Justia Idaho Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Idaho Supreme Court - Civil
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Praveen Khurana appealed an administrative order entered by the Administrative District Judge (“ADJ”) declaring him to be a vexatious litigant pursuant to Idaho Court Administrative Rule 59. The order prohibited Khurana from filing any new pro se litigation in the state of Idaho without first obtaining leave of the court where the litigation was proposed to be filed. In November 2018, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (“Department”) filed a motion with the district court requesting that Khurana be declared a vexatious litigant pursuant to Rule 59(d). At the time, the Department was engaged in two separate litigations against Khurana, a Medicaid estate recovery action (“Medicaid action”) and a child support enforcement action. Attached to the Department’s motion was an order from the Court of Queen’s Bench Alberta, a Canadian court, declaring Khurana a vexatious litigant and restricting his access to Alberta’s courts. Khurana timely appealed the ADJ’s order declaring him a vexatious litigant. Finding no reversible error in the declaration, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s judgment. View "Khurana v. IDHW" on Justia Law

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Linda Black sustained second-degree burns on her back while undergoing electrotherapeutic treatment at Superior Physical Therapy (“SPT”). Black’s treatment was performed by Bart McDonald, a licensed physical therapist and the sole owner of SPT. Black brought a product liability claim against the manufacturer and seller of the self- adhesive carbon electrode pads used during her treatment. The manufacturer moved for summary judgment on the grounds that Black was unable to prove that the electrode pads were defective or that the injuries Black sustained were proximately caused by its negligence. The district court ruled that: (1) McDonald’s conclusory statements that the electrode pads were defective were inadmissible because he was not a qualified expert; (2) the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur did not apply to Black’s case; and (3) Black’s prima facie case failed because there was evidence of abnormal use of the electrode pads and other reasonable secondary causes that could have contributed to Black’s injury. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the manufacturer. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s decision. View "Black v. DJO Global" on Justia Law

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Progressive Northwest Insurance Company (“Progressive”) insured Dean and Laura Lautenschlager with a combined single limit policy of $500,000, which provided liability coverage, in addition to underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage. The Lautenschlagers were subsequently injured in a collision between their motorcycle, driven by Dean, and a van, driven by an underinsured motorist. Both Dean and Laura individually recovered the policy limits of $15,000 per-person from the underinsured motorist. In addition, Laura recovered a $375,000 settlement from Progressive due to Dean’s partial responsibility for the collision. Progressive then filed this lawsuit seeking a declaration that Progressive was only responsible for an additional $95,000 in underinsured motorist benefits under the policy following the various settlements. The district court granted summary judgment in Progressive’s favor, concluding that the offset provisions in the Lautenschlagers’ policy did not violate Idaho public policy and that the remaining coverage from Progressive was limited to $95,000. The Lautenschlagers appealed, arguing that the offset provisions of their insurance policy are void on public policy grounds and that the policy is ambiguous with respect to the amount of coverage offered. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court. View "Progressive Northwest Insurance Company v. Lautenschlager" on Justia Law

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Beginning in the 1980s and 1990s, two Idaho businesses did roofing work under substantially similar names: one, Gem State Roofing, Inc., performed work primarily in Blaine County (Gem State-Blaine); the other was a corporation operating under the name Gem State Roofing and Asphalt Maintenance, which also did business as Gem State Roofing. The latter was based in Boise, Idaho, and performed work in a significantly larger area. In 2011, Gem State Roofing and Asphalt Maintenance was succeeded in interest by United Components, Inc. (UCI.) Notwithstanding its change of name, it continued to do business as Gem State Roofing. In 2005, prior to UCI’s name change, the two businesses with similar names entered into a Trademark Settlement Agreement (TSA), prohibiting UCI from advertising, soliciting, or performing business in Blaine County, with exceptions for certain services (i.e., warranty, maintenance work, or work performed for previous customers). In addition, UCI agreed that if it received a request for work it was contractually unable to fulfil because of the TSA, it would refer the work to Gem State-Blaine. In 2018, Gem State-Blaine sued UCI, alleging it had breached the TSA when it advertised, solicited, bid on, and performed roofing work in Blaine County, and had failed to refer requests for work as required under the TSA. After a bench trial, the district court concluded that, despite UCI’s breach of the TSA and the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, Gem State-Blaine had failed to prove damages or that it was entitled to a permanent injunction. The district court further found that Gem State-Blaine had no protectable common-law trademark. Finally, the district court concluded that there was no prevailing party and declined to award attorney fees and costs. Gem State-Blaine timely appealed. UCI timely cross-appealed the district court’s denial of its request for attorney fees and costs. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court reversed in part, affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings. The district court’s refusal to enter a permanent injunction was reversed, and the court directed to enter a permanent injunction to enjoin UCI from any further breach of the TSA. The district court’s refusal to award attorney fees and costs as a sanction for UCI’s discovery violations, and the district court’s conclusion that Gem State-Blaine did not have a protectable common-law trademark against UCI were also reversed. The Supreme Court vacated the district court’s determination that neither party prevailed. The matter was remanded for the district court to determine whether there was a prevailing party, and to determine if attorney fees and costs should be awarded. The district court’s decision denying damages was affirmed. View "Gem State Roofing, Incorp. v. United Components, Inc." on Justia Law

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Loyd Eugene Ware filed suit against the City of Kendrick (the City) alleging that in December 2016, a water pipe maintained by the City failed and flooded his property, causing damage. The City answered, claiming that Ware had failed to file a timely notice of tort claim within 180 days of the City’s alleged negligence, a statutory prerequisite to filing suit against a governmental entity under Idaho Code section 6-906. The City averred the flooding occurred on December 17, 2016, and the notice of tort claim was not filed until two hundred twenty-two days later. The City thus moved for summary judgment, which was granted by the district court. Ware timely appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the grant of summary judgment in favor of the City. View "Ware v. City of Kendrick" on Justia Law

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Alicia Gangi brought a declaratory judgment action against Mark and Jane Doe Debolt (“Debolts”), the owners of a parcel adjacent to Gangi’s property. While a water tank and deck lie on Gangi’s property, the system only served the Debolts’ property with water. Moreover, the Debolts enjoyed exclusive use and enjoyment of an above-ground deck atop the water tank, since their property included an easement to the land where the water tank and deck were located. After the district court denied Gangi’s motion for summary judgment, Gangi dismissed her own case with prejudice. Thereafter, the Debolts sought attorney fees on the basis of a recorded agreement Gangi’s and the Debolts’ predecessor in interest had with a third party regarding the water system. The agreement provided that attorney fees would be awarded to the prevailing party if a suit were brought to enforce or interpret the agreement. On the basis of that agreement, the district court granted Debolts’ request for attorney fees. Gangi appealed. The Idaho Supreme Court found that Gangi’s action was not brought to interpret or enforce the Debolts’ predecessor in interest’s agreement. “The true gravamen of the lawsuit was the interpretation of the 2012 Elliott-Debolt easement agreement and whether that agreement provided the Debolts with an exclusive easement to use the water system and the deck. Therefore, inasmuch as the district court’s decision was neither consistent with existing legal standards nor reached through the exercise of reason, we conclude that the district court abused its discretion by awarding attorney fees to the Debolts under the prior Elliott-Debolt agreement.” View "Gangi v. Debolt" on Justia Law

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Off-Spec Solutions LLC was a trucking company located in Nampa, Idaho, that was formed by two brothers: Christopher and Daniel Salvador. The Salvadors sold 51 percent of their ownership interest in Off-Spec Solutions to Transportation Investors LLC. To implement the transaction, the Salvadors and Transportation Investors entered into a purchase agreement and an LLC agreement. The purchase agreement identified “The Central Valley Fund II” and “The Central Valley Fund III” as affiliates of Transportation Investors. Off-Spec Solutions also entered into separate employment agreements with the Salvadors. The purchase agreement stated that all disputes concerning the agreement would be governed by California law. After disputes arose between the parties, Off-Spec Solutions petitioned an Idaho district court to compel the Salvadors to arbitrate claims relating to the employment agreements in Idaho instead of California. The Salvadors subsequently filed a cross-application with the district court seeking to compel Off-Spec Solutions and Transportation Investors and its affiliates to arbitrate all claims between the parties in a consolidated arbitration in Idaho. While those applications were pending, Transportation Investors and its affiliates filed a petition with a California Superior Court seeking to compel the Salvadors to arbitrate all claims arising from the purchase agreement and the LLC agreement in Sacramento County, California. The questions this case presented for the Idaho Supreme Court’s review were: (1) whether a forum selection clause was unenforceable under California law if enforcement would contravene a strong public policy of the forum where suit is brought (in this case, Idaho); and, if yes, then (2) whether the forum selection clauses at issue must be invalidated based on the public policy set forth in Idaho Code section 29-110(1). The Supreme Court held California law required an examination of the public policy of the forum in which suit was brought, and that the forum selection clauses at issue violated the strong public policy of the State of Idaho. The Court affirmed the district court’s ruling that claims arising from the parties’ purchase agreement and LLC agreement had to be arbitrated in Idaho. View "Off-Spec Solutions LLC v. Transportation Investors LLC" on Justia Law

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St. Luke’s Meridian Medical Center (St. Luke’s) provided inpatient hospital care for an indigent patient from January 26, 2016, until March 9, 2016. St. Luke’s sought payment from the Board by submitting a medical indigency application. In September 2016, the Board issued an initial determination, only approving payment from January 26 through February 2, 2016. St. Luke’s appealed the denial. The Board amended its determination by only partially extending payment approval through February 18, 2016. St. Luke’s petitioned for judicial review. In October 2017, the district court affirmed the Board’s decision. St. Luke’s appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court held that the Board’s findings did not provide a reasoned analysis, as required by the Idaho Administrative Procedures Act (IDAPA). The case was remanded back to the Board for it to make the required findings of fact and conclusions of law. On remand, the Board entered its findings of fact, conclusions of law, and order, again denying payment and finding that the services provided were not the most cost-effective services as required under the Idaho Medical Indigency Act. St. Luke’s again filed a petition for judicial review, and the district court again affirmed the Board’s decision. Once more, St. Luke’s timely appealed. The Idaho Supreme Court determined the Board’s decision reflected a misinterpretation of the definition of “medically necessary services;” the Board’s decision was set aside and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "St. Luke's Health System v. Board of Commissioners of Gem County" on Justia Law

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An indigent patient was admitted to St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center (St. Alphonsus) on October 7, 2017, and continued to receive treatment in the hospital until she was discharged on January 12, 2018. During her stay, St. Alphonsus filed a third-party medical indigency application on her behalf, and later filed two additional requests for payment of services. The Board of Ada County Commissioners (the Board) approved payment for dates of service from October 7 until October 10, 2017, but denied payments for services provided from October 11 until December 31, 2017, relying on the opinion of the Ada County Medical Advisor that the services provided on those dates were not “medically necessary” under the definition in Idaho Code section 31-3502(18)A(e). St. Alphonsus appealed the Board’s initial determination, but the final determination upheld the denial for payment beyond October 11. Upon St. Alphonsus’ petition, a district court reversed the Board’s decision, finding that the services “currently available” to a patient were to be considered as a “necessary medical service.” The Board argued “there did exist options for the Patient to proceed to rehabilitation at a facility other than St. Alphonsus, but for the Patient’s lack of funding.” Furthermore, the Board asserted that Idaho Code section 31-3502(18)A(e) is unambiguous in that “[t]here is no wording in [sub]section (e) of the statute that limits the ‘most cost-effective services’ to services that the Patient can afford to pay for.” After review, the Idaho Supreme Court determined the Board exceeded its statutory authority in denying St. Alphonsus reimbursement for providing medically necessary services. “The Board’s denial of payment was not based on substantial evidence and prejudiced St. Alphonsus’ substantial right to compensation for services rendered to an indigent patient.” View "St. Alphonsus Regional Medical v. Ada County" on Justia Law

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TRC Fabrication, LLC, (TRC) purchased steel tubing from Brown Strauss Steel Co. (Brown Strauss), a company located in Fontana, California. Under the sales contract, Brown Strauss sold the tubing “free on board” to TRC. Brown Strauss contracted with Jay Transport, a trucking company based in Rigby, Idaho, which in turn engaged Dale Kelly, an independent owner-operator of a semi-truck to transport the tubing. Kelly hauled the tubing to Idaho Falls and delivered the load to TRC. When employees of TRC began to unload the tubing from the trailer, a forklift operator dropped the steel tubing, which then slid across the pavement and struck Kelly, seriously injuring his right leg, ankle, and foot. Kelly and his wife Nancy filed a complaint against TRC, seeking to recover damages for negligence and loss of consortium. After TRC filed a motion seeking summary judgment, the district court granted the motion and dismissed the Kellys’ complaint. The district court concluded that Idaho’s worker’s compensation law extended statutory immunity to TRC and limited the Kellys’ recovery to workers’ compensation benefits. The question this case presented for the Idaho Supreme Court's review was whether the immunity afforded a statutory employer applied to TRC to bar the Kellys' complaint for damages. The Supreme Court reversed the district court’s order granting summary judgment, vacated the judgment entered, and remanded the case for further proceedings: the district court erred in concluding that TRC was Kelly’s category one statutory employer. View "Kelly v. TRC Fabrication LLC" on Justia Law