Justia Idaho Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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Max Pease failed to stop his vehicle before rear-ending Brent Weddle’s vehicle. The force of the collision caused Weddle’s vehicle to cross over into oncoming traffic and collide with a pickup truck owned by Mabel Robin Blackeagle. Dana McCandless was the driver of the pickup truck and Blackeagle was a passenger. A jury found Pease and Weddle negligent and awarded damages as a result. Dissatisfied with the amount of the verdict, McCandless and Blackeagle moved for a new trial on the comparative negligence and damages, and argued there were errors at trial to warrant a new one. The district court granted their motion in part and ordered a new trial unless Pease agreed to an additur of $4,000. Pease accepted the additur. McCandless and Blackeagle appealed the district court’s order on their motion for a new trial. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s order. View "McCandless v. Pease" on Justia Law

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Nine-year-old girl Shaeley Noel was seriously injured while playing on playground equipment owned by the City of Rigby (City) and located in the City’s South Park. Shaeley and her parents (collectively the Noels) filed suit in district court alleging willful and wanton conduct by the City in the construction and/or maintenance of its playground equipment. The City claimed the park was closed for winter at the time Shaeley was injured. A jury rendered a verdict in favor of the City when it found that the City did not owe a duty to Shaeley. The Noels filed a motion for a new trial, which the district court granted. The City appealed the district court’s decision to grant a new trial, as well as the district court’s decisions to deny the City’s motion for a directed verdict and the City’s motion to exclude the Noels’ expert witness. The Noels cross-appealed, arguing the trial court erred by: (1) rejecting of evidence of Shaeley’s unadjusted medical bills; (2) preventing the Noels’ expert witness from testifying regarding the City’s purported willful and wanton conduct; (3) allowing a jury instruction regarding comparative negligence; and (4) admitting of evidence regarding the seasonal closure of the park. The Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court decisions with regard to: (1) the City’s motion for a directed verdict; (2) the Noels’ motion for a new trial; (3) the Noels’ expert testifying; (4) the jury instruction; and (5) admission of evidence of the park closure. Additionally, the Court reversed the district court with respect to: (1) the Noels introducing Shaeley’s unadjusted medical bills; and (2) preclusion of the Noels’ expert from testifying that the City engaged in willful and wanton conduct. As a result, the matter was remanded for a new trial. View "Noel v. City of Rigby" on Justia Law

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Michael Richardson was injured while working, and attempted to recover personal injury damages outside of the worker’s compensation system. Hayden Homes subcontracted with Z&H Construction, LLC, Plumbing Unlimited, LLC, and Alignment Construction, LLC for various aspects of a new construction project. Richardson was employed by Alignment, and worked on Hayden’s construction project. He was injured when he fell through a crawl space cover at the construction site. He received a worker’s compensation award from the worker’s compensation insurer for his direct employer, Alignment. After Richardson received his worker’s compensation award, he sued Z&H, Hernandez Framing, LLC (a subcontractor of Z&H), and Plumbing Unlimited (collectively, “Respondent LLCs”), alleging negligence in the construction of the crawl space cover. The district court granted the Respondent LLCs’ motion for summary judgment, determining that the Respondent LLCs were Richardson’s statutory co-employees and immune from suit pursuant to Idaho Code section 72- 209(3). Finding no reversible error in that reasoning, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s order granting summary judgment. View "Richardson v. Z&H Construction, LLC" on Justia Law

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Amey Nelson brought a negligence claim against Stefani Kaufman, the Idaho Falls Anytime Fitness, and AT Fitness, LLC. Nelson was using a weight machine at the Idaho Falls Anytime Fitness under the direction of Kaufman, a personal trainer, when Nelson injured a metacarpal bone in her hand. Nelson filed suit alleging that Kaufman had improperly instructed her on the machine’s use, which caused her injury. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Kaufman, holding that Kaufman was an express or apparent agent of Anytime Fitness and therefore released from liability under the terms of the Member Assumption of Risk and Release form Nelson signed when she joined the gym. Nelson unsuccessfully moved for reconsideration, and appealed. The Idaho Supreme Court determined Nelson did not waive her appeal by failing to expressly challenge the district court's finding of an express agency relationship. The Court determined the district court erred in granting summary judgment to Kaufman on the basis that Kaufman was an express agent of Anytime Fitness. Further, the court erred in apply the apparent agency doctrine defensively to find Kaufman was covered by the specific terms of the Membership Agreement. With judgment reversed, the Supreme Court remanded the case back to the district court for further proceedings. View "Nelson v. Kaufman" on Justia Law

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Natalie Shubert filed a negligence claim against her former public defender, Michael Lojek, former Ada County chief public defender Alan Trimming, and Ada County (collectively, “Ada County Defendants”). In 2008, Shubert was charged with two felonies and pleaded guilty to both charges. Her sentences were suspended in each case, and she was placed on probation. After a probation violation in 2011, the Ada County district court entered an order extending Shubert’s probation beyond the time period allowed by law, and the mistake was not caught. After Shubert’s probation should have ended in both cases, she was charged and incarcerated for a subsequent probation violation in 2014. Thereafter, in 2016, Shubert was charged with a new probation violation. Shubert was assigned a new public defender, who discovered the error that unlawfully kept Shubert on probation. Shubert’s new public defender filed a motion to correct the illegal sentence, raising the error that had improperly extended her probation. The district court granted Shubert’s motion to correct the illegal sentence and released Shubert from custody. Shubert then sued her original public defender, the Ada County Public Defender’s Officer, and other unknown Ada County employees alleging false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence per se, negligence, and state and federal constitutional violations. The district court dismissed all of Shubert’s claims except for negligence. In denying the Ada County Defendants’ motion for summary judgment on Shubert’s negligence claim, the district court held that public defenders were not entitled to common law quasi-judicial immunity from civil malpractice liability, and two provisions of the Idaho Tort Claims Act (ITCA) did not exempt public defenders from civil malpractice liability. The Ada County Defendants petitioned the Idaho Supreme Court, but the Supreme Court affirmed, finding the district court did not err in its finding that the public defenders and the County were not entitled to immunity. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Shubert v. Ada County" on Justia Law

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Francisca Gomez died as the result of a horrific industrial accident that occurred while she was cleaning a seed sorting machine as part of her employment with the Crookham Company (“Crookham”). Her family (the Gomezes) received worker’s compensation benefits and also brought a wrongful death action. The Gomezes appealed a district court’s grant of summary judgment to Crookham on all claims relating to Mrs. Gomez’s death. The district court held that Mrs. Gomez was working within the scope of her employment at the time of the accident, that all of the Gomezes’ claims were barred by the exclusive remedy rule of Idaho worker’s compensation law, that the exception to the exclusive remedy rule provided by Idaho Code section 72-209(3) did not apply, and that the Gomezes’ product liability claims fail as a matter of law because Crookham is not a “manufacturer.” The Idaho Supreme Court determined that given the totality of the evidence in this case, which included prior OSHA violations for similar safety issues, the district court erred by failing to consider whether Crookham consciously disregarded information suggesting a significant risk to its employees working at or under the picking tables, which were neither locked nor tagged out, as they existed on the date of the accident. On this basis, the decision of the district court granting summary judgment to Crookham was reversed and the matter remanded for the trial court to apply the proper standard for proving an act of unprovoked physical aggression, and to determine whether there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Crookham consciously disregarded knowledge of a serious risk to Mrs. Gomez. View "Gomez v. Crookham" on Justia Law

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This was a permissive appeal brought by Phillip and Marcia Eldridge1 in a medical malpractice action they filed against Dr. Gregory West (West), Lance Turpin, PA-C (Turpin), and Summit Orthopaedics Specialists, PLLC (Summit). The Eldridges alleged that Phillip became infected with Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) as a result of malpractice committed by West, Turpin, and agents of Summit. The Eldridges claimed West and Turpin breached the standard of care that was due them and as a result, sustained damages. The district court granted various motions, including a motion to dismiss certain causes of action against West, Turpin, and Summit, as well as a motion for summary judgment brought by Turpin and Summit, and a motion for partial summary judgment brought by West. On appeal, the Eldridges contended the district court erred in: (1) dismissing their claims for negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, gross negligence, and reckless, willful, and wanton conduct; (2) denying their motion to strike the affidavits of West and Turpin; (3) limiting their claim for damages; and (4) concluding that the Eldridges could only present evidence of damages, specifically medical bills, after the Medicare write-offs had been calculated. The Idaho Supreme Court concurred with the Eldridges, reversed the district court and remanded for further proceedings. View "Eldridge v. West, Turpin & Summit" on Justia Law

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Deena Wood was seriously injured in a car collision. At the time of the collision, Wood had auto insurance through Farmers Insurance Company of Idaho, which included $100,000 of underinsured motorist ("UIM") coverage but also contained a provision stating that the amount of coverage would be reduced by the liability limit of the at-fault driver. Because the at-fault driver’s bodily injury liability limit was equal to Wood’s underinsured motorist limit, Farmers determined that no underinsured benefits were owed to Wood. Wood challenged the denial in district court, arguing in a motion for reconsideration that the offset provision should be declared void as against public policy because it “diluted” UIM coverage. The district court rejected Wood’s argument. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s decision. View "Wood v. Farmers Insurance Co of Idaho" on Justia Law

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Francisca Gomez died as the result of a horrific industrial accident while she was cleaning a seed sorting machine as part of her employment with the Crookham Company (“Crookham”). Her family (the Gomezes) received worker’s compensation benefits and also brought a wrongful death action. The Gomezes appealed the district court's decision to grant Crookham’s motion for summary judgment on all claims relating to Mrs. Gomez’s death. The district court held that Mrs. Gomez was working within the scope of her employment at the time of the accident, that all of the Gomezes’ claims were barred by the exclusive remedy rule of Idaho worker’s compensation law, that the exception to the exclusive remedy rule provided by Idaho Code section 72-209(3) did not apply, and that the Gomezes’ product liability claims failed as a matter of law because Crookham was not a “manufacturer.” In affirming in part and reversing in part, the Idaho Supreme Court determined the trial court erred when it failed to consider whether Crookham committed an act of unprovoked physical aggression upon Mrs. Gomez by consciously disregarding knowledge that an injury would result. As such, the matter was remanded to the district court for further proceedings. View "Gomez v. Crookham" on Justia Law

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In its motion for summary judgment, Farmers Insurance Company of Idaho argued that Erica Klein was barred from pursuing a supplemental UIM claim because the five-year statute of limitations in Idaho Code section 5-216 had run. Farmers asserted the statute of limitations began to run on either the date of the accident or the date Klein settled with the third party tortfeasor, both of which occurred more than five years prior to Klein filing her complaint to compel arbitration of her UIM claim. The district court denied Farmers’s motion and subsequent motion for reconsideration, holding that the “breach of contract” rule was the proper method of calculating the accrual date for Klein’s cause of action. Farmers appealed the district court’s denial of both motions. The Idaho Supreme Court determined the issue raised by this case was one of first impression, inasmuch as it was asked to determine when the statute of limitations began to run on a cause of action for UIM benefits under an automobile insurance policy. After considering the different approaches taken by other states, the Court adopted the majority’s “breach of contract” rule and affirmed the district court’s decisions. View "Klein v. Farmers Insurance Co." on Justia Law