Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Idaho Supreme Court - Civil
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Robert Fulfer, while making a delivery, exited his truck and stepped down into a nine-inch-deep pothole, resulting in serious personal injuries. He was working for Ruan Logistics Corporation (“RLC”), which was contracted as a transportation and cargo-hauling provider by Sorrento Lactalis, Inc. (“SLI”). Fulfer filed a personal injury action against SLI seeking damages based on premises liability and negligence. SLI moved to dismiss pursuant to Idaho Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and 12(c), arguing that it was immune from a tort action because it was a statutory employer of Fulfer, meaning that Idaho’s Workers’ Compensation laws provided Fulfer’s exclusive remedy. In response, Fulfer argued that an exception to the exclusive remedy rule applied. The district court determined Fulfer’s complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted because he: (1) failed to comply with Idaho’s notice pleading requirements by not addressing statutory employer immunity; and (2) failed to allege specific facts required for establishing an exception to the exclusive remedy rule based on the Idaho Supreme Court’s decision in Gomez v. Crookham Co., 457 P.3d 901 (2020), which was controlling at the time. Accordingly, the district court dismissed Fulfer’s complaint without prejudice and later denied Fulfer’s motion to reconsider and for leave to file a second amended complaint. Fulfer appealed. The Supreme Court determined the district court erred in dismissing Fulfer’s first amended complaint pursuant to Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) because it satisfied Idaho’s pleading requirements. Further, the Supreme Court concluded the exception to the exclusive remedy rule in I.C. 72-209(3) applied to direct and statutory employers. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Fulfer v. Sorrento Lactalis, Inc." on Justia Law

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Christopher Luck, as legal guardian and conservator for Ethel Luck, appealed a district court’s dismissal of Ethel’s negligence claim against Sarah Rohel for injuries Ethel sustained in a car accident. On March 13, 2019, the last day before the applicable statute of limitations ran, Amy Clemmons, Ethel’s daughter, signed and filed a pro se Complaint against Rohel on Ethel’s behalf, alleging a single count of negligence. Ethel did not sign the Complaint. The same day, Ethel signed a durable power of attorney designating Clemmons as her attorney-in-fact. Clemmons was a licensed Washington attorney, who, at the time the Complaint was filed, was not licensed to practice law in Idaho. A little over a month later, Clemmons filed a pro se Amended Complaint, which continued to identify the same plaintiff, “AMY CLEMMONS, as Guardian for ETHEL LUCK.” Both Ethel and Clemmons signed the Amended Complaint. Rohel moved to strike the first complaint, arguing Clemmons, who was not licensed to practice law in Idaho, signed the Complaint. Rohel also moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing Clemmons had not been appointed as Ethel’s guardian, was not admitted to the Idaho State Bar and therefore, lacked authority to file the Complaint on Ethel’s behalf. Clemmons subsequently retained an attorney, who filed a notice of appearance on April 23, 2019. The notice of appearance failed to specify whether counsel appeared on behalf of Clemmons, Ethel or both. Counsel argued that Idaho law allowed Clemmons to act as a general guardian and as such, Clemmons was the real party in interest and could initiate a lawsuit pro se, on behalf of Ethel. Additionally, counsel argued that any deficiencies in the Complaint had been cured pursuant to Rule 11 because Ethel signed the Amended Complaint. The district court granted both of Rohel's motions, and Clemmons appealed. The Idaho Supreme Court vacated the district court's judgment, finding it erred in applying the rule of nullity to strike Clemmons' Complaint. The Supreme Court determined the caselaw the trial court used as grounds for its judgment was no longer applicable in light of subsequent amendments to Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 11. In light of this holding, the Supreme Court remanded this matter to allow the district court to exercise its discretion and determine whether to allow Plaintiff Luck to cure the improper signature. View "Luck v. Rohel" on Justia Law

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This appeal involved a dispute over the division of a personal injury settlement between a predecessor law firm, a successor law firm, and a client who was subjected to unfair and deceptive trade practices. Litster Frost Injury Lawyers (“Litster”) represented Melissa Gryder for approximately three years before Idaho Injury Law Group (“IILG”) took over representation and settled Gryder’s case roughly two months later for $120,000. Gryder had followed her attorney, Seth Diviney, from Litster to his newly formed firm, IILG. After the personal injury claim was settled, Litster sued IILG and Gryder, claiming a portion of the settlement for attorney’s fees and costs it incurred. Gryder, through Diviney as her attorney, counterclaimed that Litster violated the Idaho Consumer Protection Act (“ICPA”) and could not recover against the settlement fund. The district court ruled on a motion for partial summary judgment that Litster committed an unfair and deceptive trade practice in violation of the ICPA. However, by the time of the bench trial, the district court understood, based on representations by Diviney, that only Litster and IILG had a stake in the disputed portion of the fund—not Gryder. From this, the district court divided the disputed portion of the fund between Litster and IILG. The Idaho Supreme Court reversed the district court’s decision and remanded this case for further proceedings so the district court could balance the equities between Litster, IILG, and Gryder. View "Litster Frost v. Idaho Injury Law Group" on Justia Law

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Jana Mortensen sought treatment from Dr. Jeffrey Baker at The Healing Sanctuary, LLC, after a hysterectomy failed to resolve symptoms for ongoing pelvic pain. Mortensen alleged Dr. Baker prescribed Mortensen a 14-day course of “ozone treatment” to be self-administered intravaginally at home. Mortensen allegedly breathed in ozone gas while administering the treatment, which she alleged caused her permanent pulmonary and cardiac injuries. Mortensen filed a complaint against Dr. Baker and The Healing Sanctuary (collectively “Dr. Baker”), claiming medical malpractice. Dr. Baker moved for summary judgment, arguing that Mortensen could not prove causation. The district court conditionally granted Dr. Baker’s motion for summary judgment after finding Mortensen had not raised a genuine issue of material fact; however, the court gave Mortensen a specified time to secure expert testimony on causation. Mortensen did not comply with the deadline. The district court entered summary judgment, denying Mortensen’s second request for additional time. The district court also denied her motion to reconsider. Mortensen appealed. The Idaho Supreme Court reversed, finding the district court erred in excluding certain statements. As a result, Dr. Baker was not entitled to summary judgment because the excluded testimony created a genuine issue of material fact. View "Mortensen v. Baker" on Justia Law

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Daniel Sharp suffered an injury to his lower back from an accident at work in 2015. After surgery, he was repeatedly advised to lose weight by the medical providers treating his injury. However, Sharp gained considerable weight instead. The Industrial Commission found that Sharp’s functional ability had diminished between 2016, when he reached maximal medical improvement (MMI) after surgery, and 2019, when his permanent disability hearing was held. The Commission attributed the worsening of Sharp’s condition to his weight gain, which it held to be a superseding cause of any increase in Sharp’s disability post-MMI. Accordingly, the Commission evaluated Sharp’s disability based on his condition at MMI, despite the Idaho Supreme Court's opinion in Brown v. Home Depot, 272 P.3d 577 (2012), requiring that a claimant’s disability be evaluated based on circumstances at time of the hearing. After review in this case, the Supreme Court held that the Commission erred by departing from "Brown," by applying an incorrect standard to determine that Sharp was not entitled to compensation due to the aggravation of his injury, and by reaching certain factual conclusions not supported by substantial and competent evidence. Therefore, the Commission’s decision was vacated and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Sharp v. Thomas Bros Plumbing" on Justia Law

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After a 21-year career as a firefighter with the City of Pocatello, Richard Nelson was diagnosed with leukemia. Nelson brought a workers’ compensation claim against the City. The Industrial Commission determined that the City failed to rebut a statutory presumption of causation with substantial and competent evidence. The City appealed, arguing there was substantial evidence to rebut the presumption that Nelson’s cancer was caused by his employment. The City also argued Idaho Code section 72-438(14)(b) unconstitutionally discriminated between the employers of firefighters who had cancer and the employers of other employees who claim to have contracted an occupational disease. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the Industrial Commission. View "Nelson v. City of Pocatello" on Justia Law

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Curt and Dara Von Lossberg filed this suit against the State of Idaho and the Idaho State Police after their son, Bryan Von Lossberg, ended his life with an unlawfully purchased handgun. The Von Lossbergs alleged that this purchase stemmed from failures in Idaho’s electronic case management system to properly report his mental health status. The district court dismissed the Von Lossbergs’ claims for negligence and wrongful death, concluding that the government defendants were immune from tort liability under the immunity provisions of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (“Brady Act”). On appeal, the Von Lossbergs argued their case should not have been dismissed because: (1) the Brady Act’s immunity provision did not apply to the State of Idaho; and (2) the Brady Act’s immunity provision was not preserved by the Idaho Tort Claims Act. The Idaho Supreme Court concurred that the Brady Act did not grant immunity to the State and its agencies. Accordingly, judgment was reversed, and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Von Lossberg v. Idaho" on Justia Law

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While incarcerated in the Ada County jail, Appellant Tom Williamson fell from the upper bunk bed during a request that he stand for roll call. Williamson suffered a head injury and sued Respondents Ada County and the Ada County Sheriff (collectively “Ada County”), alleging they were negligent in maintaining unsafe bunk beds, ordering him to descend from the top bunk bed for roll call, and in responding to injuries he suffered. The district court dismissed the case after concluding Ada County was immune from liability under Idaho Code sections 6-904(1) and 904B(5). Williamson appealed. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court reversed the district court’s decision to dismiss Williamson’s claim that Ada County was negligent in ordering him to descend from the top bunk for roll call, and remanded the case for further proceedings. The Court affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Williamson’s remaining claims. View "Williamson v. Ada County" on Justia Law

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Taleetha Fuentes filed a worker's compensation complaint against her employer Cavco Industries and Cavco’s surety, Sentry Casualty Company (collectively, Defendants). Fuentes filed her complaint in July 2019, and the Defendants denied the claim. During discovery, the Defendants filed a motion to compel in October 2019, which was granted. Following no response from Fuentes, the Defendants filed a motion for sanctions, and Fuentes again did not respond. On December 19, 2019, the full Idaho Industrial Commission issued an Order Dismissing Complaint, citing Industrial Commission Judicial Rule of Procedure (JRP) 12(B). Five months later, in May 2020, Fuentes responded to the initial discovery requests and moved to retain the case on the active calendar, but her filing and motion were returned “unfiled” as explained in an email from the assigned Referee. Fuentes also moved for reconsideration of the dismissal and filed a petition to vacate the order of dismissal under JRP 15. The Commission denied both motions. The Idaho Supreme Court determined the Commission acted in excess of its powers when it misapplied JRP12(B) in the initial dismissal order, and in applying JRP 16 to Fuentes' case. Accordingly, the Court reversed the Commission’s decision to dismiss Fuentes’ case, and vacated the order. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Fuentes v. Cavco Industries, Inc." on Justia Law

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In July 2015, R.N. went boating on Lake Coeur d’Alene with his friends, C.N. and B.L. All three boys were sixteen years old at the time. The boat was owned by C.N.’s father. C.N., B.L., and R.N. obtained about 12 beers from an unknown source and consumed them while boating. Later, the boys stopped at Shooters, a restaurant and bar near the south end of the lake. Respondent Tracy Lynn allegedly provided C.N., B.L., and R.N. with an alcoholic drink known as a “Shooter sinker” (also known as a “derailer”). The boys left the restaurant and drank the derailer on the lake. At some point during the trip, R.N. jumped or fell off the boat into the water and drowned. Appellant-plaintiffs Brandi Jones (R.N.'s mother), and Dasha Drahos (R.N.'s sister) filed a complaint against Lynn, alleging she recklessly and tortiously caused R.N.’s death by providing him with alcohol before he drowned in Lake Coeur d’Alene. Lynn moved for summary judgment, asking the district court to dismiss the case because the Plaintiffs failed to comply with the notice requirements under Idaho’s Dram Shop Act. The district court agreed and granted Lynn’s motion for summary judgment after concluding there was no uniform body of federal maritime dram shop law that would preempt Idaho’s Dram Shop Act. Thus, the Plaintiffs had to comply with the Dram Shop Act’s notice requirements. The Plaintiffs appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court. Finding that the district court correctly applied with the Idaho Dram Shop Act after concluding the Act did not conflict with any uniform federal common law, and that the district court did not err in finding Appellants' claims were barred because they did not comply with the Dram Shop Act, the Supreme Court affirmed the grant of summary judgment. View "Jones v. Lynn" on Justia Law