Justia Idaho Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
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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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Lamont Bair Enterprises, Inc. (“LBE”) was an Idaho corporation based in Idaho Falls that owned residential rental units. One of LBE’s rental units was a four-plex rental property at 547 South Skyline Drive (“the Property”), served by municipal water lines owned and maintained by the City of Idaho Falls (“the City”). On December 28, 2015, a municipal water main broke, causing water to flow beneath the Property’s driveway, crack the concrete basement floor, and flood the basements of all four rental units. The City received an emergency call for assistance in shutting off the water. Believing the incident to be a service line leak (as opposed to a water main break), the City’s response crew first closed the water service line and waited for confirmation that the water flow had stopped. After the crew received notice that water continued to flow into the basement, they isolated the leak to the water main and began repairing the main line. The water was turned back on the following day, and the road and curb were filled back in. None of LBE’s rental units ever experienced flooding from the city’s water lines prior to this flooding incident at the Property. LBE contended the water main “ruptured” due to negligent care (that “the City neglected its water system to the point that literally miles of pipe became past their design life and in need of replacement”) thus failing to exercise reasonable care in maintaining the water supply system. The district court ruled the City was immune from liability under the Idaho Tort Claims Act’s discretionary function exception. The Idaho Supreme Court determined the district court did not err in holding that the City is immune from suit pursuant to the discretionary function exception set forth in Idaho Code section 6-904(1). The Court did not reach the merits of the other issues LBE raised on appeal. View "Lamont Bair Enterprises v. City of Idaho Falls" 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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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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The named plaintiff, Mike Zeyen sought declaratory relief and recovery of damages from Pocatello/Chubbuck School District No. 25 on behalf of all students currently enrolled in the district and their guardians. Zeyen alleged that School District 25’s practice of charging fees violated Article IX, section 1, of the Idaho Constitution. Zeyen first sought to certify the class to include all students within School District 25. Zeyen’s later motion to amend sought to add a takings claim under both the Idaho and U.S. Constitutions. The district court denied Zeyen’s motion for class certification based on lack of standing and denied his motion to amend both as untimely and prejudicial to School District 25. The Idaho Supreme Court determined Zeyen failed to show that the district court abused its discretion by denying his second motion for leave to amend the complaint. Furthermore, the Court determined Zeyen lacked standing to bring his class action suit. The Court therefore affirmed the district court's denial of Zeyen's motion to certify the class and denial of his motion for leave to amend the first amended complaint. View "Zeyen v. Pocatello/Chubbuck School Dist 25" on Justia Law

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At issue before the Idaho Supreme Court in this matter centered on whether a person bringing a tort claim against a governmental entity for alleged child abuse had to comply with the notice requirement of the Idaho Tort Claims Act. Seven individuals (collectively, the Juveniles) filed suit alleging they had been abused while they were minors in the custody of the Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections. In its ruling on summary judgment, the district court found the Juveniles’ claims based on Idaho Code section 6-1701 were not barred by the notice requirements of the Idaho Tort Claims Act. The Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections and its employees moved for permission to appeal, which was granted, and they argued the district court erred by allowing the Juveniles’ claims to proceed. The Idaho Supreme Court held that because of the plain language of the ITCA, the notice requirement applied to claims based on tort actions in child abuse cases. Accordingly, the Court reversed the district court’s decision and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "D.A.F. v. Lieteau and Juvenile Corrections Nampa" 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 sought judicial review by the district court. On review, 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 appeals from the district court’s decision, arguing that the evidence does not support the Board’s finding of any violations. In addition, Erickson asserts that numerous procedural errors made by the Board necessitate reversal. After its review, the Idaho Supreme Court reversed the district court's order, finding the Board's order against Erickson was time-barred. View "Erickson v. Idaho Board of Licensure of Professional Engineers & Professional Land Surveyors" on Justia Law

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Due to a failed breath alcohol test and multiple convictions for driving under the influence, the Idaho Transportation Department permanently suspended Bruce Edwards’ driving privileges to operate a commercial motor vehicle. The district court affirmed the Department’s order and Edwards appealed. After review of the Department’s order and the circumstances leading to the suspension, the Idaho Supreme Court affirm the district court’s judgment and the Department’s lifetime disqualification of Edwards’ commercial motor vehicle driving privileges. View "Edwards v. Transportation Dept" on Justia Law