Articles Posted in Idaho Supreme Court - Civil

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Arturo Aguilar appealed the Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law and Order of the Idaho Industrial Commission in which it concluded the Idaho Industrial Special Indemnity Fund (ISIF) was not liable to him for worker’s compensation benefits. Aguilar was born in Mexico, spoke limited English and testified through a translator at his hearing. Aguilar, in the words of the Commission, is “a Mexican National and has resided illegally in the United States since approximately 1986.” Married, Aguilar and his wife had two daughters, the eldest of whom had cerebral palsy and was seriously disabled. Aguilar primarily worked as a manual laborer, including agricultural work, ranch work, and, for the last fifteen to sixteen years prior to the injury giving rise to this claim, concrete and cement work. During this latter line of employment, Aguilar sustained multiple back injuries. On December 11, 2006, Aguilar suffered another low back injury while screeding concrete. Following this latter injury, Aguilar was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease and a disc herniation at the L4-5 level of his spine. Because he was unable to get his pain to abate, he underwent back surgery, which resulted in the fusion of the L4-5 level of Aguilar’s spine. The Industrial Commission (the Commission) found that Aguilar was totally and permanently disabled and that he had pre-existing impairments that constituted subjective hindrances to his employment. However, the Commission rejected Aguilar’s claim that the ISIF was liable for benefits. Specifically, the Commission found Aguilar’s limitations and restrictions had not materially changed following the second injury. Having drawn that conclusion, the Idaho Supreme Court determined the Commission failed to apply the correct legal test in analyzing the ISIF’s liability. The Court also determined the Commission erred by failing to apply the disjunctive test for causation as set out in Idaho Code section 72-332. As a result of these two errors, the order set out in the Commission’s decision was vacated, and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Aguilar v. Idaho ISIF" on Justia Law

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In 2010, Kermit Jackson filed a complaint against Jennifer Crow arising from a 2008 automobile collision. No substantive action took place in the trial court until 2016 when Crow moved for summary judgment. In the interim, Crow filed for bankruptcy in 2014 listing Jackson as a potential unsecured creditor with a claim of unknown value. Jackson filed a proof of claim with the bankruptcy court and eventually received his pro rata share of the distribution of Crow’s assets. Crow received a bankruptcy discharge in 2014, releasing her from personal liability on the claim. Afterwards, Jackson proposed to move forward with this case against Crow as a nominal defendant, seeking to secure a judgment in order to recover from Crow’s insurer, rather than Crow personally. Crow’s motion for summary judgment argued that: (1) allowing Jackson’s case to go forward against her violated the permanent discharge injunction of 11 U.S.C. secs. 524 and 727; (2) even if this procedure did not violate the Bankruptcy Code’s permanent injunction, naming her as a nominal defendant was (a) not permitted by Idaho case law, the Idaho Rules of Civil Procedure, and Idaho’s no-direct-action rule, and (b) violated the Bankruptcy Code’s policy of providing her a financial “fresh start.” In a case of first impression, the district court ruled in favor of Crow, reasoning that allowing the case to proceed against Crow would violate 11 U.S.C. 524 by impermissibly causing negative economic consequences for Crow. The district court further reasoned that allowing Jackson to proceed directly against Crow’s insurer would violate the no-direct-action rule and permitting Jackson to proceed against Crow nominally was not permitted by the Idaho Rules of Civil Procedure or this Court’s precedent. The Idaho Supreme Court concluded the district court erred in granting Crow summary judgment: the district court misapplied the no-direct-action rule in this case. The judgment was vacated and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Jackson v. Crow" on Justia Law

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The Idaho Supreme Court considered a permissive appeal that presented a case of first impression regarding whether the tort of defamation by implication existed in Idaho. Respondent James Verity was a school teacher in Oregon who lost his teaching license after engaging in an inappropriate relationship with an eighteen-year-old female student, whom he coached at the local high school. He eventually obtained a teaching license in Idaho, and began teaching shortly thereafter. When he was forced to resign his teaching job in Idaho after USA TODAY, KTVB, KGW, Tami Tremblay, and Stephen Reilly published articles and broadcast news reports describing Verity’s misdeeds, he and his wife Sarahna Verity filed a lawsuit alleging defamation by implication. The district court denied the media’s motion for summary judgment and ruled that despite the actual truth of the statements, reasonable minds could find that the media impliedly defamed the Veritys. The media appealed that decision as a permissive appeal under Idaho Appellate Rule 12. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s conclusion that Verity was not a public official or a public figure, and affirmed the district court’s conclusion that a reasonable jury could find that KGW impliedly defamed Verity about his having a sexual relationship with a minor. The Court reversed the district court on all of Verity’s remaining claims and remanded for further proceedings. View "Verity v. USA Today, et al" on Justia Law

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2M Company Inc. (“2M”) appealed an Industrial Commission (“Commission”) decision that determined Matthew Atkinson was entitled to reasonable medical benefits for injuries he sustained in an accident on his way to work. The Commission found that an exception to the “going and coming” rule applied based on 2M’s intent to compensate Atkinson for his travel time while going to or coming from work. 2M and its surety, Employer Assurance Company, appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the Commission's determination. View "Atkinson v. 2M Company, Inc." on Justia Law

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Nearly two years after their car was rear-ended by the Guthmillers, the Crawfords filed a complaint seeking to recover against the Guthmillers. In the six months following the filing of the complaint, the Crawfords attempted to effect service on the Guthmillers at the address the Crawfords found on various internet websites. On the last day of the six-month window to effect service of process, the Crawfords filed a motion seeking to extend the time to effect service for ninety days or to serve by publication. The district court determined the Crawfords had not shown good cause for failing to serve the Guthmillers within the allowed six-month time frame. Thus, the district court entered judgment dismissing the Crawfords’ claims without prejudice. The Crawfords timely appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Crawford v. Guthmiller" on Justia Law

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The family of Mrs. Francisca Gomez (the Gomezes) appealed a district court decision granting Crookham Company’s (Crookham) motion for summary judgment on all claims relating to Mrs. Gomez’s death. Crookham is a wholesale seed distributor located in Caldwell, Idaho. Mrs. Gomez was an employee of Crookham for more than thirty years before her death. In early 2015, Crookham decided that a new picking table was necessary to sort seeds more efficiently. A Crookham employee fabricated the new table and it was installed in the company’s “Scancore” room in late 2015. Although OSHA had previously cited Crookham for violating machine guard safety standards and lockout-tagout protocol with its former picking tables, the new picking table’s drive shaft was not fully guarded and Crookham did not perform the required lockout-tagout procedures while employees cleaned the table. While working in the Scanscore room, Mrs. Gomez was under the picking table attempting to clean it when the table’s exposed drive shaft caught her hair and pulled her into the machine. She died as a result of her injuries. OSHA subsequently investigated Crookham and issued “serious” violations to the company because it exposed its employees to the unguarded drive shaft without implementing lockout-tagout procedures. The district court held that Mrs. Gomez was working in 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.” Finding no reversible error in the district court's judgment, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Gomez v. Crookham" on Justia Law

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The humans in the events giving rise to this lawsuit were related by blood or marriage: Stephen Boswell was married to Karena Boswell; Karena is Mary Steele’s daughter; Amber was Mary Steele’s granddaughter and owned a Scottish terrier named Zoey. Amber and Zoey lived in Mary’s home. Stephen and Karena Boswell appealed a judgment entered in favor of Amber Steele and the Estate of Mary Steele. The Boswells sought to recover damages for injuries suffered by Stephen after he was bitten by Zoey. Before the case was submitted to the jury, the district court ruled that all of the Boswells’ claims sounded in negligence and so instructed the jury, rejecting the Boswells’ proposed jury instructions on common law and statutory strict liability. The jury found that the Steeles were not negligent and the district court entered judgment consistent with that verdict. The Idaho Supreme Court found that the Boswells were entitled to have the jury instructed on theories other than negligence. The instructions given by the trial court did not accurately convey the elements of a common law dog bite case in Idaho, nor did they contemplate a cause of action arising from the Pocatello Municipal Code. As such, the Supreme Court vacated the judgment and remanded for a new trial. View "Boswell v. Steele" on Justia Law

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Michael Johnson suffered injuries after he slipped and fell on a liquid while walking in the housewares department of a Wal-Mart store. Johnson knew neither the source of the substance, nor how long it had been on the floor. Additionally, none of Wal-Mart’s surveillance cameras captured the initial spill or Johnson’s fall. Johnson filed a complaint alleging Wal-Mart, which has issued an internal statement to its employees that spills are largely responsible for slip/trip/fall accidents in its stores, was negligent for failing to warn him of the potential for spills. Johnson claims that the store’s business practice of allowing patrons to carry liquids throughout the store should have put Wal-Mart on notice that spills were foreseeable anywhere. Wal-Mart filed a motion for summary judgment based on its lack of actual or constructive notice of the spill. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Wal-Mart. The Idaho Supreme Court affirmed, finding the district court did not err in granting summary judgment for Wal-Mart since no evidence demonstrated a genuine issue of material fact regarding Wal-Mart’s liability for Johnson’s fall. View "Johnson v. Wal-Mart" on Justia Law

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Elfego Marquez illegally immigrated from Mexico to the United States. After entering the United States, Marquez went to southern California, where he purchased a social security card and used it to obtain employment washing dishes at a restaurant. After working in California for approximately seven months, Marquez moved to Emmett, Idaho and soon after began working at Pierce Painting. Marquez’s primary job at Pierce Painting was to prepare buildings to be painted. Pierce Painting knew Marquez was an undocumented immigrant and that his social security card was not legally issued to him. Not long after beginning at Pierce Painting, a supervisor received a notice of garnishment associated with the social security number used by Marquez. Evidently, the individual to whom the social security number had been legally issued had an outstanding child support delinquency. The supervisor instructed Marquez to obtain a different social security card. In 2010, Marquez was standing on two five gallon buckets stacked on top of each other to reach an area above a tall doorway when he fell onto a concrete floor fracturing his right wrist and injuring his right arm and shoulder. His right wrist was put into a cast and he eventually underwent multiple right shoulder surgeries. His doctor recommended permanent restrictions on overhead activities and that Marquez not return to his position at Pierce Painting. Marquez subsequently filed a workers’ compensation complaint. Pierce Painting through its surety, the State Insurance Fund (“SIF”), paid Marquez’s medical bills, total temporary disability benefits, and permanent partial impairment benefits. SIF did not pay Marquez’s permanent disability benefits, claiming that Marquez was not eligible for permanent disability due to his status as an undocumented immigrant. The Industrial Commission (the “Commission”) disagreed and ordered that Marquez was entitled to pursue a claim for permanent disability without reference to his status as an undocumented immigrant. Pierce Painting and SIF appealed the Commission's order. The Idaho Supreme Court found the Commission erred in finding Marquez could pursue a permanent disability claim without reference to his status as an undocumented immigrant. The governing statute stated: “A person, including a minor, whether lawfully or unlawfully employed . . .” shall constitute an employee who is entitled to coverage and benefits under the Act. "If the Idaho Legislature desired to create an absolute bar for permanent disability for those 'unlawfully employed' within the Act, it was free to do so when it amended the Act and removed the agricultural pursuits exemption in 1996 or thereafter. Moreover, if the Legislature wanted to prohibit undocumented immigrants from receiving a benefit under the workers’ compensation statutes, it could have created an express prohibition in that regard—just like it did regarding unemployment benefits." View "Marquez v. Pierce Painting" on Justia Law

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Ibrahim and Halida Ekic (the Ekics) and the estate of Aldina Ekic appealed district court decisions to grant summary judgment to Geico Indemnity Company (Geico) on their claims of breach of contract, misrepresentations in the inducement, breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing, and promissory estoppel and to award attorney fees to Geico. Aldina was killed in an automobile accident caused by the negligence of a third party. The Ekics recovered the total policy proceeds of $25,000 from the third party’s insurance carrier. The Ekics demanded payment from Geico for the payment of $25,000 under Aldina’s underinsured motorist policy. Geico refused to issue a payment under the language of the policy. The Ekics filed suit. Sometime after Geico filed an answer, Geico filed a motion for summary judgment with a supporting affidavit from Geico’s counsel that included a copy of the Ekics’ answers to several interrogatories, a copy of Aldina’s Geico policy, and the vehicle collision report for the accident involving Aldina and the third party. The district court granted summary judgment for Geico on each of these claims. The Ekics then amended their complaint, with the permission of the district court, to add the additional claim of promissory estoppel and Geico filed an amended answer. Counsel for Geico advised the district court during a scheduling conference that Geico would be filing a motion for summary judgment on the additional claim. At the hearing, the district court granted Geico’s motion for summary judgment because the court found that “even viewing all the facts in light most favorable to the Plaintiff, there was no admissible evidence to support” their claim. The Ekics filed a motion to set aside the judgment which was denied by the district court. Geico requested attorney fees and the district court awarded them pursuant to Idaho Code section 41- 1839(4). The Ekics argued the district court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of Geico, but finding no such error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court's judgments. View "Ekic v. Geico" on Justia Law