Justia Idaho Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
by
Nampa Highway District No. 1 (NHD) brought this action seeking to quiet title to a thirty-three-foot-wide strip of land constituting the south half of West Orchard Avenue in Canyon County, Idaho. NHD claimed that a 1941 deed conveyed the land to NHD. Appellants (defendants-below) argued that because the deed was not recorded until 1989, it did not affect their interests pursuant to the “Shelter Rule,” which protected a purchaser with notice if their predecessor in interest was an innocent purchaser. The district court granted summary judgment in NHD’s favor. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court reversed, finding the district court erred in granting summary judgment when there was a genuine issue of material fact as to what a reasonable investigation by Appellants' predecessors in interest would have revealed. The Supreme Court vacated the district court's declaration that NHD was the fee simple titleholder of the right-of-way, and the matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "Nampa Hwy Dist #1 v. Knight" on Justia Law

by
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

by
The Board of County Commissioners for Bonner County, Idaho (“Board”) granted Stejer’s, Inc.’s request for three variances (“the Variances”) from applicable lot setbacks required by the Bonner County Revised Code. Neighboring land owners, Frank Hungate and Thomas Hungate, as trustees of the Hungate Trust, the A&E Family L.L.C., Anne Ashburn, Eleanor Jones, Frank Hungate, and John Hungate (collectively “the Hungates”) appealed the Board’s decision. The district court held that the Board erred in approving the Variances, but ultimately affirmed the Board’s decision after it determined that the Hungates failed to show that their substantial rights were prejudiced. The Hungates appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Hungate v. Bonner County" on Justia Law

by
This appeal stemmed from a dispute between neighbors over the validity of an easement. In 1997, the Fitzpatricks bought two adjacent lots. In 2016, while they still owned both lots, they recorded an easement that granted the owners of the first lot (themselves) the right to maintain, repair, and improve a portion of the second lot. They then sold the second lot to the Kents. Two years later, the Kents allegedly made certain modifications to the easement area that the Fitzpatricks opposed. The Fitzpatricks claimed that the easement precluded the Kents from making the modifications, but the Kents asserted that the easement was unenforceable. The Fitzpatricks and Kents filed cross-complaints in district court, each seeking to quiet title to the easement area. The district court granted the Kents’ motion for summary judgment after concluding that the easement was invalid under the merger doctrine. The district court granted costs to the Kents but denied them attorney fees under Idaho Code section 12-121. The Fitzpatricks appealed the district court’s summary judgment decision and the Kents cross-appealed the district court’s denial of their request for attorney fees. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court's decisions. View "Fitzpatrick v. Kent" on Justia Law

by
Bennett Day, Trustee of Trust B of the Donald M. and Marjorie D. Day Family Trust, John Day, Dan E. Day, Holcomb Road Holdings, LLC, Donna Day Jacobs, and David R. Day (collectively, the Day family) appealed a district court's decision dismissing their claims against the State of Idaho and the Idaho Transportation Department (the Department). This case related to certain property the Day family owned near Isaacs Canyon in Ada County, Idaho. In the 1990s, the State began working on the Isaacs Canyon Interchange near the Day property. The frontage road (Eisenman Road) was extended to the interchange. Eisenman Road did not reach the Day property. In late 1997, which the parties each stipulated was the date for valuation of any taking, the Department substantially completed construction of the Isaacs Canyon Interchange project. After the interchange was completed, the State transferred jurisdiction and maintenance of Eisenman Road southwest of the Interchange to the Ada County Highway District (ACHD). In 2014, the Department applied to ACHD to obtain access from Eisenman Road to the Day property. In 2015, the Department offered the Day family $560,000 to build an access road themselves, but the Days rejected the offer. In May 2016, ACHD advised the Department that it would “not accept a public street” needed to create the access desired by the Day family. Following ACHD’s denial of the Department’s application, the Day family filed this action, asserting claims against the Department for inverse condemnation, breach of contract, and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Both parties moved for partial summary judgment and the Department moved to dismiss the Day family’s complaint. The Day family appealed when the district ocurt dismissed its claims. Their appeal presented for the Idaho Supreme Court's review: (1) a question of whether the district court erred by considering the Department’s motion to dismiss without notifying the Day family that it would consider matters outside of the pleadings; (2) a question of whether the district court correctly dismissed the Day family’s claims for lack of standing and for untimeliness; and (3) whether either party was entitled to an award of attorney fees on appeal. The Supreme Court determined the district court: erred in granting summary judgment for the Department on all of the Day family’s inverse condemnation claims; erred by granting summary judgment on the contract claim; and incorrectly held that the statute of limitations barred the inverse condemnation claims of Donna Day Jacobs and David R. Day. Furthermore, the Court determined the district court erred by dismissing the Day family’s contract-based claims. View "Day v. Idaho Transportation Dept" on Justia Law

by
BrunoBuilt, Inc. appealed a district court’s dismissal of its claims against Strata, Inc., Chris Comstock, H. Robert Howard, and Michael Woodworth (collectively, “the Strata Defendants”). BrunoBuilt filed a professional negligence action against the Strata Defendants alleging that when the Strata Defendants rendered engineering services for the Terra Nativa Subdivision they failed to identify a pre-existing landslide and negligently failed to recommend construction of infrastructure that would stabilize and prevent further landslides within the Subdivision. A home BrunoBuilt had contracted to build and the lot on which the dwelling was located were allegedly damaged as a result. The district court dismissed BrunoBuilt’s claims after holding that the parties had entered into an enforceable settlement agreement, or alternatively, that summary judgment was warranted in favor of the Strata Defendants based on the economic loss rule. After review of the situation, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court judgment because the parties entered into an enforceable settlement agreement. View "Brunobuilt, Inc. v. Strata, Inc." on Justia Law

by
After Ellen Gittel Gordon defaulted on her mortgage, the loan servicer initiated nonjudicial foreclosure proceedings to sell her home at auction. Gordon submitted multiple loss mitigation applications and appeals in an attempt to keep her home but all were ultimately rejected. As a result, Gordon initiated the underlying action in district court to enjoin the foreclosure sale. Upon the filing of a motion to dismiss that was later converted to a motion for summary judgment, the district court dismissed Gordon’s action and allowed the foreclosure sale to take place. Gordon appealed. Finding no reversible error in the district court judgment, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed dismissal of Gordon's action. View "Gordon v. U.S. Bank" on Justia Law

by
The East Side Highway District (the District) and Gregory and Ellen Delavan (the Delavans) disputed the location of their common boundary relating to a portion of a road, Boothe Park Road, which included a boat ramp located on the shore of Lake Coeur d’Alene. The District asserted a claim to the disputed property under two theories: (1) a boundary by agreement that was established by the location of a fence that was erected by the Delavans’ predecessor in interest; and (2) Boothe Park Road and the boat ramp at its termination was a public highway pursuant to Idaho Code section 40-202(3). In response, the Delavans claimed the boat ramp was on their property, and its use by the public has always been, and remained, permissive. Further, the Delavans claimed the fence which was erected by their predecessor in interest was intended to act as a barrier, not a boundary. After two bench trials, the trial court ruled in favor of the Delavans, finding that the public’s use of the boat ramp had been permissive. As a result, the trial court ruled that the District did not have a right to a public easement based on Idaho Code section 40-202(3). Further, the trial court found that the fence had been erected as a barrier, not a boundary. Instead, the trial court found that the intention of the parties at the time the disputed property was conveyed to the Delavans demonstrated that the Delavans owned the property in dispute. The District appealed. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court held there was substantial and competent evidence to support the trial court’s findings that there was no boundary by agreement and that the Delavans owned the property in dispute. However, the Supreme Court vacated the trial court’s order granting summary judgment in favor of the Delavans because there was no hostility requirement in Idaho Code section 40-202(3). Accordingly, the case was remanded to determine whether the District had a public easement under Idaho Code section 40-202(3). View "Eastside Hwy Dist v. Delavan" on Justia Law

by
Lamont Bair Enterprises, Inc. (“LBE”) was an Idaho corporation based in Idaho Falls that owned residential rental units. One of LBE’s rental units was a four-plex rental property at 547 South Skyline Drive (“the Property”), served by municipal water lines owned and maintained by the City of Idaho Falls (“the City”). On December 28, 2015, a municipal water main broke, causing water to flow beneath the Property’s driveway, crack the concrete basement floor, and flood the basements of all four rental units. The City received an emergency call for assistance in shutting off the water. Believing the incident to be a service line leak (as opposed to a water main break), the City’s response crew first closed the water service line and waited for confirmation that the water flow had stopped. After the crew received notice that water continued to flow into the basement, they isolated the leak to the water main and began repairing the main line. The water was turned back on the following day, and the road and curb were filled back in. None of LBE’s rental units ever experienced flooding from the city’s water lines prior to this flooding incident at the Property. LBE contended the water main “ruptured” due to negligent care (that “the City neglected its water system to the point that literally miles of pipe became past their design life and in need of replacement”) thus failing to exercise reasonable care in maintaining the water supply system. The district court ruled the City was immune from liability under the Idaho Tort Claims Act’s discretionary function exception. The Idaho Supreme Court determined the district court did not err in holding that the City is immune from suit pursuant to the discretionary function exception set forth in Idaho Code section 6-904(1). The Court did not reach the merits of the other issues LBE raised on appeal. View "Lamont Bair Enterprises v. City of Idaho Falls" on Justia Law

by
Appellants Jerry and JoCarol Losee appeal the district court’s decision granting Deutsche Bank National Trust Company’s motion for summary judgment, arguing the district court erred by refusing to consider their “Chain of Title Analysis” as inadmissible hearsay. The Losees also argue the district court erred in failing to rule on two of their claims against Deutsche Bank. In 2009, the Losees became delinquent in their mortgage payments, eventually defaulting on their home mortgage loan. Over two years after the foreclosure sale was supposed to take place, a second notice of default was recorded on April 20, 2014. However, the foreclosure sale was postponed when the Losees requested a loss mitigation review. The owner of the loan would not allow loan modification, so the Losees were advised that a short sale of the property was the only loss mitigation available. On August 17, 2015, this case commenced when the Losees, acting pro se, filed their “Original Petition for Breach of Contract, Slander of Title for Declaratory Judgment and Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Application for Temporary Injunction” (“Complaint”) with the district court. In 2017, the Losees submitted a “Notice of Filing for Judicial Review,” to which they attached a “Chain of Title Analysis.” The “Chain of Title Analysis” was a report resulting from a mortgage fraud investigation conducted by a private investigation company they hired. The district court granted the Bank's motion for summary judgment, concluding there was no breach of the Deed of Trust, title to the property had not been slandered or become clouded by assignment, and that the Chain of Title Analysis was inadmissible hearsay not appropriate for consideration by the court on summary judgment. The Idaho Supreme Court found no reversible error in the district court's grant of summary judgment and affirmed. View "Losee v. Deutsche Bank Nat'l Trust" on Justia Law