Articles Posted in Idaho Supreme Court - Civil

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Burns Concrete, Inc., and Canyon Cove Development Company, LLP, (Canyon Cove), appealed a district court judgment in favor of Nora Mulberry and TN Properties, LLC, (collectively, Mulberry) regarding the extinguishment of a right of first refusal (ROFR). In 1999, Nora and Theodore Mulberry sold a piece of real property to Canyon Cove and included a ROFR to a nearby, distinct parcel of real property (ROFR Property). Twelve days later, Canyon Cove conveyed its interest in both the purchased property and the ROFR to Burns Concrete and recorded the deed to the purchased property with the Bonneville County, Idaho Recorder. In 2005, Nora Mulberry and her husband (now deceased) conveyed the ROFR Property to their wholly owned limited liability company, TN Properties, and subsequently recorded the deed with the Bonneville County Recorder. In 2016, Mulberry filed a complaint seeking declaratory judgment and subsequently a motion for partial summary judgment. The district court entered partial summary judgment in favor of Mulberry finding the ROFR was personal to Mulberry and Canyon Cove, and it was subsequently extinguished when Canyon Cove assigned it to Burns Concrete. On reconsideration, the district court held that the ROFR was a servitude appurtenant to the purchased property, and reaffirmed it was extinguished by Canyon Cove’s conveyance to Burns Concrete. Burns Concrete and Canyon Cove timely appealed. The Idaho Supreme Court reversed and remanded, finding: (1) the ROFR was personal to the parties, and thus, non-assignable; and (2) the ROFR was not extinguished when Canyon Cove purported to assign it to Burns Concrete. Therefore, the district court erred in ruling the ROFR was extinguished after Canyon Cove purported to assign it to Burns Concrete; the matter was remanded for a determination of the other issues raised in the complaint that were previously dismissed as moot. View "Mulberry v. Burns Concrete" on Justia Law

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In 2006, T3 Enterprises entered into the Distributor Agreement with Safeguard Business Systems (SBS). In 2014, T3 filed suit alleging SBS had breached the Distributor Agreement by failing to prevent other SBS distributors from selling to T3’s customers and for paying commissions to the interfering distributors rather than to T3. The Distributor Agreement between SBS and T3 contained an arbitration clause indicating disputes must be resolved in a Dallas, Texas based arbitration procedure. The Distributor Agreement also contained a forum selection clause indicating that the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) and Texas law would apply to any disputes between the parties. Pursuant to this agreement, SBS moved the district court to compel arbitration in Dallas. The district court determined the parties had to submit to arbitration, but that the Dallas forum selection clause was unenforceable, and arbitration was to take place in Idaho. The Arbitration Panel (the Panel) found for T3 and the district court confirmed the award in the amount of $4,362,041.95. The district court denied SBS’s motion to vacate or modify the award. SBS appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court. View "T3 Enterprises v. Safeguard Business Sys" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose in the context of Safeguard Business Systems, Inc.’s (“SBS”) alleged breach of its distributorship agreement with Thurston Enterprises, Inc. (“Thurston”). After a jury trial Thurston was awarded approximately $6.8 million in damages. SBS filed a motion for post-judgment relief, which the district court denied. The Idaho Supreme Court determined the district court correctly decided that SBS breached Thurston’s account protection rights under the Agreement as a matter of law. Furthermore, the district court properly denied SBS’s motions for post-judgment relief on Thurston’s claim for fraud in the inducement of the March 2014 agreement, on Thurston’s claim that SBS breached the pricing guarantee in the Agreement, and on Thurston's claim for good faith and fair dealing because the jury’s findings were supported by substantial evidence. The Supreme Court, therefore, affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Thurston and T3 v. Safeguard" on Justia Law

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In December 2016, the J.R. Simplot Company (Simplot) filed suit in Washington state relating to the dissolution of a business relationship between Simplot and two entities Simplot co-owned with Frank Tiegs (Tiegs). Dickinson Frozen Foods (DFF), also operated by Tiegs, was not named as a party in the Washington litigation; however, the complaint contained allegedly defamatory statements about DFF. In March 2017, DFF filed suit in Idaho district court alleging defamation per se against Simplot and its Food Group President Mark McKellar (McKellar), as well as the two law firms who represented Simplot in the Washington litigation: Yarmuth Wilsdon, PLLC (Yarmuth) and Thompson Coburn, LLP (Thompson). DFF also claimed breach of contract against Simplot, claiming Simplot had breached a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). Counsel for Yarmuth and Thompson made special appearances so that they could contest personal jurisdiction, and simultaneously moved for dismissal on that basis. Yarmuth, Thompson, McKellar, and Simplot also sought dismissal or partial summary judgment on the basis of the litigation privilege. The district court dismissed DFF’s claims for defamation per se against all defendants, determining the statements were protected by the litigation privilege. However, the district court declined to rule on Yarmuth and Thompson’s motions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction in light of its rulings on the merits. Later, the district court granted Simplot’s motion for summary judgment on DFF’s breach of contract claim. DFF appealed. The Idaho Supreme Court determined it lacked personal jurisdiction over Yarmuth and Thompson; the Court affirmed the district court in all other respects. View "Dickinson Foods v. J.R.Simplot" on Justia Law

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AmeriTel Inns, Inc. appealed an Idaho Industrial Commission decision granting Megan Keller unemployment benefits after her employment with AmeriTel ended in June 2017. AmeriTel asked the Idaho Supreme Court to adopt a bright line rule that a one-day absence without notice was a voluntary quit under Idaho Code section 72- 1366(5). In the event that the Court declined to do so, AmeriTel argued the Commission’s factual findings that rendered Keller eligible for unemployment compensation benefits were not supported by substantial and competent evidence. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the Commission's decision. View "Keller v. Ameritel Inns; IDOL" on Justia Law

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The City of Middleton (the City) appealed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Martin and Patricia Galvin on their claim of prescriptive easement and its award of attorney fees to the Galvins pursuant to Idaho Code section 12-117. In 2016, the Galvins filed a complaint against the City of Middleton for quiet title, declaratory judgment, and a permanent injunction concerning their use of Willis Road, a private road that the City acquired in 2015. The Galvins alleged that their use of Willis Road since 1949 created a prescriptive easement entitling them to use the road for ingress, egress, and farming and irrigation purposes. The City’s answer denied the existence of the easement but did not dispute that the Galvins had used the road for the past sixty years. Finding no reversible error in the grant of summary judgment, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Galvin v. City of Middleton" on Justia Law

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Bruce Birch appealed a district court decision to affirm a magistrate court decision to award attorney fees against Birch. This case concerned the disposition of the estate of Birch and Linda Bailey’s mother, Ruth Birch. Ruth executed a last will and testament that intentionally omitted Birch. After Ruth’s death in 2011, Bailey was appointed as the personal representative for her estate. The magistrate approved a compromise agreement that allowed Birch and another intentionally omitted sibling to receive equal shares of the estate. After approval of the agreement, Bailey requested Birch pay the estate's attorney fees for preparing the agreement. The magistrate court awarded attorney fees to Bailey. In this appeal, Birch argued the magistrate court’s award of attorney fees was an abuse of discretion because it did not comply with the requirements of the Idaho Rules of Civil Procedure. The Idaho Supreme Court determined the district court erred in awarding fees, reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Bailey v. Birch" on Justia Law

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On November 20, 2018, the Acting Governor of Idaho issued a proclamation that Proposition 2 had passed, and subsequently the Idaho Code was amended to add section 56-267, a statute to expand Medicaid eligibility in Idaho. Petitioner Brent Regan argued 56-267 violated Idaho’s Constitution by delegating future lawmaking authority regarding Medicaid expansion to the federal government. Regan requested the Idaho Supreme Court declare section 56-267 unconstitutional and issue a writ of mandamus to direct the Secretary of State Lawerence Denney to remove section 56-267 from the Idaho Code. Finding the statute constitutional, the Supreme Court dismissed Regan’s petition and denied his request for a writ of mandamus. View "Regan v. Denney" on Justia Law

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Appellants Ryan and Kathryn McFarland owned real property in Garden Valley, Idaho, which feathred three structures insured through Liberty Mutual Insurance Group: a main cabin; a detached garage with an upstairs “bonus room”; and a pump house containing a geothermal well. The policy provided two types of coverage for structures. Coverage A (“Dwelling Coverage”) provided up to $188,500 in coverage for “the dwelling on the ‘residence premises’. . . including structures attached to the dwelling . . .” and Coverage B (“Other Structures Coverage”) provided up to $22,350 for “other structures on the ‘residence premises’ set apart from the dwelling by clear space.” In February 2017, a radiant heater burst in the bonus room and damaged the garage and its contents. After the McFarlands filed a claim, Liberty stated that the damage was covered under the policy. Believing the damage to fall under the Dwelling Coverage, the McFarlands hired contractors to repair the damage. However, after Liberty paid out a total of $23,467.50 in March 2017, Liberty stated that the coverage was exhausted because the damage fell under the Other Structures Coverage. This led the McFarlands to sue, alleging among other claims, breach of contract based on Liberty’s interpretation of the policy. The parties filed cross motions for summary judgment on the issue of whether the damage fell under the Dwelling Coverage or the Other Structures Coverage. Ruling that the policy unambiguously provided coverage for the garage under the Other Structures Coverage, the district court denied the McFarlands’ motion and granted Liberty’s. The McFarlands appealed. Finding that the policy at issue here failed to define the term "dwelling", and the term was reasonably subject to differing interpretations, the Idaho Supreme Court reversed the award of summary judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "McFarland v. Liberty Insurance Corp" on Justia Law

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Vernon K. Smith (Smith) appealed a district court’s award of sanctions. This case originally arose from a contract for the sale of lima beans between Victoria Smith (“Victoria”) and Treasure Valley Seed Company (“TVSC”). As Victoria’s son, Smith filed a complaint against TVSC for breach of contract. The original complaint named Victoria as plaintiff, by and through her attorney in fact, Vernon K. Smith, by and through his “Durable and Irrevocable Power of Attorney.” TVSC learned that Victoria had died three months before Smith’s filing of the complaint. Based on Victoria’s death, TVSC moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that there was no longer a real party in interest. Smith argued that he was a real party in interest because the power of attorney he drafted was irrevocable. The district court held that Smith’s power of attorney terminated on Victoria’s death and granted TVSC’s motion to dismiss. At the hearing for costs and fees, the district court stated that Victoria’s estate should have brought the action, but because no probate had been filed, there was no real party in interest able to substitute or join. After ruling that the complaint was unreasonable and without foundation, the district court awarded attorney fees to TVSC under Idaho Code section 12-121, to be assessed jointly and severally against Victoria and Smith, as counsel. Smith appealed both the dismissal of the case and the award of attorney fees, but his appeal of the dismissal was not filed timely, so the Idaho Supreme Court only addressed Smith’s appeal of the attorney fees. The Idaho Supreme Court concurred with the district court with respect to termination of the power of attorney. Smith maintained the power of attorney gave him authority to sue on his mother's behalf, and upon remand of the case to the district court to determine the appropriate amount of fees to be assessed, the trial court awarded fees as a sanction under Rule of Civil Procedure 11. The Supreme Court declined of offer Smith "an opportunity for a mulligan" on his arguments about the power of attorney, and found the district court did not abuse its discretion when it awarded attorney fees, or levied sanctions against Smith. View "Smith v. Treasure Valley Seed Co." on Justia Law