Justia Idaho Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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The East Side Highway District (the District) and Gregory and Ellen Delavan (the Delavans) disputed the location of their common boundary relating to a portion of a road, Boothe Park Road, which included a boat ramp located on the shore of Lake Coeur d’Alene. The District asserted a claim to the disputed property under two theories: (1) a boundary by agreement that was established by the location of a fence that was erected by the Delavans’ predecessor in interest; and (2) Boothe Park Road and the boat ramp at its termination was a public highway pursuant to Idaho Code section 40-202(3). In response, the Delavans claimed the boat ramp was on their property, and its use by the public has always been, and remained, permissive. Further, the Delavans claimed the fence which was erected by their predecessor in interest was intended to act as a barrier, not a boundary. After two bench trials, the trial court ruled in favor of the Delavans, finding that the public’s use of the boat ramp had been permissive. As a result, the trial court ruled that the District did not have a right to a public easement based on Idaho Code section 40-202(3). Further, the trial court found that the fence had been erected as a barrier, not a boundary. Instead, the trial court found that the intention of the parties at the time the disputed property was conveyed to the Delavans demonstrated that the Delavans owned the property in dispute. The District appealed. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court held there was substantial and competent evidence to support the trial court’s findings that there was no boundary by agreement and that the Delavans owned the property in dispute. However, the Supreme Court vacated the trial court’s order granting summary judgment in favor of the Delavans because there was no hostility requirement in Idaho Code section 40-202(3). Accordingly, the case was remanded to determine whether the District had a public easement under Idaho Code section 40-202(3). View "Eastside Hwy Dist v. Delavan" on Justia Law

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This case arose out of the termination of Ryan and Lanie Berrett (“the Berretts”) from their jobs with Clark County School District No. 161 (the “School District”), and raised issues regarding the “law of the case” doctrine, the Idaho Protection of Public Employees Act (“Whistleblower Act”), and wrongful termination in violation of public policy. The Berretts sued the School District, alleging that both of their terminations were in retaliation for Ryan Berrett reporting a building code violation to the School District’s board of trustees (the “board”). The district court granted the School District’s motion for summary judgment, finding that Ryan Berrett did not engage in a protected activity under the Whistleblower Act, and that Idaho’s public policy did not extend to protect Lanie Berrett in a termination in violation of public policy claim. The district court also denied the Berretts’ motion for reconsideration. The Berretts timely appealed. The Idaho Supreme Court concluded after review the law of the case doctrine did not preclude the district court from considering the School District’s motion for summary judgment, however, the Court erred in granting summary judgment on Ryan Berrett’s Whistleblower Act claim; the Court found genuine issues of material fact regarding whether Ryan Berrett engaged in a protected activity and causation. The trial court did not err in granting summary judgment on Lanie Berrett’s termination in violation of public policy claim. The matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "Berrett v. Clark County School District" on Justia Law

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At issue in this appeal was a district court’s dismissal of Rencher/Sundown LLC’s (“Sundown”) complaint against Butch Pearson. The Idaho Supreme Court determined Sundown did not serve the complaint or summons within the six months required by Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 4(b)(2); Pearson moved to dismiss the complaint. The district court dismissed Sundown’s complaint after finding Sundown could not show good cause for failure to timely serve. The Supreme Court affirmed dismissal of Sundown's complaint. View "Rencher/Sundown LLC v. Pearson" on Justia Law

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Appellants Jerry and JoCarol Losee appeal the district court’s decision granting Deutsche Bank National Trust Company’s motion for summary judgment, arguing the district court erred by refusing to consider their “Chain of Title Analysis” as inadmissible hearsay. The Losees also argue the district court erred in failing to rule on two of their claims against Deutsche Bank. In 2009, the Losees became delinquent in their mortgage payments, eventually defaulting on their home mortgage loan. Over two years after the foreclosure sale was supposed to take place, a second notice of default was recorded on April 20, 2014. However, the foreclosure sale was postponed when the Losees requested a loss mitigation review. The owner of the loan would not allow loan modification, so the Losees were advised that a short sale of the property was the only loss mitigation available. On August 17, 2015, this case commenced when the Losees, acting pro se, filed their “Original Petition for Breach of Contract, Slander of Title for Declaratory Judgment and Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Application for Temporary Injunction” (“Complaint”) with the district court. In 2017, the Losees submitted a “Notice of Filing for Judicial Review,” to which they attached a “Chain of Title Analysis.” The “Chain of Title Analysis” was a report resulting from a mortgage fraud investigation conducted by a private investigation company they hired. The district court granted the Bank's motion for summary judgment, concluding there was no breach of the Deed of Trust, title to the property had not been slandered or become clouded by assignment, and that the Chain of Title Analysis was inadmissible hearsay not appropriate for consideration by the court on summary judgment. The Idaho Supreme Court found no reversible error in the district court's grant of summary judgment and affirmed. View "Losee v. Deutsche Bank Nat'l Trust" on Justia Law

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Peter Nemeth and his wife Mary Nemeth (deceased), and Peter Nemeth acting as trustee of the Peter and Mary Nemeth Family Trust (collectively, “the Nemeths”), petitioned Shoshone County, Idaho, to validate a public right-of-way across federal land pursuant to Idaho Code section 40-204A and United States Revised Statute 2477 (“R.S. 2477”). The right-of-way followed a road which crossed federal land that Nemeths claimed historically provided access to their property and patented mining claims. When the County failed to act on the petition, the Nemeths filed a declaratory judgment action seeking validation of the right-of-way pursuant to Idaho Code section 40- 208(7). On a motion from the County, the district court dismissed the complaint pursuant to I.R.C.P. 12(b)(6) on grounds that because the Road traversed federal land, only a federal court had jurisdiction to hear the claim, which had to be brought under the federal Quiet Title Act (QTA), 28 U.S.C. section 2409a. The Nemeths appealed, arguing that state courts had jurisdiction to validate rights-of- way on federal land pursuant to R.S. 2477 and that the QTA did not preempt Idaho law that provided for such validation. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court reversed, because the district court erred in dismissing the Nemeths’ action on the basis it lacked subject matter jurisdiction. View "Nemeth v. Shoshone County" on Justia Law

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The Fletchers owned property in the Twin Lakes Meadows Subdivision in Kootenai County, Idaho. Some of the lots, but not all, adjoin or connect to a private gravel and dirt road known as “Lone Mountain Road” which ran through the subdivision. road. Over the years, because Delores Fletcher suffered from asthma, the Fletchers used asphalt grindings, oiling, and other dust control methods, at their own expense, to abate the dust on the stretch of road adjacent to their property. Disputes arose for several contentious years between the Fletchers and the “Lone Mountain Road Association” - i.e. the Fletchers’ neighbors - over the payment of maintenance costs incurred by the Association, attempts to stop the Fletchers from utilizing their own dust control methods, and the repair of potholes. The disputes came to a head in 2009 when the Association made written demand that the Fletchers stop oiling Lone Mountain Road. In response to their neighbors’ demand, the Fletchers brought a declaratory judgment action, seeking a declaration which outlined the rights and responsibilities of subdivision property owners with respect to Lone Mountain Road. The Fletchers also brought a claim for trespass against defendants Alan Sims and Lone Mountain Road Association. Counterclaims were filed against the Fletchers alleging nuisance. The district court dismissed the nuisance claims in June of 2015, and later dismissed the trespass claims as well, leaving only the issue of the declaration of the rights and responsibilities of the lot owners for maintenance of Lone Mountain Road. The Fletchers appealed the district court’s denial of attorney fees on remand after an amended judgment was entered in their favor. The district court awarded some costs to the Fletchers as the prevailing parties but found that the subdivision’s covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs), which governed this dispute, did not provide a basis for an award of attorney fees. The Idaho Supreme Court reversed the district court’s decision, holding that the Fletchers’ declaratory judgment action constituted an “enforcement action” under section 5.1 of the CC&Rs. The matter was remanded for a determination of the amount of reasonable attorney fees to be awarded and apportionment of those fees against the parties. View "Fletcher v. Lone Mtn Rd Association" on Justia Law

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Three cases were consolidated by the Idaho Supreme Court for the purposes of appeal. The cases involved three separate actions: one brought by First Security Corporation and two others brought by Richard Fosbury to quiet title to their purported ownership of irrigation water rights to land owned by Belle Ranch, LLC. All parties agreed that partial decrees for the water rights were issued in the Snake River Basin Adjudication (SRBA) in the name of South County Estates, LLC. As South County’s successors in interest, First Security and Fosbury argued their interests in the water rights are senior and therefore superior to the interest of Belle Ranch, LLC. Notwithstanding these claims, the district court quieted title to the water rights in question to Belle Ranch, LLC. First Security and Fosbury appeal. The Idaho Supreme Court determined First Security and Fosbury’s claims were precluded by res judicata: the claims were the same claims that were adjudicated in the SRBA. The Supreme Court found it was appropriate for the district court to quiet title in favor of Belle Ranch, LLC, because Belle Ranch, LLC, filed a notice of a change in ownership during the pendency of the SRBA. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the district court’s judgment. View "First Security v. Belle Ranch" on Justia Law

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Dale Johnson maintained roller coasters for Silverwood, Inc. Among rising contentions and a dispute with Silverwood’s new director of construction and maintenance, Johnson resigned his position on June 8, 2015. He subsequently applied for unemployment benefits, but his claim was denied. Johnson challenged the denial with the Appeals Bureau of the Idaho Department of Labor, and a hearing was held on August 5, 2015. When denied again, Johnson appealed to the Industrial Commission. While the appeal was pending, Johnson learned that his hearing’s recording was lost. The Industrial Commission remanded the case to the Appeals Bureau for a new hearing. Ultimately, after two additional hearings and a second appeal to the Industrial Commission, Johnson won his claim for benefits with the Commission finding that Johnson was eligible for benefits. Johnson subsequently filed suit against the Department of Labor for unnecessary delays and other alleged improprieties in the handling of his claim. The district court dismissed the case for failure to file a notice of tort claim pursuant to the Idaho Tort Claims Act and then denied Johnson’s post-judgment motions. Finding no reversible error in the district court’s judgment, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court. View "Johnson v. Idaho Dept of Labor" on Justia Law

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Brandi and Brandon Kelly were married and had a son. After about two years of marriage Brandon filed for divorce. Once the divorce was final the magistrate court awarded sole legal custody and primary physical custody of the child to Brandon. Brandi filed a permissive appeal, arguing the magistrate court erred by relying on an inadmissible parenting time evaluation and following the recommendations of a biased evaluator. The Idaho Supreme Court determined the magistrate court abused its discretion by permitting Brandon to hire Dr. Jane McNaught to perform a parenting time evaluation as his expert. "[M]ost of the errors stem from the magistrate court's reliance on Brandon's experts," and the court specifically declined to appoint Dr. McNaught as the court's expert under IRFLP 719. "Parenting time evaluators must adhere strictly to the ethical principles that govern their conduct as a neutral." The Supreme Court determined the facts of this case established how the court’s appointment of Dr. McNaught violated these legal standards. While there was some evidence in the record to support the magistrate court’s custody decision, that evidence was so tainted by the court’s reliance on Dr. McNaught’s testimony, the Supreme Court found it was unreliable. In addition, the magistrate court abused its discretion in ordering Brandi to undergo psychological evaluation and counseling as recommended by Dr. McNaught. The Supreme Court affirmed certain evidentiary rulings for guidance upon remand, but it did vacate the custody judgment and remanded for a new trial. View "Kelly v. Kelly" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Jackie Raymond alleged, among other things, that Idaho State Police (“ISP”), Payette County, and Deputy Sloan (collectively “defendants”) tortiously interfered with a prospective civil action. The defendants moved for dismissal of this claim, arguing Idaho did not recognize the tort, and even if it did, Raymond lacked standing and her claims were too speculative to establish causation. The district court agreed with defendants, holding that: (1) Idaho had not recognized the tort as an independent cause of action; (2) it would not acknowledge the tort; and (3) the facts were too speculative to establish such a claim. Raymond appealed and requested the Idaho Supreme Court to formally adopt a new tort for intentional interference with a prospective civil action by spoliation of evidence by a third party. The Supreme Court found that Idaho courts already recognized the cause of action, but took the opportunity to state this conclusion explicitly. The Court therefore reversed. View "Raymond v. Idaho State Police" on Justia Law