Justia Idaho Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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This appeal came from a district court’s decision to bar Steven Picatti’s 42 U.S.C. section 1983 claims against two deputies on the basis of collateral estoppel. In 2014, Picatti struggled to drive home because road access was blocked for the Eagle Fun Days parade. After circumventing some orange barricades, Picatti drove toward two uniformed deputies who were on foot patrol by a crosswalk, which was marked with a large sign reading: “road closed to thru traffic.” Picatti contended Deputy Miner hit the hood of his car, then pulled Picatti out of his truck to tase and arrest him. The deputies contended Picatti “bumped” Deputy Miner with his truck and then resisted arrest, forcing them to tase him into submission. Picatti was ultimately arrested on two charges: resisting and obstructing officers (I.C. § 18-705), and aggravated battery on law enforcement. Ultimately, Picatti was convicted, accepting a plea agreement to disturbing the peace and failure to obey a traffic sign. Two years later, Picatti brought his 42 U.S.C. 1983 suit, claiming he was deprived of his rights to be free from (1) unreasonable seizure, (2) excessive force, and (3) felony arrest without probable cause. The district court granted summary judgment to the deputies, holding that collateral estoppel barred Picatti from relitigating probable cause once it was determined at the preliminary hearing. The Idaho Supreme Court affirmed summary judgment to the deputies as to Picatti’s claims of false arrest and unreasonable seizure; however, the Court vacated summary judgment as to Picatti’s excessive force claim. The district court correctly applied the doctrine of collateral estoppel to Picatti’s claims of false arrest and unreasonable seizure, but not as to excessive force. In addition, the Court could not find as a matter of law that the deputies were entitled to qualified immunity on Picatti’s excessive force claim when there was a genuine issue of material fact. View "Picatti v. Miner" on Justia Law

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Rebecca Parkinson appealed a district court’s dismissal of her claim for breach of fiduciary duty against her attorney, James Bevis. Parkinson filed a complaint alleging Bevis breached his fiduciary duty when he disclosed a confidential email to the opposing attorney after reaching a settlement in Parkinson’s divorce action. Bevis moved to dismiss under Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), arguing that Parkinson’s complaint failed to state a claim for relief. The district court agreed and dismissed Parkinson’s claim after determining that it was, in essence, a legal malpractice claim, on which Parkinson could not prevail because she admitted that she suffered no damages from Bevis’ disclosure. The Idaho Supreme Court determined the district court erred in dismissing Parkinson's complaint: whether an attorney must forfeit any or all fees for a breach of fiduciary duty to a client must be determined by applying the rule as stated in section 37 of the Restatement (Third) of the Law Governing Lawyers and the factors the Supreme Court identified to the individual circumstances of each case. In light of this conclusion, the district court’s determination that Parkinson could not pursue her claim on an equitable basis as a matter of law was incorrect. The matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "Parkinson v. Bevis" on Justia Law

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After Ellen Gittel Gordon defaulted on her mortgage, the loan servicer initiated nonjudicial foreclosure proceedings to sell her home at auction. Gordon submitted multiple loan modification applications and appeals in an attempt to keep her home but ultimately, all were rejected. As a result, Gordon initiated the underlying action in district court to enjoin the foreclosure sale. Upon the filing of a motion to dismiss that was later converted to a motion for summary judgment, the district court dismissed Gordon’s action and allowed the foreclosure sale to take place. Gordon timely appealed. The Idaho Supreme Court concluded none of the reasons Gordon offered were sufficient to reverse the district court judgment, and affirmed dismissal of Gordon’s complaint. View "Gordon v. U.S. Bank" on Justia Law

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SSI Food Services Inc. (SSI) appealed the district court’s decision rejecting the Board of Tax Appeal’s (BTA) 2016 assessed value of SSI’s food processing facility in favor of the Canyon County Assessor’s (Canyon County) significantly higher valuation. On appeal, SSI argued the district court erred when it modified the BTA’s valuation because: (1) Canyon County did not meet its burden of proving that the BTA’s valuation was erroneous; (2) the modified valuation was not supported by substantial and competent evidence; and (3) the conclusions of law contained in the district court’s findings of fact and conclusions of law are inadequate. SSI also appealed the district court’s decision to allow Canyon County’s expert to testify on rebuttal. Canyon County cross-appealed the district court’s decision that SSI was not obligated to pay penalties and interest on the unpaid amount of property taxes. Finding no reversible error or abuse of discretion, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court. View "Stender v. SSI Food Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant Tom Katsilometes challenged the Idaho Senate’s order granting over $18,000 in attorney fees to Senator W. Marcus Nye, awarded after Nye prevailed against Katsilometes in a contest over the results of the 2016 general election. The Senate confirmed Nye’s election and awarded him costs and attorney fees. Because Katsilometes refused to pay the attorney fees, Nye brought an action in district court seeking a declaratory judgment ordering Katsilometes to pay him the amount ordered by the Senate. The district court granted the declaratory judgment and further awarded Nye costs, attorney fees, and prejudgment interest. The Idaho Supreme Court determined the Senate did not have the authority to award attorney fees to Nye at the time of the election contest. Nye was not entitled to recover his litigation costs, attorney fees, and prejudgment interest in the district court action. Therefore, the Idaho Supreme Court reversed the district court’s order enforcing the award of attorney fees to Nye pursuant to the order of the Idaho Senate, and vacated all costs, attorney fees, and prejudgment interest awarded to Nye by the district court. Neither side was entitled to attorney fees on appeal; however, as the prevailing party, Katsilometes was entitled to his costs on appeal. View "Nye v. Katsilometes" on Justia Law

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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