Justia Idaho Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
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Lester McMillan bought a dilapidated house that Terry Asher and Pamela Kitchens (“the Ashers”) planned to repair. The parties orally agreed that the Ashers would perform certain repairs to make the house livable, rent the house from McMillan for five years, and then buy the house from McMillan. For reasons that were disputed, the sale was never consummated. However, the Ashers continued to live in the house, make improvements to the property, and pay monthly rent to McMillan. After relations between the parties soured, McMillan sued to evict the Ashers. The Ashers then sued McMillan for specific performance of the oral contract to convey or, in the alternative, restitution for the value of the improvements. The district court found the oral contract was unenforceable, but awarded the Ashers restitution for certain improvements. McMillan appealed, alleging the district court erred in determining that he was unjustly enriched and in determining the amount of restitution. The Idaho Supreme Court found the district court did not err, except for a minor miscalculation of the amount of restitution. View "Asher v. McMillan" on Justia Law

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In 2018, Derik and Jessica Smith bought property next to Carl and Anita Owen. The Smiths erected a fence along the boundary defined in a survey that was completed as part of their purchase agreement. The Owens disputed the boundary established by the 2018 survey and filed a complaint seeking damages for trespass, deprivation of real and personal property that was in the disputed area, loss in property value, and inability to inhabit and enjoy the property. The Smiths counterclaimed for quiet title and an easement guaranteeing them access to a buried irrigation pipeline that crossed the Owens’ property. The parties each filed a motion for summary judgment. The district court granted the Smiths’ motion for summary judgment, holding the Owens had no right, title or interest in the disputed property and that the Smiths were bona fide purchasers with superior claim to any land described in their deed. The court also granted the Smiths permanent easement rights to the irrigation pipeline. The court dismissed the Owens’ claims for trespass and conversion of personal property. The Owens timely appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court. Finding no reversible error in the district court's judgment, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Owen v. Smith" on Justia Law

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Appellant Derrick Lingnaw, a registered sex offender, sought declaratory relief from the district court asking whether he could legally reside on his property. The district court found Lingnaw’s residence was within five hundred feet of property on which a school was located, as that term was used in Idaho Code section 18-8329(1)(d). The court thus denied Lingnaw’s request to enjoin the Custer County Sheriff, Stuart Lumpkin, from interfering with Lingnaw’s ability to reside on his property. The court also denied Sheriff Lumpkin’s request for attorney fees and costs. On appeal, the parties mainly disputed the district court’s finding that Lingnaw’s residence was within five hundred feet of a school. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court's ruling that Lingnaw's property was within five hundred feet of property on which a school was located. Lingnaw raised a question of fact as to whether the building, ruled as a "school," was simply a gymnasium and building leased by the Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”); Lingnaw argued the plain meaning of “school” required some form of traditional educational instruction. The trial court found “that the gymnasium, as contemplated by the statute, is a school building utilized by the school for school functions on a regular basis . . . for sporting events and other school activities. And children are coming and going from that building on a regular basis.” Because it was “clear from the evidence” that Lingnaw’s property fell “well within” five hundred feet or the buildings’ property line, the district court found that Lingnaw lived within five hundred feet of a school. To this, the Supreme Court concurred. The district court's judgment was affirmed in all other respects. View "Lingnaw v. Lumpkin" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs John Oswald and Nancy Poore appealed a district court judgment granting summary judgment in favor of defendant Costco Wholesale Corporation ("Costco"). In February 2017, Oswald and Poore were walking on that walkway when an elderly driver drove onto a pedestrian walkway that bisected two perpendicular rows of ADA-accessible parking spaces, striking Oswald and pinning him against a vehicle parked on the opposite side, causing Oswald to suffer significant injuries. Plaintiffs sued Costco alleging: (1) premises liability; (2) negligence and willful wanton conduct; (3) negligent infliction of emotional distress; and (4) intentional infliction of emotional distress. After the district court resolved a discovery dispute in Costco’s favor, Costco moved for summary judgment. In granting the motion, the district court ruled that Costco had no notice that its walkway was a dangerous condition and, therefore, owed no duty to redesign it or warn pedestrians about it. The district court entered judgment dismissing the Plaintiffs’ claims with prejudice. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court determined the district court's decision improperly focused on the duty to maintain safe premises to the exclusion of the duty to use reasonable care. Furthermore, the Court found Plaintiffs put forward sufficient evidence to create a disputed issue of material fact on foreseeability and causation, thereby precluding the award of summary judgment. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Oswald v. Costco" on Justia Law

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Bret and Mary Bennett filed an action to quiet title to their residence in Payette, Idaho, against the Bank of Eastern Oregon (“BEO”), seeking to remove a judgment lien and a deed of trust. In 2007, the Bennetts started a motorsports business in Ontario, Oregon, which leased its premises from a different business entity owned by the Bennetts. In 2008, the Bennetts personally guaranteed one or more loans between BEO and these businesses. Among these loans was a $100,000 promissory note (“the Note”) that was secured by a deed of trust on the Bennetts’ residence situated on the other side of the Snake River in Payette, Idaho (“the Property”). The deed of trust designated 1st American Title Company of Malheur County, Oregon as trustee. The parties signed the deed of trust on April 10, 2008. One day later, on April 11, 2008, BEO recorded the deed of trust in the Payette County Recorder’s Office. By its terms, the deed of trust was set to mature on May 5, 2009. The Bennetts later defaulted on the Note and other obligations to BEO. Rather than seeking to foreclose on the Property for a breach of the Note’s terms, BEO successfully pursued a collection action against the Bennetts in Oregon state court to recover on all of the Bennetts’ debts, including the Note. This appeal addressed whether a debtor could use Idaho’s single-action rule as a sanction to quiet title against a deed of trust when the secured creditor has violated the rule by filing an action against the debtor to recover on the debt before seeking satisfaction of the debt by foreclosing on the property serving as security. The Idaho Supreme Court determined the Bennetts stated a cause of action that could allow them to quiet title against BEO for the deed of trust. Construing the pleadings in favor of the Bennetts, BEO violated the single-action rule codified in Idaho Code section 45-1503(1) by seeking to recover from the Bennetts on the Note personally before seeking to foreclose on the Property. Thus, the Supreme Court reversed the district court's decision granting BEO's motion to dismiss, vacated the judgment of dismissal, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Bennett v. Bank of Eastern Oregon" on Justia Law

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Appellant Sky Duncan’s daughter, K.R., attended a daycare Anna McCowin ran out of a residence she leased from Respondent Scott Long. In 2014, McCowin left K.R. unattended in the backyard, which allowed K.R. to allegedly escape through a broken gate to a nearby canal where she drowned. Duncan sued McCowin and Long for negligence. Long moved for summary judgment, arguing that he did not owe Duncan or her daughter a duty to repair the broken gate. The district court granted Long’s motion for summary judgment after declining to extend premises liability to an injury that occurred on property adjacent to Long’s property. Duncan filed a motion for reconsideration, which the district court denied. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court found the district court correctly held that Long did not owe K.R. a duty of care to protect against an injury that occurred on adjacent property. Therefore, the Court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in Long's favor. View "Duncan v. Long" on Justia Law

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While living in California, Jefri and Debbie Davis sought to purchase a home in northern Idaho, and hired Charles Tuma and Tuma’s broker, Donald McCanlies, to help them. Tuma and McCanlies both worked for Johnson House Company, which in turn was doing business as Coldwell Banker Resort Realty. Some years after purchasing the property in question, the Davises learned that the road they believed provided access to their home, did not in fact do so. The Davises filed suit against Tuma, McCanlies, and Coldwell Banker Resort Realty (collectively, the Defendants), alleging fraud and constructive fraud. The Defendants moved for summary judgment against the Davises. The Davises responded, filing several declarations, portions of which the Defendants moved to strike. The Davises also sought to amend their complaint to add claims for unlicensed practice of law, surveying, or abstracting; and breach of contract and violation of contractual duties. The district court granted the Defendants’ motions for summary judgment and to strike, but did not specifically identify which statements were being stricken. The district court also denied the Davises’ motion to amend their complaint without explanation of the reasoning behind the decision. The Idaho Supreme Court found genuine issues of material facts to preclude the grant of summary judgment to Defendants. Further, the Court concluded the district court abused its discretion in denying the Davises' motion to amend their complaint. The Court vacated the trial court judgment entered and remanded for further proceedings. View "Davis v. Tuma" on Justia Law

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In the summer of 2014, Mark and Jennifer Porcello sought to purchase property In Hayden Lake, Idaho. After making various pre-payments, the amount the couple was still short on a downpayment. Mark and Jennifer could not qualify for a conventional loan themselves. They hoped another property in Woodinville, Washington, owned by Mark’s parents, in which Mark and Jennifer claimed an interest, could be sold to assist in the purchase of the Hayden Lake property. In an effort to help Mark and Jennifer purchase the property, Mark’s parents, Annie and Tony Porcello, obtained financing through a non-conventional lender. "In the end, the transaction became quite complicated." Annie and Tony’s lawyer drafted a promissory note for Mark and Jennifer to sign which equaled the amount Annie and Tony borrowed. In turn, Mark signed a promissory note and deed of trust for the Hayden Lake house, in the same amount and with the same repayment terms as the loan undertaken by his parents. In mid-2016, Annie and Tony sought non-judicial foreclosure on the Hayden Lake property, claiming that the entire balance of the note was due and owing. By this time Mark and Jennifer had divorced; Jennifer still occupied the Hayden Lake home. In response to the foreclosure proceeding, Jennifer filed suit against her former in-laws seeking a declaratory judgment and an injunction, arguing that any obligation under the note had been satisfied in full when the Woodinville property sold, notwithstanding the language of the note encumbering the Hayden Lake property. Annie and Tony filed a counter-claim against Jennifer and a third-party complaint against Mark. A district court granted Jennifer’s request for a declaratory judgment. However, by this time, Annie and Tony had died and their respective estates were substituted as parties. The district court denied the estates’ request for judicial foreclosure, and dismissed their third-party claims against Mark. The district court held that the Note and Deed of Trust were latently ambiguous because the amount of the Note was more than twice the amount Mark and Jennifer needed in order to purchase the Hayden Lake property. Because the district court concluded the note and deed of trust were ambiguous, it considered parol evidence to interpret them. Ultimately, the district court found the Note and Deed of Trust conveyed the Hayden Lake property to Jennifer and Mark “free and clear” upon the sale of the Woodinville property. Annie’s and Tony’s estates timely appealed. Finding that the district court erred in finding a latent ambiguity in the Note and Deed of Trust, and that the district court's interpretation of the Note and Deed of Trust was not supported by substantial and competent evidence, the Idaho Supreme Court vacated judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Porcello v. Estates of Porcello" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Nicole Packer was injured when she fell from an unlit loading dock at the Kingston Plaza in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Packer, working as a vendor at a Christmas-themed exposition, alleged she had been directed to use the rear exit by a representative of Riverbend Communications, LLC, the organizer of the exposition and the occupier of the property at the heart of this litigation. The rear exit was unlit, and when Packer left the building, she was unable to re-enter. Because of the lack of light, Packer did not realize she was on a loading dock which was five feet above the adjoining pavement. When she proceeded towards the lit parking lot, she fell to the asphalt and was seriously injured. Packer sued Kingston Properties (owner of the property), as well as Riverbend Communications, LLC. Following discovery, the defendants sought and were granted summary judgment. Packer unsuccessfully moved for reconsideration. She timely appealed the district court’s decision granting summary judgment in favor of Riverbend. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court determined the district court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of Riverbend because Packer was an invitee; the district court erred as a matter of law in determining Packer was a licensee. Because Packer was an invitee, Riverbend owed her the duty to warn her of hidden or concealed dangers and to keep the property in reasonably safe condition. On these facts, the Supreme Court concluded a jury could have reasonably concluded that Riverbend breached either or both of the duties it owed to Packer. Accordingly, the district court’s decision granting summary judgment was reversed. View "Packer v. Riverbend Communications" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Idaho Supreme Court's review centered on a waste ditch that drained surface water from property owned by Lora Roberts through property owned by Thomas and Deanna Jensen (the Jensens). The ditch itself passed through a man-made culvert under a county road between the properties. The Jensens filled in the portion of the waste ditch located on their property in 2013. In February 2017, Roberts’ property experienced significant flooding. The flooding damaged her home as well as horse feed stored in the barn. It also forced her to relocate her horses from her property. Roberts filed an action against the Jensens, alleging trespass and nuisance, as well as seeking a declaratory judgment to establish that Roberts had an interest in the waste ditch on the Jensens’ property as an easement on the basis that the ditch was an established natural servitude. The district court ultimately granted the Jensens’ motion for summary judgment against Roberts, and denied Roberts’ motion for summary judgment. The district court also dismissed the nuisance claim because the flooding was not caused by a natural servitude, and therefore a nuisance action was not applicable. The district court then denied Roberts’ request for a declaratory judgment. Roberts moved unsuccessfully for reconsideration, and her appeal followed. After review of the trial court record, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s order granting summary judgment against Roberts. View "Roberts v. Jensen" on Justia Law