Justia Injury Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Idaho Supreme Court - Civil
Jordan v. Walmart Associates, Inc.
Appellants Walmart and New Hampshire Insurance Company appealed the Idaho Industrial Commission’s determination that the employee’s widow, Sue Jordan, was entitled to medical and death benefits. More specifically, they challenged the Commission’s application of the presumption set forth in Idaho Code section 72-228 where there was unrebutted prima facie evidence indicating that the employee’s death arose in the course of his employment. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Idaho Industrial Commission. View "Jordan v. Walmart Associates, Inc." on Justia Law
Hanks v. City of Boise
In December 2019, Paul Hanks slipped and fell on a patch of ice after exiting a vehicle in the passenger unloading zone at the Boise Airport. Hanks sued defendants the City of Boise, Republic Parking System, LLC, and United Components, Inc. for negligence. Hanks argued that Defendants had a duty to maintain the airport facilities in a safe condition and that Defendants failed in that duty by not keeping the passenger unloading zone free of ice. Respondents the City of Boise and Republic Parking System, LLC moved for summary judgment, arguing they had met all legal duties owed to Hanks. The district court agreed and granted summary judgment. Finding that the district court did not err in its grant of summary judgment, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court. View "Hanks v. City of Boise" on Justia Law
Smith v. Excel Fabrication, LLC
Mitchell Smith was employed by Amalgamated Sugar Company (“Amalgamated”) in Nampa, Idaho, when he was injured falling from a flight of stairs after the handrail gave out. Amalgamated had contracted with Excel Fabrication, LLC (“Excel”), to construct and install the flight of stairs and the handrail. Smith received worker’s compensation benefits from Amalgamated. Smith then sued Excel as a third-party tortfeasor, alleging that Excel had been negligent in its construction and installation of the staircase. Excel moved for summary judgment, arguing that it was a “statutory co-employee” with Smith and, therefore, it was immune from liability as a result of the exclusive remedy rule. The district court agreed and granted Excel’s motion for summary judgment. The district court then dismissed the case, with prejudice. Smith appealed. Based on the district court’s failure to recognize the differences between an independent contractor from either a contractor or a subcontractor, the Idaho Supreme Court held that the district court erred in granting Excel’s motion for summary judgment: the text of the Worker’s Compensation Law indicated that “independent contractors” were fundamentally different from “contractors and subcontractors” as those terms were used throughout the Idaho Worker’s Compensation Act. Because of this fundamental difference, an independent contractor was not immune from third-party tort liability as a statutory employer. The judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Smith v. Excel Fabrication, LLC" on Justia Law
Christmann v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.
After suffering personal injuries and property damage in a multi-car collision with an underinsured motorist, Kelly Lynn Christmann filed suit against her insurer, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (“State Farm”). Christmann was seeking to obtain the underinsured motorist benefits provided under her contract of insurance, which she claimed State Farm failed to pay in an amount justly due under her policy. She also alleged that certain terms of her insurance agreement violate public policy. State Farm argued that Christmann waived her rights to additional benefits by failing to comply with the contractual obligations of her insurance policy, thereby prejudicing State Farm’s right to subrogation against the underinsured motorist. The district court awarded summary judgment to State Farm in determining it had been prejudiced by Christmann’s conduct and that the terms of the insurance policy were valid. The court also denied Christmann’s motion for reconsideration and her Rule 60(b) motion for relief. Christmann appealed. Because the record showed State Farm fully settled its claims against the underinsured motorist and waived its subrogation rights, the Idaho Supreme Court concluded it suffered no actual prejudice from Christmann’s actions. Accordingly, the judgment was reversed. View "Christmann v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Rich v. Hepworth Holzer
Holly Rich brought a legal malpractice action against her attorneys, Hepworth Holzer, LLP, and E. Craig Daue and Daue Buxbaum, PLLC (“Daue Buxbaum”) (collectively, “Respondents”), regarding their legal representation of Rich in an underlying medical malpractice action against Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center (“EIRMC”), Dr. John Lassetter (a cardiologist), and Dr. Charles Phillips (an intensivist) (collectively, “EIRMC providers”). In that action, Rich's claims against the EIRMC providers failed because they were filed after the statute of limitations expired. Rich alleged in this action that those claims were not filed on time because of Respondents’ legal malpractice. Both sides filed substantive motions for summary judgment and the district court found that Rich could not prevail because she had “not disclosed any expert [medical] testimony which complies with the requirements of Idaho law for admissibility.” The district court concluded that, lacking evidence to “set out a prima facie case of medical malpractice,” in the underlying case, Rich’s claim against Respondents for legal malpractice failed. Rich appealed. The Idaho Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed. View "Rich v. Hepworth Holzer" on Justia Law
Sankey v. Ivey
A large, dead tree near a mobile home rented by Tammy and Thomas Sankey fell and damaged the Sankeys’ vehicles, killed one of their cats and traumatized the other, and caused Tammy Sankey to experience emotional distress. Proceeding pro se, the Sankeys filed a small claims action against the owner of the mobile home park where they lived and the owner and managers of their mobile home. After losing in small claims court because they failed to prove on whose land the offending tree was located, the Sankeys filed for a trial de novo in magistrate court and paid for a land survey. The Sankeys submitted both documents attached to a joint declaration from them in opposition to motions for summary judgment filed by the owners and managers, along with a declaration from the Sankeys’ neighbor setting forth the neighbor’s lay testimony that the tree was located on the lot occupied by the Sankeys. The owners and managers of the mobile home and the mobile home park filed motions to strike the declaration from the neighbor as well as portions of the Sankeys’ declaration and the attached Record of Survey and Tree Exhibit. The magistrate court granted the motions, holding that no foundation had been laid for the Record of Survey and Tree Exhibit and that they were inadmissible hearsay. The magistrate court also struck the declaration of the neighbor because her testimony about the location of the fallen tree was not based on her personal knowledge. Without admissible evidence of who owned the land where the fallen tree was located, the magistrate court granted summary judgment in favor of the owners and managers. The magistrate court denied the Sankeys’ motion for reconsideration. The district court, sitting in its appellate capacity, affirmed the magistrate court’s decision. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court. View "Sankey v. Ivey" on Justia Law
Watkins v. City of Ponderay
Ponderay Police Department Officer Michael Watkins injured his knee while chasing a suspect. Because Watkins was injured during the performance of his duties as a police officer, he was eligible to receive his full base salary during the period of his disability under the Peace Officer and Detention Officer Temporary Disability Act. Rather than receive payments under the Act, Watkins accepted worker’s compensation benefits from the Idaho State Insurance Fund. Nearly a year later, Watkins filed a complaint against the City of Ponderay seeking payment of his full base salary. The Commission fashioned a remedy which required the City to pay Watkins his full base salary, but reduced that amount by the worker’s compensation payments Watkins had already received. Watkins appealed, arguing the Commission failed to follow the Act and exceeded its authority by ordering that the City receive a credit for benefits Watkins received. Finding the Commission erred in ordering the City receive a credit for the worker's compensation benefits, the Idaho Supreme Court reversed. View "Watkins v. City of Ponderay" on Justia Law
Arreola v. Scentsy, Inc.
The Idaho Industrial Commission issued an order denying Veronica Arreola’s petition for a declaratory ruling and motion for reinstatement of compensation. Arreola brought her petition and motion against the Granite State Insurance Co. (“the Surety”), when the Surety, without an order from the Commission invoked I.C. section 72-434 to suspend Arreola’s compensation payments. In the Surety’s unilateral and private determination, suspending Arreola’s compensation payments was appropriate because the Surety had purportedly scheduled Arreola’s Independent Medical Exam (“IME”) with its physician at a “reasonable” time, and Arreola “unreasonably” failed to submit to or had obstructed the scheduled IME by not appearing. Arreola’s petition and motion disputed these private conclusions by the Surety. Arreola also maintained that only the Commission has the authority to adjudicate the underlying medical exam dispute and determine whether there is a factual basis to execute the enforcement mechanisms in Idaho Code section 72-434. The Commission denied the petition and motion, instructing Arreola to instead proceed through a complaint for relief. The Idaho Supreme Court concluded its decision in Brewer v. La Crosse Health & Rehab, 71 P.3d 458 (2003) interpreting Idaho Code section 72-434 was manifestly wrong. "Only the Commission has the authority to adjudicate medical exam disputes, and to enforce that adjudication through the enforcement mechanisms in section 72-434." In light of this, Arreola’s concern that the Surety’s unilateral execution of the enforcement mechanisms in section 72-434 also suspended her right to file a “complaint” to seek relief was now abated. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court did not affirm: given the shift in the legal landscape with Brewer overruled, the Commission’s order denying the petition and motion was vacated, and the case remanded with instructions that the Commission: (1) order payment of prospective compensation payments that might be owed until such time as the Commission determines that payments are not required under section 72-434; (2) reconsider the appropriate procedural mechanism for adjudicating the underlying factual dispute; and (3) instruct the Surety what procedural mechanism it must use to obtain an order authorizing it to lawfully suspend compensation payments. View "Arreola v. Scentsy, Inc." on Justia Law
Alcala v. Verbruggen Palletizing Solutions, Inc.
This consolidated appeal arose from personal injuries Adrian Carillo Alcala (“Carillo”) suffered at a potato packaging plant, SunRiver of Idaho, Inc. (“SunRiver”), after his head and shoulders were crushed by a box palletizer designed, manufactured, delivered, and installed by a Dutch company, Verbruggen Emmeloord, B.V. (“VE”), along with its United States affiliate, Verbruggen Palletizing Solutions, Inc. (“VPS”). The box palletizer was one of seven machines SunRiver purchased in a transaction with Volm Companies, Inc. (“Volm”). Because this was a workplace injury, Carillo received worker’s compensation benefits through his employers, SunRiver, Employers Resource Management Company, and Employers Resource of America, Inc.—and the surety American Zurich Insurance Company (collectively “the SunRiver Plaintiffs”). Afterwards, the SunRiver Plaintiffs jointly with, and in the name of Carillo, sued Volm, VE, and VPS. Pursuant to a stipulation and compromise agreement, Volm was dismissed from this suit before this appeal. The district court granted summary judgment to Respondents and dismissed all claims after concluding that VE and VPS were Carillo’s statutory co-employees immune from common law liability under Richardson v. Z & H Construction, LLC, 470 P.3d 1154 (2020). On appeal, the SunRiver Plaintiffs and Carillo argued that the transaction between SunRiver and Volm did not make Carillo, VE, and VPS statutory co-employees because it was a “hybrid” transaction consisting of goods with incidental services under Kelly v. TRC Fabrication, LLC, 487 P.3d 723 (2021). VE and VPS cross-appealed the district court’s denial of attorney fees under Idaho Code section 12-120(3). The Idaho Supreme Court agreed with the SunRiver Plaintiffs and Carillo. VE and VPS were “third parties” and were not entitled to immunity from suit in tort under the Worker’s Compensation law. The district court’s judgment dismissing all claims was vacated, the grant of summary judgment to VE and VPS was reversed, and this case was remanded for further proceedings. The Supreme Court also rejected VE’s and VPS’s argument that the SunRiver Plaintiffs’ subrogation interest was barred at summary judgment. The Court found evidence in the record sufficient to create a disputed issue of material fact over whether the SunRiver Plaintiffs had any comparative fault for Carillo’s accident. As for the cross-appeal, the Court vacated the district court’s decision denying attorney fees under section 12-120(3) below because there was not yet a prevailing party. View "Alcala v. Verbruggen Palletizing Solutions, Inc." on Justia Law
Mattson v. IDHW
In 2018, Terri Richardson Mattson (“Mattson”) and her husband filed this action against the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, and its employee, Laurie Gallegos, a certified physician assistant (“Defendants”), alleging medical malpractice and failure to obtain informed consent related to outpatient mental health services Mattson received from Defendants. As a part of those services, Gallegos prescribed Mattson Prozac (fluoxetine), an antidepressant. Roughly one month later, the day of her follow up appointment with Gallegos, Mattson woke up, took a firearm from her gun cabinet, went to the liquor store, bought a bottle of vodka, drank the entire bottle while driving to her follow up appointment, and when she arrived in the Department’s parking lot, fired the gun into her head. Mattson survived but suffered extensive injuries. Subsequently, Mattson and her husband filed this action. The district court granted summary judgment to Defendants on two grounds: (1) Defendants were immune from liability under the Idaho Tort Claims Act (“ITCA”) because Mattson’s claims arose out of injuries sustained while she was receiving services from a “mental health center”; and (2) the “reckless, willful and wanton conduct” exception to immunity did not apply as a matter of law. The Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s decision that Mattson’s and her husband’s claims fell within the purview of the “mental health center, hospital or similar facility” immunity provision in Idaho Code section 6-904A(2). However, the Court reversed the district court’s decision that there was no triable jury question under the “reckless, willful and wanton conduct” exception to immunity. The Supreme Court found Mattson alleged sufficient facts at summary judgment to demonstrate that a reasonable person could find that Defendants’ acts or omissions were “reckless, willful and wanton[.]” Thus, the Court vacated the judgment and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Mattson v. IDHW" on Justia Law