Articles Posted in Idaho Supreme Court - Civil

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The grant of summary judgment dismissed an action originally brought by Diane Brooks against Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., (“Wal-Mart”) based on injuries Brooks received when she slipped and fell on a puddle of water near a Rug Doctor self-service kiosk (the “kiosk”) inside a store in Boise, Idaho. Brooks based her claims on premises liability and negligent mode of operation, alleging Wal-Mart knew or should have known that water could spill or leak onto the floor near the kiosk. Wal-Mart moved for summary judgment, arguing that Brooks failed to establish Wal-Mart had actual or constructive notice of the condition that caused her injury, because there was no evidence showing where the liquid came from, how long it had been on the floor, or what it was. The district court agreed; the Supreme Court did not. The Supreme Court found material issues of fact existed, thus precluding summary judgment. The case was reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Brooks v. Wal-Mart" on Justia Law

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The Idaho Supreme Court reversed the magistrate court in an expedited appeal regarding the termination of John Doe (2017-32)'s parental rights. John Doe is the father of minor children KB and AB (the “Children”). The Children entered the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s (“IDHW”) custody in December 2014 after the Twin Falls Police declared them to be in imminent danger. The Children were in their mother’s (“Mother”) care when the police arrested her for possession of a controlled substance. Law enforcement described the condition of Mother’s home at this time as “filthy, cluttered, and containing numerous safety hazards, including raw sewage being present in the basement.” An Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW) case plan, filed January 2015, included number of enumerated tasks for both Doe and Mother to complete in order for them to reunite with the Children. The case plan sought to provide Doe and Mother a framework to address “stable housing, sanitary living conditions, the need to obtain controlled substance abuse treatment, to remain clean/sober, and [to] stay out of jail.” Mother relapsed within weeks of a December 2016 order and was arrested for felony possession, kicked out of Drug Court, and went to prison. IDHW sought to terminate Doe and Mother’s parental rights. Doe had not completed his required drug treatment regimen by a first trial, he became more actively involved in his treatment plan by the time of a second trial. Doe showed other encouraging signs between the first and second trial as well, including significant progress on his case plan. However, the magistrate court noted that, despite progress, Doe still had not completed his case plan nor reunified with his children in the intervening period between the first and second trial. The court issued a Memorandum Decision granting termination of Doe and Mother’s parental rights on October 2, 2017, and entered a corresponding judgment ten days later on October 12, 2017. Mother did not appeal, but Doe timely filed his notice of appeal. The Supreme Court found the magistrate court’s December 2016 order stating that termination was not in the Children’s best interest was irreconcilable with IDHW’s first official recommendation following that order that termination “remains” in the Children’s best interest. The magistrate court’s October 2017 decision following the second trial highlighted Doe’s failure to reunify with the Children as a substantial factor in his ultimate decision to terminate. The magistrate court’s procedural error in not entering judgment for Doe and dismissing the petition upon finding that termination was not in the Children’s best interest affected Doe’s fundamental rights in this case. View "Dept. of Health & Welfare v. John Doe (2017-32)" on Justia Law

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This case centers on efforts to collect payment for medical services. Medical Recovery Services, LLC (“MRS”), appealed a district court decision affirming rulings of the magistrate court in favor of the patient, Jared Neumeier. Neumeier’s doctor’s billing agent assigned the delinquent account to MRS for collection. Neumeier did not receive any attempted communications from his doctor’s office or MRS, nor did he receive any other form of demand for payment related to the delinquent account. Neumeier saw his doctor for other unrelated medical services, which resulted in a separate bills that were submitted to insurance for payment. MRS eventually sent a letter addressed to Neumeier at his correct address. The one-page letter was attached to MRS’s complaint and was the only communication to Neumeier from either his doctor or MRS. The letter listed Neumeier’s contact information, the amount owed (exclusive of interest), the name of the creditor (MRS), and paraphrased recitations of the required inclusions under the Fair Debt Collections Act. The undated notice letter did not identify the doctor or connect the debt with a particular bill or treatment. Without a response from Neumeier, MRS requested its legal counsel to file an action to recover the debt. Neumeier visited his doctor under the belief that the notice letter was a fraud or scam. During this visit, the office discovered that it had never submitted the bill to Neumeier’s insurer; however, the office also informed Neumeier that the account had already been assigned to MRS for collection. On the same date, MRS filed a complaint against Neumeier, seeking a total award of $1,891.37, including $958.63 for the principal amount, $282.39 in statutory prejudgment interest, and attorney’s fees and costs. The next day, Neumeier contacted MRS and was informed that he was “too late.” Neumeier was subsequently served with a complaint and summons. The bill subject to the collection action was eventually submitted to insurance, and all but a $42 co-payment was paid. The doctor’s office waived the co-payment. Once the account was satisfied, MRS refused to drop its suit, claiming it was still owed pre-judgment interest. A magistrate found MRS was not owed interest, and dismissed the case. The Idaho Supreme Court found no error in that judgment, and affirmed the magistrate’s decisions. View "Medical Recovery Svc v. Neumeier" on Justia Law

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This case centers on efforts to collect payment for medical services. Medical Recovery Services, LLC (“MRS”), appealed a district court decision affirming rulings of the magistrate court in favor of the patient, Jared Neumeier. Neumeier’s doctor’s billing agent assigned the delinquent account to MRS for collection. Neumeier did not receive any attempted communications from his doctor’s office or MRS, nor did he receive any other form of demand for payment related to the delinquent account. Neumeier saw his doctor for other unrelated medical services, which resulted in a separate bills that were submitted to insurance for payment. MRS eventually sent a letter addressed to Neumeier at his correct address. The one-page letter was attached to MRS’s complaint and was the only communication to Neumeier from either his doctor or MRS. The letter listed Neumeier’s contact information, the amount owed (exclusive of interest), the name of the creditor (MRS), and paraphrased recitations of the required inclusions under the Fair Debt Collections Act. The undated notice letter did not identify the doctor or connect the debt with a particular bill or treatment. Without a response from Neumeier, MRS requested its legal counsel to file an action to recover the debt. Neumeier visited his doctor under the belief that the notice letter was a fraud or scam. During this visit, the office discovered that it had never submitted the bill to Neumeier’s insurer; however, the office also informed Neumeier that the account had already been assigned to MRS for collection. On the same date, MRS filed a complaint against Neumeier, seeking a total award of $1,891.37, including $958.63 for the principal amount, $282.39 in statutory prejudgment interest, and attorney’s fees and costs. The next day, Neumeier contacted MRS and was informed that he was “too late.” Neumeier was subsequently served with a complaint and summons. The bill subject to the collection action was eventually submitted to insurance, and all but a $42 co-payment was paid. The doctor’s office waived the co-payment. Once the account was satisfied, MRS refused to drop its suit, claiming it was still owed pre-judgment interest. A magistrate found MRS was not owed interest, and dismissed the case. The Idaho Supreme Court found no error in that judgment, and affirmed the magistrate’s decisions. View "Medical Recovery Svc v. Neumeier" on Justia Law

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The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Marian Baker, Trustee of the Marian B. Baker Trust (“Baker”), for an easement over a logging road (“Alexanna Lane”) that crossed the property of KAL, LLC (“KAL”). Initially there were claims involving John and Vickie Stadler (the “Stadlers”), and Jose Melendreras and Jacqueline Diaz-Melendreras (the “Melendrerases”). However, the appeal here involved only the claims between Baker and KAL. In February of 2015 Baker filed a complaint to quiet title against KAL, the Stadlers and the Melendrerases to extinguish an easement on the Baker Property. The Stadlers answered Baker’s complaint and asserted claims against Baker and the Melendrerases to quiet title and for common law trespass. The Stadlers noted that access to the Baker Property was intended to run through the Melendreras Property, not through the KAL Property or the Stadler Property. Baker filed a motion for summary judgment with respect to Count I and Count II of the Stadlers’ counterclaim, asserting that she was entitled to use Alexanna Lane to access her property because: (1) a statutory easement was created pursuant to Idaho Code section 55-603; (2) the 1999 deed intended to create and describe the easement; (3) an implied easement existed; (4) an easement by necessity existed because there was no other access to a public road; and (5) there was an easement by prescription. The Stadlers opposed Baker’s motion for summary judgment, asserting that there was no easement created that allowed Baker to access Alexanna Lane. Amidst these disputes KAL filed an answer and counterclaim to Baker’s complaint, asserting that Baker had no legal right to travel across the KAL Property; KAL maintained the 1999 deed was ambiguous, and the language did not reserve an easement that ultimately Baker claimed she held. Finding no reversible error in the district court’s determination of the meaning of the easement language in the deed, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s judgment. View "Baker v. KAL, LLC" on Justia Law

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The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Marian Baker, Trustee of the Marian B. Baker Trust (“Baker”), for an easement over a logging road (“Alexanna Lane”) that crossed the property of KAL, LLC (“KAL”). Initially there were claims involving John and Vickie Stadler (the “Stadlers”), and Jose Melendreras and Jacqueline Diaz-Melendreras (the “Melendrerases”). However, the appeal here involved only the claims between Baker and KAL. In February of 2015 Baker filed a complaint to quiet title against KAL, the Stadlers and the Melendrerases to extinguish an easement on the Baker Property. The Stadlers answered Baker’s complaint and asserted claims against Baker and the Melendrerases to quiet title and for common law trespass. The Stadlers noted that access to the Baker Property was intended to run through the Melendreras Property, not through the KAL Property or the Stadler Property. Baker filed a motion for summary judgment with respect to Count I and Count II of the Stadlers’ counterclaim, asserting that she was entitled to use Alexanna Lane to access her property because: (1) a statutory easement was created pursuant to Idaho Code section 55-603; (2) the 1999 deed intended to create and describe the easement; (3) an implied easement existed; (4) an easement by necessity existed because there was no other access to a public road; and (5) there was an easement by prescription. The Stadlers opposed Baker’s motion for summary judgment, asserting that there was no easement created that allowed Baker to access Alexanna Lane. Amidst these disputes KAL filed an answer and counterclaim to Baker’s complaint, asserting that Baker had no legal right to travel across the KAL Property; KAL maintained the 1999 deed was ambiguous, and the language did not reserve an easement that ultimately Baker claimed she held. Finding no reversible error in the district court’s determination of the meaning of the easement language in the deed, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s judgment. View "Baker v. KAL, LLC" on Justia Law

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Petrus Family Trust and Edmond Petrus, Jr., individually and as trustee of the Petrus Family Trust (collectively, Petrus) sued Chris Kirk d/b/a Kirk Enterprises (Kirk) and several other parties for claims arising from Petrus’s purchase of a home Kirk built in McCall. Kirk moved for summary judgment, and the district court granted the motion in Kirk’s favor. The district court also awarded attorney fees to Kirk under Idaho Code section 12-121, apportioning the award so as to award Kirk fees only insofar as Kirk was required to defend against a frivolous claim. Petrus appealed. As relevant here, Kirk moved for summary judgment contending, in part, that: (1) Petrus’s conspiracy-to-defraud claim was unsupported; and (2) Petrus’s breach of the implied warranty of habitability claim was untimely under Idaho Code section 5-241(b). Petrus responded that the breach of implied warranty of habitability claim was timely under section 5-241(a) because it arose in tort, not in contract, and did not address the conspiracy-to-defraud claim. The district held a hearing on Kirk’s summary judgment motion, at which Petrus conceded summary judgment for Kirk was proper on the conspiracy-to-defraud claim, leaving only the breach of the implied warranty of habitability claim. The district court then granted summary judgment to Kirk, concluding Petrus’s breach of the implied warranty of habitability claim arose in contract and was therefore untimely under section 5-241(b). Even if Petrus’s claim arose in tort, the district court concluded it would be barred by the economic loss rule. Petrus timely moved for reconsideration, but the district court denied the motion after concluding Petrus had not offered any new argument or evidence that would warrant a different result. Thereafter, the district court awarded attorney fees to Kirk under Idaho Code section 12-121, apportioning the award so as to award fees to Kirk only insofar as he was required to defend against Petrus’s conspiracy-to-defraud claim. The Idaho Supreme Court concluded the district court was correct that a breach of the implied warranty of habitability arose in contract, making Petrus’s claim untimely. "This conclusion, however, is not to say that a home buyer is left without a tort remedy when a builder negligently constructs a home and causes tort damages. In that scenario, an appropriate tort claim may be asserted, and our ruling today does not foreclose that claim." Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed summary judgment entered in favor of Kirk and appointment of attorney fees. View "Petrus Family Trust v. Kirk" on Justia Law

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Appellants Glen and Cheryl Nielson (the “Nielsons”), challenged a district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Respondents Robert and Michele Talbot (the “Talbots”) and Paul and Saundra Parker (the “Parkers”). The Parkers and Talbots were neighbors. The Parkers sold their property to the Nielsons by warranty deed. Shortly after purchasing the property, the Nielsons filed a complaint against the Talbots arguing that, according to the legal description in the warranty deed, the Talbots’ shed, carport, and driveway extended over the property line and onto the Nielsons’ property. The Nielsons also filed a complaint against the Parkers arguing that the Parkers were obligated to defend the title of the property that they had sold. The two cases were consolidated and the district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Talbots and the Parkers. Finding only that the district court erred by dismissing the Nielsons’ claim for breach of warranty, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed in part, and reversed in part. The Court remanded the case so that the district court could enter a "proper judgment" that sufficiently described the altered property line. View "Nielson v. Talbot" on Justia Law

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Donald Frizzell (“Frizzell”) appealed the dismissal of his complaint. Frizzell and defendants Edwin and Darlene DeYoung (collectively, the “DeYoungs”), were parties to an existing trust, with Edwin serving as trustee and Frizzell and Darlene as beneficiaries. The parties entered into an agreement pursuant to the Trust and Estate Dispute Resolution Act (“TEDRA agreement”). The TEDRA agreement was designed to modify the existing trust terms and also resolve issues related to Edwin’s administration of the trust in his role as trustee. Two years after the TEDRA agreement was filed with the district court, Frizzell filed suit against the DeYoungs alleging Edwin was breaching the TEDRA agreement and his fiduciary duties. The district court granted the DeYoungs’ motion to dismiss based on provisions in the TEDRA agreement that purported to hold Edwin harmless for any actions taken in his role as trustee. The district court also stated Frizzell was bound by the TEDRA agreement to pursue nonjudicial dispute resolution, rather than file a lawsuit for Edwin’s breach of duty. Frizzell appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court. The Supreme Court found the district court erred in dismissing the complaint because the parties were not able to waive future claims for negligence or breach of fiduciary duty. Frizzell was not prohibited by TERDA or the agreement from seeking judicial action based on Edwin's alleged breaches of the agreement. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the district court’s order dismissing Frizzell’s complaint and remanded for further proceedings. View "Frizzell v. DeYoung" on Justia Law

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Edgar and Laurie Cook owned 200 acres of property in Bonner County, Idaho. The Property included Bloom Lake, a cabin, and a campground. The Cooks allowed people to use the lake and campground without charging a fee, but they solicited voluntary donations to help with the Property’s upkeep. Approximately twenty years ago, Michael Chisholm asked the Cooks if he could stay in the cabin in exchange for maintaining the Property. They agreed, and Chisholm began caring for the Property. In 2015, Joseph Stanczak and his girlfriend were camping at the Property. Chisholm invited them into the cabin, and a dispute later arose between Chisholm and Stanczak. Chisholm shot Stanczak twice with a .45 caliber handgun, then left the scene. Authorities later apprehended Chisholm and charged him with Aggravated Battery and Use of a Deadly Weapon in Commission of a Felony. Chisholm entered an Alford plea, by which he pleaded guilty without admitting guilt as to all the elements of the crimes. He was sentenced to prison. At issue in this was was the interpretation of the insuring clause of a bodily injury liability provision in a property insurance contract. The insurer, Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company of Idaho, determined it had no duty to defend or indemnify the Cooks because the shooting was not a covered act under the policy. Farm Bureau filed a declaratory judgment action seeking judicial confirmation of its determination. Farm Bureau then filed a motion for summary judgment, requesting that the district court find as a matter of law that the intentional shooting was not an “occurrence.” The district court granted Farm Bureau’s motion. Finding no reversible error in the district court's decision, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed judgment in favor of Farm Bureau. View "Farm Bureau Ins v. Cook" on Justia Law