Justia Idaho Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Injury Law

by
While claimant-appellant Judith Weible was employed by Safeway, Inc., she requested time off because she had to have surgery. Safeway granted her request and agreed to hold her job until she was able to return to work, which she intended to do. She was gone for approximately six weeks. While on leave, claimant applied for unemployment benefits. She was denied because during her leave of absence she was still employed, even though she was not working. An appeals examiner upheld the denial, and the Industrial Commission upheld the appeals examiner. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the Industrial Commission. View "Weible v. Dept of Labor" on Justia Law

by
Before the Supreme Court in this case was an appeal of an Industrial Commission decision relating to the survivability of claims for permanent partial disability when a claimant died for reasons unrelated to the work accident. While receiving benefits based on his impairment rating, Keith Mayer died of a heart attack unrelated to his work accident. Mayer’s impairment rating was paid out in full following his death. However, Mayer died before a determination was made as to what permanent disability benefits he may have been entitled to in excess of his impairment rating. The parties submitted the issue on stipulated facts and the Industrial Commission concluded that permanent partial disability less than total survived the death of an injured worker when the death was unrelated to the work accident. The Industrial Commission also determined that the disability of the deceased worker should be evaluated as of the time immediately preceding the worker’s death. TPC Holdings, Inc. (TPC) appealed, arguing that Mayer’s claim for permanent partial disability did not survive death. Because the plain language of Idaho Code section 72-431 allowed for the survival of income benefits for workers who have suffered “permanent disability less than total,” the Supreme Court affirmed the Industrial Commission’s decision. View "Mayer v. TPC Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Claimant Amanda Wilson filed a complaint under the Worker’s Compensation Act to obtain benefits for a back injury that she alleged was caused or aggravated in the Spring of 2011. On February 15, 2008, Claimant had visited an emergency room in a hospital in Gilbert, Arizona, complaining that for one year she had back pain and right leg radiculopathy with a recent flare-up. On October 4, 2010, Claimant sought additional treatment for her low-back pain and right-leg sciatica at a health clinic in Twin Falls. On February 7, 2011, Claimant began working for Employer Conagra Foods Lamb Weston in Twin Falls. She had previously worked at Employer’s premises as an employee of a temp agency, performing general manual labor, including shoveling potatoes. On April 5, 2011, Claimant visited a nurse practitioner because of back pain. Claimant described bilateral sciatic pain radiating to her heel that had begun six months earlier. On April 6, 2011, Claimant sought medical care at a hospital emergency room in Twin Falls. She complained of increasing low-back pain over the prior three weeks, which initially started while shoveling potatoes while working for Employer. On April 8, 2011, Employer learned from the hospital and physician of Claimant’s trip to the emergency room regarding a work injury. Employer immediately suspended Claimant pending further investigation of whether she had violated its safety policies (to notify the Plant Manager of any injury, "regardless of how minor it may be at the time"). Employer contacted the emergency-room physician, and he was adamant that Claimant had reported to him that she was injured at work and that his notes so reflected. On April 13, 2011, Claimant visited another physician because of low-back pain and numbness in her legs. Employer terminated Claimant on April 18, 2011, for misconduct by failing to report an on-the-job injury in violation of the employee handbook. Claimant filed for unemployment compensation, but her claim was denied on the ground that her knowing violation of the policy constituted misconduct in connection with her employment. Claimant then applied for workers' compensation benefits. The matter was heard before a referee, who submitted proposed findings of fact, conclusions of law, and recommended order. The Industrial Commission declined to adopt the referee’s recommendation and issued its own findings of fact, conclusions of law, and order, finding that Claimant had failed to prove that she suffered an injury caused by an accident arising out of and in the course of her employment. Claimant appealed, but finding no reversible error in the Commission's decision, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Wilson v. Conagra Foods Lamb Weston" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs-appellants Charles and Janice Lepper filed a medical malpractice suit against defendants Eastern Idaho Health Service, Inc. d/b/a Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center (EIRMC) and Dr. Stephen R. Marano, (Dr. Marano). The Leppers alleged Dr. Marano rendered Charles a paraplegic. The Leppers appealed a district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants, arguing that the trial court erred in ruling that based on the language of its Scheduling Order, the Leppers’ expert witness disclosures required disclosure of all expert witness opinions, including foundational facts required by statute. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court vacated and remanded."We decline to hold the Leppers to a higher disclosure standard than what was required by the plain language of the Scheduling Order. Again, the district court was free to issue a more detailed scheduling order explicitly requiring such foundational facts, but without doing so, the Leppers could not be held to more demanding disclosure requirements that they had no prior notice of. We note that the supplemental affidavits in this case detailing the applicable standard of care for both experts were provided well before the discovery deadline. In any event, we hold that because the district court read requirements into its Scheduling Order that did not appear on the face of the order, the court abused its discretion in excluding [The Leppers'] experts." Because the district court's decision regarding the experts carried through and was the basis of the denial of the Leppers' motions for reconsideration, the Court determined the district court abused its discretion in those decisions too. View "Lepper v. Eastern Idaho Health Services" on Justia Law

by
Appellants Thomas Strong and Brian Hawk appealed a district court's order dismissing their case pursuant to Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b) for failing to prosecute, and 40(c) for unjustified inaction for over six months. The case arose out of neuron simulator implant procedures, in which both appellant alleged he received an inappropriate amount of anesthesia from respondents, causing complications after the surgeries. Initially, in 2006, appellants commenced their claims by filing a prelitigation screening with the State Board of Medicine. Several months later, Hawk filed for bankruptcy. The district court stayed the medical malpractice claim until the bankruptcy proceedings had concluded. In 2007, respondents sent appellate counsel a stipulation to bifurcate the case so that Strong's case could proceed. Appellants' counsel did not agree to the bifurcation. Hawk's bankruptcy case closed in 2008. In 2010, respondents moved to lift the stay and dismiss the case for failure to prosecute. Appellants noted that Hawk had not disclosed the present underlying cause of action during his bankruptcy proceedings. The district court granted Appellants sixty days to rectify the bankruptcy matters. Appellants then requested the bankruptcy court to reopen the case and the district court again stayed its proceedings pending the resolution of the disclosure issue in the bankruptcy schedules. In 2013, the bankruptcy trustee ultimately determined that the action was of no value to the bankruptcy estate and reclosed the case. In 2014, respondents filed a renewed motion to dismiss, which was ultimately granted. Because there was no showing of actual demonstrated prejudice, the district court’s dismissal under Rule 41(b) was reversed, but the dismissal under Rule 40(c) was affirmed. View "Strong v. Intermountain Anesthesia" on Justia Law

by
In 2010, Gerald Durk Simpson shot Ryan Mitchell in the back outside of a coffee shop in Pocatello. Prior to the shooting, Simpson had been receiving mental health services from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s Adult Mental Health program. In fact, Simpson had been receiving services from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW) for most of his adult life. In June of that year, IDHW sent a letter to Simpson informing him that he was being released from its program. The shooting occurred a little over three months after Simpson was released from IDHW’s care and custody. The Bannock County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office filed a charge of Aggravated Battery against Simpson with notice that the State would seek an enhancement penalty for the use of a deadly weapon in the commission of a crime. Approximately ten days after the shooting, psychologist Daniel Traughber, Ph.D., prepared a memorandum on behalf of the IDHW, explaining the processes and procedures that were used to implement the budget cuts so that patient mental health services would be terminated in a way that “reduced the risk of harm to patients and/or the community.” Mitchell appealed a district court order granting summary judgment in favor of the State after he brought suit alleging the State violated his constitutional and statutory victims’ rights and that the State was negligent when it discontinued Simpson’s services. Mitchell sought declaratory and injunctive relief for his victims’ rights claim and sought damages for his negligence claim. Mitchell argued: (1) the Idaho Tort Claims Act (ITCA) did not shield the State from liability for its decision to discontinue mental health services for Simpson; and (2) the victims’ rights laws provided a private cause of action for declaratory and injunctive relief against a state agency. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court concluded the district court erred in granting summary judgment on Mitchell's negligence claim: " It is clear that the complaint alleges that when IDHW made the decision to close Simpson’s file, it negligently followed, or failed to follow, procedures that were put into place to determine whether a client’s file should be closed. The evidence does not indicate who made the decision to close Simpson’s file in particular or how that decision was made." The Court reversed with respect to the negligence claim, affirmed in all other respects, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Mitchell v. Idaho" on Justia Law

by
Appellant Alesa Easterling brought this medical malpractice suit against Respondent Eric Kendall, M.D., alleging that Kendall was negligent in failing to diagnose her with a carotid artery dissection, and that such misdiagnosis delayed her treatment and resulted in her suffering permanent neurological damage. At trial, the district court granted Kendall’s motion for a directed verdict. The district court concluded that Easterling failed to prove a medical malpractice claim because she failed to present expert testimony to show that Kendall’s misdiagnosis was the proximate cause of her injuries. Easterling appealed, contending that expert testimony was not required under Idaho law to prove proximate cause in a medical malpractice action. Additionally, Easterling appealed the district court’s orders excluding opinion testimony from Easterling’s retained expert and treating physicians on the issue of causation and denying her motion to present rebuttal opinion testimony on causation in her case in chief. Kendall requested attorney fees on appeal. As to Easterling's claims of error on appeal, the Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed. The Court found Kendall was not entitled to attorney fees on appeal. View "Easterling v. Kendall, M.D." on Justia Law

by
Greg and Jessica Skinner appealed a judgment dismissing the Skinners’ claim of negligence against U.S. Bank Home Mortgage. U.S. Bank retained insurance funds received after the Skinners’ home was destroyed by fire and released a portion of the funds as the home was rebuilt. There were serious defects in the new construction that ultimately culminated in the project being abandoned. The Skinners claimed that the district court improperly granted summary judgment because U.S. Bank owed the Skinners a fiduciary duties regarding the disbursement of the insurance proceeds. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Skinner v. U.S. Bank Home Mortgage" on Justia Law

by
This appeal arose from a transfer of real property located in Cassia County. Appellants-buyers Robert and Becky Humphries accused Respondents-sellers Eileen Becker, her son, Allen Becker, and daughter-in-law, Jane Becker of: (1) fraud though misrepresenting, concealing, and/or failing to disclose material information with regards to (a) the sources of water to the Property and (b) the Property’s sprinkler/irrigation system; and (2) violating the Idaho Condition Disclosure Act. The district court entered an order granting the Beckers' motion for summary judgment. The court held that: (1) The Humphries had pled fraud with sufficient particularity with regards to statements in the MLS Listing and Disclosure Form; (2) the Beckers did not make any false representations in either the MLS Listing or the Disclosure Form; (3) any duty that the Beckers may have had to disclose the existence of a Farm Well was satisfied by the Joint Well Use Agreement; (3) the representation in the MLS Listing that the sprinkler system was automatic could not serve as the basis for fraud; and (4) the Disclosure Form did not violate the Disclosure Act. The Humphries unsuccessfully moved for reconsideration, and subsequently appealed to the Supreme Court. After review, the Supreme Court concluded the district court erred in granting summary judgment as to Eileen Becker, and upheld summary judgment granted in favor of Allen and Jane. The Court upheld the grant of attorney's fees and costs to Allen and Jane, and granted them fees on appeal. The Court vacated the grant of fees as to Eileen, and the case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Humphries v. Becker" on Justia Law

by
John Wickel appealed a district court’s grant of summary judgment dismissing his claims for medical malpractice against Dr. David Chamberlain. Wickel sought treatment from Dr. Chamberlain for internal and external hemorrhoids. After Wickel was anesthetized, Dr. Chamberlain discovered an anal fissure. Dr. Chamberlain believed, based upon his discussions with Wickel prior to surgery, that the best course was to treat the anal fissure while Wickel was under anesthesia in order to address all issues in one operation. Dr. Chamberlain performed a fissurectomy and an internal lateral sphincterotomy. Following surgery, Wickel experienced significant pain and developed a perianal abscess. Wickel had several post-operation appointments with Dr. Chamberlain to address ongoing pain. At Wickel’s March 3, 2010, appointment, Dr. Chamberlain noted that the abscess appeared healed and released Wickel from his care. The pain continued, and Wickel returned to Dr. Chamberlain’s office on March 17, 2010, at which time Dr. Chamberlain diagnosed Wickel with a chronic anal fistula and recommended colorectal surgery. Wickel then saw Drs. William Peche and Peter Bossart in Salt Lake City, Utah. Dr. Peche performed a procedure in June of 2010 and noted that the staple line from the PPH procedure was too close to the dentate line which resulted in physical damage to Wickel’s sphincter. After minimal improvement, Wickel saw Dr. Bossart. Dr. Bossart performed an anal fistulectomy in August of 2010. By 2012, Wickel still suffered discomfort and incontinence. An independent medical exam opined that Wickel’s pain following the surgery by Dr. Chamberlain was attributable to improper placement of the staple line within the anal canal. After the district court granted Dr. Chamberlain’s motion for summary judgment, Wickel moved for reconsideration, which the district court denied. Wickel appealed and Dr. Chamberlain cross-appealed. The Idaho Supreme Court remanded the matter to the district court for entry of a final judgment conforming to the requirements of I.R.C.P. 54(a), and Wickel filed a second motion for reconsideration. The district court denied Wickel’s second motion for reconsideration, concluding that it lacked jurisdiction to decide the motion. Following entry of a final judgment, both parties amended their notices of appeal. After review, the Supreme Court concluded that the district court erred in concluding it lacked jurisdiction to decide the second motion for reconsideration; as a result, the district court did not reach the merits of Wickel's motion or Dr. Chamberlain's cross-appeal. The Supreme Court vacated the order denying Wickel’s second motion for reconsideration and remanded for further proceedings. View "Wickel v. Chamberlain" on Justia Law