Articles Posted in Idaho Supreme Court - Civil

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Rocky and Delores Fletcher (“the Fletchers”) appealed a district court judgment in which they sought a declaratory judgment outlining the rights and responsibilities of property owners in the Twin Lakes Meadows Subdivision (“Subdivision”) with respect to a private road known as Lone Mountain Road (“Subdivision Road” or “the Road”). The district court determined that the Subdivision’s Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (“CC&Rs”) were ambiguous and contrary to Idaho easement law. After finding that the CC&Rs were ambiguous, the district court declared that all lot owners who used the Road had the right to make reasonable repairs to the Road. The Fletchers argued on appeal the district court erred when it found the CC&Rs to be ambiguous and that they should be strictly applied. The Fletchers also argued the district court erred when it failed to declare that dust from the Road created an additional burden on their servient estate and by failing to declare that the Lone Mountain Road Association had no right to maintain the Road or to collect assessments. The Idaho Supreme Court reversed the district court as to its findings that the CC&Rs were ambiguous and there was a waiver of the right to obtain contributions from lot owners that do not use the Road. The Court affirmed the district court’s judgment that road dust did not create an additional burden on the Fletchers’ estate. View "Fletcher v. Lone Mountain Rd Assoc" on Justia Law

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Jane Doe (“Mother”) and John Doe (“Father”) were married for twenty-five years and had eleven children between three years of age and twenty-two years of age. In March 2015, the family moved to Spirit Lake, Idaho, to become members of another religious community. The oldest daughter, who was then fourteen years of age, disclosed to that community that Father had sexually molested her when she was a child, starting when she was four or five years of age and ending when she was fourteen; that when she was six, seven, or eight years of age, she told Mother, but Mother did nothing to protect her; and that when she was twelve years of age, the molestation became less frequent as Father began sexually molesting a younger sister who was six years of age. Members of that community encouraged Father to confess to law enforcement, and he and Mother went to the county sheriff’s office and confessed to sexually molesting two of his daughters while they lived in Washington state. Because the offenses did not occur in Idaho, he was not arrested. Members of the community met with Father and Mother and developed with them a plan to protect the other children from Father sexually molesting them. Father and Mother violated the provisions in the plan, and a member of the community contacted the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (“Department”). The visit ultimately led to charges against Father, in which he pled guilty and was sentenced to ten years in prison and a lifetime of supervision. The Department filed a petition to terminate Father’s and Mother’s parental rights in their minor children. After a two-day evidentiary hearing, the magistrate court found that the Department had proved by clear and convincing evidence that there were grounds for terminating the parental rights of Father and Mother in their minor children. It entered judgments terminating the parental rights of both parents, and they timely appealed. Finding that substantial and competent evidence supported the termination decision, and that termination was in the best interests of the children, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Re: Termination of Parental Rights" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was the modification of a default judgment requiring that the parents of a child rotate custody of their three-year-old child every three weeks. The father lived in Blackfoot; the mother lived out of state in Oceanside, California (913 miles away). The Idaho Supreme Court held that the magistrate court abused its discretion in ordering that custody rotation. In addition, the mother had moved to modify the judgment by default, but did not move to set aside the entry of default. The Supreme Court held that the father waived the default by litigating the motion to modify. View "Martinez v. Carrasco" on Justia Law

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The Bingham County District Court affirmed a ruling by the Idaho Department of Water Resources denying the City of Blackfoot’s (City) application for a water right to be offset by mitigation through another water right. The district court ruled that the Department was correct in ruling that latter right could not be used for groundwater recharge without an approved transfer application and could not be used as mitigation for former right until such transfer was approved. The City appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "City of Blackfoot v. Spackman" on Justia Law

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Whitney Bright appealed the grant of summary judgment to Roman and Natalya Maznik. The Mazniks owned property who leased an apartment to James and Katherine Thomas, owners of a Belgian Shepherd. When Bright visited the Thomas’ apartment in an effort to collect on a debt, the Thomas’ dog attacked her. Bright then lodged a complaint against the Mazniks, alleging various tort claims arising from the attack. The district court granted the Mazniks’ motion for summary judgment, finding the Mazniks owed no duty to protect Bright from the Thomas' dog. Therefore, the district court's grant of summary judgment on Bright's tort claims was proper, and the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Bright v. Maznik" on Justia Law

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Travis Forbush and Gretchen Hymas, individually and as natural parents of McQuen Forbush and Breanna Halowell (Appellants), appealed the grant of summary judgment to Respondents Sagecrest Multifamily Property Owners’ Association, Inc., and its President, Jon Kalsbeek. Forbush and Halowell were overnight guests of a tenant who leased a unit at the Sagecrest Apartment Complex (Sagecrest). During the night, hazardous levels of carbon monoxide filled the unit, killing Forbush and injuring Halowell. Appellants brought tort claims against Respondents after the incident. Appellants contended the district court erred by granting summary judgment to the POA because triable issues of fact surrounded whether the POA: (1) owed a premises liability-based duty of care; (2) owed a duty of care it acquired as a result of voluntary undertakings; and (3) was vicariously liable for First Rate Property Management's (FRPM - the POA's contract maintenance) conduct. The Idaho Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court’s summary judgment order. The Court affirmed that summary judgment was proper as to whether the POA owed a premises liability-based duty of care. However, summary judgment was improper as to whether the POA and Kalsbeek acquired a duty of care as a result of voluntary undertakings, and whether the POA was vicariously liable for FRPM’s conduct. View "Forbush & Hymas v. Sagecrest POA" on Justia Law

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This appeal originated from a claim for attorney fees under Idaho Code section 12-117. The district court held that Hauser Lake Rod and Gun Club, Inc. was not entitled to attorney fees under section 12-117 because, even though it had prevailed against the City of Hauser in a code violation dispute, the administrative tribunal that reviewed the dispute was staffed with both County and City officials. According to the district court, section 12-117’s definition of “political subdivision” does not include administrative review tribunals staffed with officials from multiple governmental entities. The Idaho Supreme Court concluded the district court erroneously interpreted Idaho Code section 12-117 by concluding the Joint Board was not a “political subdivision:” the decision of the Board of County Commissioners was the act of a political subdivision. The statutory definition of a political subdivision expressly included counties. "As with any corporate body, a county may only act through its human agents. Under Idaho law, those agents are the Board because a county’s 'powers can only be exercised by the board of county commissioners, or by agents and officers acting under their authority, or authority of law.'" View "Hauser Lake Rod & Gun Club v. City of Hauser" on Justia Law

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John Doe appealed a magistrate court’s decision terminating his parental rights. The magistrate court terminated Doe’s rights on the statutory basis of Idaho Code section 16-2005(1), namely, that Doe was incarcerated and is likely to remain incarcerated for a substantial period of time during his sons’ (A.C. and S.C.) minority. The court also found termination was in the best interests of A.C. and S.C. Finding no abuse of discretion, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the termination. View "Health & Welfare v. John Doe (2017-4)" on Justia Law

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The issue at the center of this case, presented for the Idaho Supreme Court's review, required it to resolve a custody dispute between Jane Doe I, Child’s natural mother, and Jane Doe, the natural mother’s former partner. During the course of Mother and Partner’s relationship, Mother conceived a child via artificial insemination. After the parties separated, Partner filed a petition to establish parentage, custody and visitation with Child. Partner advanced two legal arguments to support her petition: (1) the Court’s decision in Stockwell v. Stockwell, 775 P.2d 611 (1989), provided an independent cause of action by which the court could grant custody to Partner; (2) argued that she should be deemed a parent under Idaho Code section 39-5405, Idaho’s artificial insemination statute, because she consented to the artificial insemination. As part of this argument, Partner contended that Idaho’s artificial insemination statute violated Child’s rights and her rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution by discriminating against children born outside of marriage. The magistrate court denied Partner’s claim for parentage, but granted her visitation rights under "Stockwell." After review, the Supreme Court concluded: (1) "Stockwell" did not create an independent cause of action for a non-parent seeking custodial rights to a minor child; and (2) the magistrate court properly dismissed the parentage claims brought pursuant to the Artificial Insemination Act. The judgment of the magistrate court was reversed in part and affirmed in part. The case was remanded to the magistrate court to vacate the temporary visitation order that was entered. View "Jane Doe v. Jane Doe I" on Justia Law

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This was a legal malpractice case that addressed the statute of limitations applicable to professional malpractice claims, how a statute of limitations is calculated when the last day for filing a complaint falls on a Sunday, and whether expert testimony is necessary to establish the prima facie elements of legal malpractice. Plaintiff-appellant Christina Greenfield hired defendant-respondent Ian Smith to represent her in a civil suit against her neighbors. While the suit was pending, Greenfield was charged criminally with malicious injury to the Wurmlingers’ property. Greenfield retained Smith to represent her in the criminal matter. Greenfield was acquitted of the criminal charges. In the civil case, Smith successfully moved to withdraw from representing Greenfield because the attorney-client relationship had broken down to the point where he was no longer able to represent her. Greenfield represented herself at trial, and the jury returned a verdict in favor of the neighbors. Greenfield sued Smith for malpractice, alleging, among other things, that he failed to complete discovery, failed to file a motion for summary judgment on the Wurmlingers’ counterclaim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, failed to amend the complaint to include additional causes of action for abuse of process, slander and libel, failed to file a timely motion for protective order to safeguard the privacy of her medical records, missed several important deadlines, and made no attempt to get the criminal charges dismissed for lack of evidence. Smith filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Greenfield’s claims were time barred and that she could not prove the prima facie elements of legal malpractice because she failed to designate any expert witnesses. Greenfield opposed the motion by filing a responsive brief and her own affidavit setting forth the allegations she claimed supported her malpractice claim, but did not file any expert affidavits. Greenfield argued that her complaint was timely and that no expert witness was required to prove her case. The district court granted Smith’s motion. Greenfield appealed. Though the Idaho Supreme Court found that the district court miscalculated the filing deadline for Greenfield’s civil matter claims (for determining whether her claims were time barred), Greenfield was unable to meet her burdens of proof to support her claims. Accordingly, the Court affirmed judgment in favor of Smith. View "Greenfield v. Smith" on Justia Law