitive damage awards as raised in Choice Feed’s cross-appeal. However, the Court affirmed the district court on Choice Feed’s remaining issue raised in its cross-appeal concerning the award of prejudgment interest to Ray on his open account hay claim. Costs and attorney fees are awarded to Choice Feed as the overall prevailing party on appeal. View "Choice Feed Inc. v. Montierth" on Justia Law

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This appeal stemmed from a dispute between the presiding officers of the Idaho Legislature and the Idaho State Treasurer. The Speaker of the Idaho House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Idaho State Sentate sought to evict Treasurer Julie Ellsworth from her current office on the first floor of the Idaho State Capitol building pursuant to Idaho Code section 67-1602(3). The office of the State Treasurer was historically located in the southeast quadrant of the Capitol Building. However, plaintiffs cited the need for more legislative space to evict the Treasurer from that historic office. The Treasurer refused to vacate, relying on a purported agreement base between the Governor and the 2007 leadership of the Idaho Legislature. Finding that the political question doctrine did not preclude it from reaching the merits of this dispute, the Idaho Supreme Court concluded Idaho Code section 67-1602(3) unambiguously authorized the presiding officers to determine the use and allocate the space within the first floor of the Capitol. The district court's denial of the Treasurer's motion to dismiss was affirmed; summary judgment in favor of the House and Senate were also affirmed. View "Bedke v. Ellsworth" on Justia Law

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Janet Heath appealed a district court order and judgment that granted Angela Palmer and Taylor Real Estate’s motion for summary judgment and dismissing her claims for negligence and breach of contract. The events that brought about this case began in the fall of 2017 when Heath began looking to buy a house in Bingham County, Idaho. Heath and Palmer communicated back and forth via emails and text messages, arranging financing through a lender, and discussing property listings. They met to view several listings together, including a property owned by Donald and Shirley Ciccone. With Palmer's help, Heath made a written offer on the Ciccione property. The offer, titled "RE-21 Real Estate Purchase and Sale Agreement," indicated Palmer and Taylor Real Estate were acting as “nonagents” for Heath. Heath also signed an Agency Disclosure Brochure indicating that she was a “customer” of Palmer and Taylor Real Estate. The offer form further stated that Heath would remain a “customer” unless she entered into a written representation agreement. Heath and Palmer never signed such an agreement. The Ciccones made a counter-offer which Heath accepted. The Ciccones gave Palmer a property condition disclosure, which revealed the existence of a shared driveway agreement with a neighboring property owned by Walter and Wilma Wallace. At some point before the closing date, the title company contacted Palmer and informed her that the Driveway Agreement needed to be modified to “run with the land” before it would insure the title. Palmer contacted Mr. Wallace and informed him that Heath was trying to buy the Ciccone property but could not do so without a driveway agreement. The Wallaces and the Ciccones signed a 2018 Driveway Agreement, which was essentially the same as the 1998 Driveway Agreement except that it was “a covenant running with the land” and redefined the shared portion of the driveway. Heath and the Ciccones closed on the property, and the warranty deed and the 2018 Driveway Agreement were recorded with the Bingham County Recorder that afternoon. Heath stated in her declaration that she would not have gone through with the sale if she had known that the driveway easement had been shortened by approximately two-thirds of its original length, effectively cutting off access to the garages on her property and significantly reducing the property’s value. The proceedings in this case began in June 2018 when the Wallaces filed a petition to quiet title against Heath and another individual living in her home. The Wallaces filed their petition after a dispute with Heath regarding the dimensions and use of the shared driveway. Finding that the district court erred in concluding that there was no genuine dispute of material fact regarding whether Palmer and Taylor Real Estate violated the statutory duties owed to Heath as a “customer” under Idaho Code section 54-2086, the Idaho Supreme Court reversed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Palmer and Taylor Real Estate. View "Wallace v. Heath" on Justia Law

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Rockne Lee Hollingsworth brought a medical malpractice claim against a local hospital and doctor in Gem County, Idaho district court. The district court found Hollingsworth lacked due diligence in failing to determine the hospital was a political subdivision, subject to the notice requirements of the Idaho Tort Claims Act (“ITCA”), and granted summary judgment for Respondents. Hollingsworth appealed, arguing the corporate filings made by the county-owned hospital created the false impression the hospital was a private corporation. Respondents contended the hospital and corporate entity, both owned by Gem County, were both subject to the ITCA because they were actually one and the same. To this, the Idaho Supreme Court concurred and reversed the district court's ruling. View "Hollingsworth v. Thompson" on Justia Law

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At issue before the Idaho Supreme Court in this matter was what portion of a military retirement benefit was subject to division following divorce. Specifically, the Court was asked to decide whether a 2017 amendment to the federal statutory scheme governing military retirement applied to the division of a benefit entered as part of a divorce decree in 2008 but not calculated until the husband’s retirement in 2018. The Supreme Court determined a 2017 amendment to 10 U.S.C. 1408 did not apply retroactively to alter the division of the military benefit at issue here. Furthermore, the district court did not err in concluding that the magistrate court’s mischaracterization of the 2008 divorce decree was harmless error because it did not impact the outcome of litigation. View "Bromund v. Bromund" on Justia Law

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This case arose from a dispute over the ownership of Treasure Valley Manufacturing & Recycling, Inc., (“TVM”). Daniel Weitz appealed a district court order granting summary judgment in favor of David Weitz and John Tavares and declaring them the exclusive owners of TVM. The district court granted summary judgment after determining that Daniel Weitz failed to produce any evidence demonstrating a genuine dispute of material fact and that they were entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court's judgement. View "Weitz v. Weitz" on Justia Law

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Originally, Western Pacific Timber, LLC (WPT) was solely owned by Timothy Blixseth (Blixseth). Andrew Hawes contended Blixseth hired him to be general counsel for WPT in 2005, and that when he was hired, Blixseth agreed on behalf of WPT to provide him with a severance package based on the length of his employment. After 2012, Blixseth no longer retained any ownership interest or management responsibility in WPT. When WPT terminated Hawes’ employment in 2017, Hawes asserted that he had a severance agreement in place that had been negotiated with Blixseth on behalf of WPT, by which he would receive $100,000 for each year of employment, capped at five years, for a total of $500,000. However, Hawes could not produce a signed copy of any agreement. WPT refused to pay the claimed severance pay, and instead offered a significantly smaller severance package. Hawes rejected WPT’s offer. Hawes then sued WPT for breach of contract. The case proceeded to trial on Hawes’ claim of an oral contract. Ultimately, the jury returned a special verdict finding that WPT was liable to Hawes for $500,000 in severance pay, an award which was later trebled by the district court. The district court also awarded Hawes the full amount of his requested attorney fees which constituted 35% of Hawes’ gross recovery. WPT unsuccessfully moved for a new trial. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court. View "Hawes v. Western Pacific Timber LLC" on Justia Law