Articles Posted in Idaho Supreme Court - Civil

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Michael Johnson suffered injuries after he slipped and fell on a liquid while walking in the housewares department of a Wal-Mart store. Johnson knew neither the source of the substance, nor how long it had been on the floor. Additionally, none of Wal-Mart’s surveillance cameras captured the initial spill or Johnson’s fall. Johnson filed a complaint alleging Wal-Mart, which has issued an internal statement to its employees that spills are largely responsible for slip/trip/fall accidents in its stores, was negligent for failing to warn him of the potential for spills. Johnson claims that the store’s business practice of allowing patrons to carry liquids throughout the store should have put Wal-Mart on notice that spills were foreseeable anywhere. Wal-Mart filed a motion for summary judgment based on its lack of actual or constructive notice of the spill. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Wal-Mart. The Idaho Supreme Court affirmed, finding the district court did not err in granting summary judgment for Wal-Mart since no evidence demonstrated a genuine issue of material fact regarding Wal-Mart’s liability for Johnson’s fall. View "Johnson v. Wal-Mart" on Justia Law

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Elfego Marquez illegally immigrated from Mexico to the United States. After entering the United States, Marquez went to southern California, where he purchased a social security card and used it to obtain employment washing dishes at a restaurant. After working in California for approximately seven months, Marquez moved to Emmett, Idaho and soon after began working at Pierce Painting. Marquez’s primary job at Pierce Painting was to prepare buildings to be painted. Pierce Painting knew Marquez was an undocumented immigrant and that his social security card was not legally issued to him. Not long after beginning at Pierce Painting, a supervisor received a notice of garnishment associated with the social security number used by Marquez. Evidently, the individual to whom the social security number had been legally issued had an outstanding child support delinquency. The supervisor instructed Marquez to obtain a different social security card. In 2010, Marquez was standing on two five gallon buckets stacked on top of each other to reach an area above a tall doorway when he fell onto a concrete floor fracturing his right wrist and injuring his right arm and shoulder. His right wrist was put into a cast and he eventually underwent multiple right shoulder surgeries. His doctor recommended permanent restrictions on overhead activities and that Marquez not return to his position at Pierce Painting. Marquez subsequently filed a workers’ compensation complaint. Pierce Painting through its surety, the State Insurance Fund (“SIF”), paid Marquez’s medical bills, total temporary disability benefits, and permanent partial impairment benefits. SIF did not pay Marquez’s permanent disability benefits, claiming that Marquez was not eligible for permanent disability due to his status as an undocumented immigrant. The Industrial Commission (the “Commission”) disagreed and ordered that Marquez was entitled to pursue a claim for permanent disability without reference to his status as an undocumented immigrant. Pierce Painting and SIF appealed the Commission's order. The Idaho Supreme Court found the Commission erred in finding Marquez could pursue a permanent disability claim without reference to his status as an undocumented immigrant. The governing statute stated: “A person, including a minor, whether lawfully or unlawfully employed . . .” shall constitute an employee who is entitled to coverage and benefits under the Act. "If the Idaho Legislature desired to create an absolute bar for permanent disability for those 'unlawfully employed' within the Act, it was free to do so when it amended the Act and removed the agricultural pursuits exemption in 1996 or thereafter. Moreover, if the Legislature wanted to prohibit undocumented immigrants from receiving a benefit under the workers’ compensation statutes, it could have created an express prohibition in that regard—just like it did regarding unemployment benefits." View "Marquez v. Pierce Painting" on Justia Law

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This case was the second appeal following a judicial foreclosure. Charles and Donna Nickerson initially appealed the district court’s decision to grant summary judgment in favor of PHH Mortgage and J.P. Mortgage Chase Bank in a judicial foreclosure proceeding involving the Nickersons’ approximately fifty acres of land in Clearwater County, Idaho (the “Property”). The Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s summary judgment grant in PHH Mortgage v. Nickerson, 374 P.3d 551 (2016) (“Nickerson I”). Following the Supreme Court’s decision, the district court issued an order lifting the stay on its prior judgment, as well as an order of sale and decree of foreclosure. The district court also denied the Nickersons’ post-appeal motions for sanctions, to quash execution and judgment, and to vacate or amend the order of sale and decree of foreclosure. The Nickersons then challenged several issues previously decided in Nickerson I as well as the district court’s decisions on motions and orders subsequent to that decision. The Supreme Court found that the "law of the case" doctrine prevented the Supreme Court from addressing issues that were raised or could have been raised in Nickerson I, and that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the Nickersons' motion to quash execution and judgment, and the motion to reconsider. View "PHH Mortgage v. Nickerson" on Justia Law

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Appellant Jennifer Eastman sought a declaratory judgment that she was entitled to underinsured motorist insurance coverage (“UIM coverage”) under her auto insurance policy (the “Policy”) with Respondent Farmers Insurance Company (“Farmers”). Eastman was involved in a motor vehicle accident while traveling in a van operated by the Spokane Transit Authority (“STA”). Eastman sustained injuries as a result of the accident. Both the at-fault driver and STA held insurance policies. Eastman collected $50,000 from the at-fault driver’s insurance policy. Additionally, Eastman collected $48,846 in UIM coverage from STA’s insurance policy. Eastman’s special damages from the accident exceeded the amount that she collected from the two insurance policies. Eastman thereafter filed a claim with her insurer, Farmers, in an attempt to collect her own UIM coverage under the Policy. Specifically, Eastman sought her UIM coverage limit ($500,000) minus the $98,846 that she had already collected from the other insurance policies. Farmers denied Eastman’s claim based on an exclusion within the Policy which eliminated UIM coverage in situations where the insured was riding in another vehicle that had UIM coverage. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Farmers, ruling that an exclusion contained in the Policy precluded UIM coverage for Eastman’s injuries. Finding that the clause in Eastman's policy violated Idaho's public policy, the Idaho Supreme Court vacated the district court's judgment and remanded this case with direction to invalidate the insurance exclusion at issue here. View "Eastman v. Farmers Insurance" on Justia Law

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This appeal involved an Idaho district court’s denial of a jury trial under Rule 39(b) of the Idaho Rules of Civil Procedure and the decision to pierce the corporate veil. The dispute stemmed from a transaction between Kym Nelson, who acted on behalf of KDN Management Inc., (“KDN”), and WinCo, Foods, LLC (“WinCo”), for concrete floor work that KDN performed in several WinCo stores. The district court found that KDN had overcharged WinCo for the work, and awarded WinCo $2,929,383.31 in damages, including attorney fees. The district court also held Nelson and two entities associated with her, SealSource International, LLC, and KD3 Flooring LLC, jointly and severally liable for WinCo’s damages. Nelson, SealSource and KD3 argued on appeal to the Idaho Supreme Court that the trial court erred in concluding: (1) Nelson was personally liable for damages relating to this dispute; and (2) that KDN, SealSource and KD3 were alter egos of one another. Nelson and the corporate co-defendants also argued the district court abused its discretion by denying their motion for a jury trial under Rule of Civil Procedure 39(b). Finding no reversible error in the district court’s judgment, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the judgment and award of attorney fees to WinCo. View "KDN Management, Inc. v. WinCo" on Justia Law

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Victoria H. Smith was nearly 100 years old when she died on September 11, 2013. During her life she married Vernon K. Smith Sr., a lawyer who died of a heart attack in 1966. The couple had three children: Joseph H. Smith, Vernon K. Smith Jr., and Victoria A. (Smith) Converse. This case centered on Victoria’s estate: the magistrate court ruled that Victoria died intestate after finding that her will was a product of the undue influence of her son, Appellant Vernon Smith Jr. Vernon appealed that ruling, as well as an earlier partial summary judgment ruling that invalidated a series of transactions that transferred all of Victoria’s assets to a limited liability company that Vernon owned and a corresponding judgment entered pursuant to Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 70(b). After review, the Idaho Supreme Court found no reversible error in the magistrate court’s judgment and affirmed. View "Smith v. Smith" on Justia Law

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Donna Taylor appealed a district court’s judgment regarding her Series A Preferred Shares in AIA Services Corporation (AIA). In 1987, Donna received 200,000 Series A Preferred Shares in AIA as part of a divorce settlement. Between 1987 and 1996, Donna, AIA, and other relevant parties entered into various stock redemption agreements with differing terms and interest rates. One such agreement was challenged in Taylor v. AIA Servs. Corp., 261 P.3d 829 (2011). While the Taylor case was being litigated, AIA stopped paying Donna for the redemption of her shares, prompting her to file suit. Donna alleged several causes of action against AIA, with the primary issue being whether Donna was entitled to have her shares redeemed at the prime lending rate plus one-quarter percent. AIA contended any agreement providing that interest rate was unenforceable, and instead Donna’s redemption was governed by AIA’s amended articles of incorporation, which provided the interest rate as the prime lending rate minus one-half percent. The district court determined Donna’s share redemption was governed by AIA’s amended articles of incorporation, and as such, all but 7,110 of Donna’s shares had been redeemed. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court reversed the district court’s dismissal of Donna’s breach of contract claim as it related to a 1995 Letter Agreement, and remanded for further proceedings. The Supreme Court also reverse the district court’s dismissal of Donna’s fraud claims. The Court affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Donna’s unjust enrichment claim, and the dismissal of AIA’s counterclaim against Donna. View "Taylor v. Taylor" on Justia Law

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Amelia Johnson, fka Boe (Mother), brought a permissive appeal seeking to challenge custody and support orders issued by the magistrate court in hers and Erik Boe's divorce. Mother and Father divorced in 2010 and, at that time, stipulated to a joint-custody arrangement regarding their two minor children, L.R.B. and L.E.B. (collectively, the Children). That custody arrangement governed until 2015, when Father relocated from Southeast Boise to Meridian. The moved caused disputes over physical and legal custody, which schools the Children should attend, and issues pertaining to child support. A two-year course of litigation ensued, with Mother and Father ultimately stipulating to a partial judgment that resolved physical custody and trying issues concerning legal custody, the Children’s schools, and child support to the magistrate court. As relevant here, the magistrate court ruled that the Children were to attend the schools assigned to Father’s Meridian, Idaho home (the Meridian Schools), and that Mother and Father were each entitled to one dependency exemption. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court determined Mother's challenges concerning physical custody were moot: the challenges themselves did not create a real, substantial controversy for the Court to resolve. Further, the Court determined the magistrate court did not err by assigning the Children to the Meridian Schools, nor did it abuse discretion in allocating the two dependency exemptions. View "Boe v. Boe" on Justia Law

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The estate of Paul Robert Welch (Welch) appealed the grant of summary judgment to the estate of Barbara Sue Chitwood (Chitwood). Chitwood was murdered in August 2015, at which time a dispute arose over ownership of funds Chitwood and Welch held at Farmers Bank in two bank accounts designated as “JOINT - WITH SURVIVORSHIP (and not as tenants in common or community property)[.]” Farmers Bank interpled the funds with the district court and initiated this action to resolve the dispute. Law enforcement’s investigation into Chitwood’s death led to Welch being charged with murdering Chitwood. Accordingly, in the interpleader action, Chitwood asserted Idaho’s slayer statute precluded Welch from taking the funds. The district court ruled on summary judgment that the funds went to Chitwood, concluding Chitwood’s slayer statute defense was dispositive. Welch appealed the district court’s ruling concerning the funds. But finding no reversible error in the district court's decision, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Hodge v. Waggoner" on Justia Law

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Marya Woods (Mother) appealed the denial of her petition for modification of the custody schedule for her two minor children: H.W. (Son) and T.W. (Daughter). Both Karl Woods (Father) and Mother sought to modify the schedule. The magistrate court denied both parents’ petitions to modify based upon its finding that there existed no substantial, permanent, or material changes that warranted modification of the custody arrangement. On appeal, Mother argued the magistrate court abused its discretion in finding no substantial or material change existed. Finding no reversible error in the magistrate court's judgment, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed: the magistrate court’s finding that there was no substantial and material change in circumstance was supported by substantial and competent evidence. View "Woods v. Woods" on Justia Law