Articles Posted in Idaho Supreme Court - Civil

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Plaintiff’s action to recover under an insurance policy for the loss of her house caused when a renter (who had an option to purchase) demolished it. The trial court determined the insurance policy at issue excluded for such a loss. Within two months of renting the property, plaintiff learned the renter demolished the house. The renter agreed to rebuild a house on the remaining foundation. The renter started, but did not finish, rebuilding the house. Plaintiff thereafter made a claim on her insurance policy. The Idaho Supreme Court found after review of this matter, that the words in an insurance policy were to be given the meaning applied by lay people in daily usage. One such clause implicated the intentional destruction of the house as compared to accidental loss or inadequate remodeling. The renter’s actions in demolishing plaintiff’s house down to the foundation would not be considered by lay people as the “remodeling” of the house. He did not make alterations to an existing structure; he demolished that structure. There was no house left to remodel. Plaintiff had authorized the renter to perform some remodeling, such as installing new flooring, countertops, light fixtures, paint and other cosmetic improvements, but there was no evidence in the record that he did any remodeling at all, much less that the direct cause of the loss of the Plaintiff’s house was caused by any remodeling that had been done. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment in favor of the insurance company. View "Fisher v. Garrison Property & Casualty Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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The Idaho Supreme Court concluded the district court erred in determining that the insurer did not breach its insurance contract with its insureds, and in dismissing the insureds’ bad faith claim that resulted from that determination. Plaintiffs Joel and Kathleen Harmon filed a claim with their insurance company, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., after their motorhome was broken into and damaged. The Harmons subsequently brought suit against State Farm in district court, claiming that State Farm breached the insurance agreement by failing to pay the amount required to actually repair the vehicle or pay the cash value. The Harmons also brought a claim for bad faith. State Farm moved for summary judgment on both claims, which the district court granted. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Harmon v. State Farm Mutual Auto Ins Co." on Justia Law

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Leticia Salinas injured her back while working for Bridgeview Estates (“Employer”). After receiving medical treatment for roughly six weeks, her workers’ compensation benefits were temporarily denied by Old Republic Insurance Company. Nearly two years later, Salinas filed a claim for reimbursement for medical costs and all future medical care. The Idaho Industrial Commission concluded that Salinas failed to prove that she was entitled to payment of compensation. Notwithstanding that conclusion, the Commission awarded Salinas attorney’s fees. The Employer appealed the award. The Supreme Court concluded the Commission erred in awarding attorney’s fees, and vacated the judgment. View "Salinas v. Bridgeview Estates" on Justia Law

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The faulty, inadequate, or defective work exclusion did not apply to the loss in this case. At issue in this appeal was the dismissal of Plaintiff’s action seeking to recover under an insurance policy for the loss of her house caused when a renter, who had an option to purchase the house, demolished it. The district court held that coverage for such loss was excluded under the policy. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the district court and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Fisher v. Garrison Property & Casualty Ins" on Justia Law

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Donna Simono attended a meeting hosted by Treasure Valley Area of Narcotics Anonymous (“TVNA”) at the Turner House in Mountain Home. When leaving the meeting, she fell down the stairs and injured her ankles. Simono brought a negligence action against Turner House, Larry Rodgers, and Cheryl Baker (collectively “Turner House”). Turner House filed a third-party complaint against TVNA, alleging that TVNA was responsible for maintaining the area where Simono fell. Turner House also sought indemnification for Simono’s claims. The jury returned a verdict finding neither Turner House nor TVNA negligent, and the district court entered judgment dismissing Simono’s complaint and Turner House’s third-party complaint. TVNA filed a motion seeking attorney fees against Turner House under Idaho Code section 12-120(3). The district court denied the motion for fees, concluding that the lawsuit was not based on a commercial transaction. TVNA appealed the district court’s denial of its motion for fees. Both TVNA and Turner House sought attorney fees on appeal. Finding that the district court erred in concluding that TVNA was not entitled to attorney fees, the Supreme Court reversed. Fees and costs on appeal were awarded to TVNA. View "Turner House v. Treasure Valley Area of Narcotics Anonymous" on Justia Law

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A wildfire destroyed David and Kristina Parks’ house, which was insured by Safeco Insurance Company (“Safeco”). The Parks purchased an existing house, and Safeco paid the Parks a total of $255,000, the cost of the replacement house less the value of the land. The Parks filed a complaint against Safeco alleging: (1) they were entitled to $440,195.55 under the policy; and (2) Safeco committed bad faith in handling the claim. Safeco filed a Motion for Summary Judgment asserting that the policy was not breached and its conduct did not constitute bad faith. The Parks filed a Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment asserting that Safeco misrepresented the policy. Additionally, the Parks moved to amend their complaint to include a claim for punitive damages. The district court held that: (1) there was no breach of contract because the policy was unambiguous and the Parks received the amount due under the clear language of the policy; (2) Safeco did not commit bad faith in handling the claim because it complied with the terms of the policy and paid the Parks the amount owed; and (3) the Parks had not established a reasonable likelihood of proving facts at trial sufficient to support an award of punitive damages. The Parks appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Parks v. Safeco Ins Co of Illinois" on Justia Law

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In early 2011, Trent Gearheart was severely injured in an automobile accident caused by an underinsured motorist (“UIM”). After the accident, Trent’s parents, Ronald Gearhart and Brandi L. McMahon, who were divorced, each attempted to collect on their separately held auto insurance policies with Enumclaw. Each of those policies provided maximum coverage of $300,000 for accidents caused by underinsured motorists. Enumclaw contended that because of anti-stacking language in the policies, the total UIM benefit under the combined policies was limited to $300,000. The district court held on summary judgment that the UIM anti-stacking provision in each policy was invalid and, therefore, ruled that Enumclaw was obligated for the full $300,000 policy limit on both policies. Enumclaw appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Gearhart v. Mutual of Enumclaw Ins Co" on Justia Law

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Claimant Barbara Kelly was an employee of Blue Ribbon Linen Supply, Inc. when a cart rolled over her left foot. She filed for workers’ compensation benefits. Kelly sustained additional injuries in an automobile accident when returning home from an Independent Medical Evaluation (IME) scheduled by the Idaho State Insurance Fund (Surety) in connection with the cart incident. The Industrial Commission concluded that Kelly’s injuries from the automobile accident were not compensable because they did not arise out of and in the course of her employment with Blue Ribbon. The Supreme Court concluded after review that the causal connection between Kelly’s employment and the injuries she sustained as a result of the accident was sufficiently compelling that it held that the injuries arose out of and in the course of her employment. Accordingly, the Court reversed the Commission’s decision and remanded for further proceedings. View "Kelly v. Blue Ribbon Linen Supply, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2009, plaintiff Craig Mulford filed a complaint against his employer Union Pacific Railroad (UP) seeking relief under the Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA). Plaintiff alleged he sustained injury to his knees as a result of UP's negligence. The case went to trial in 2012. The jury reached its verdict, unanimously concluding that UP was not negligent. The district court issued its final judgment and dismissed plaintiff's claims. In this appeal, plaintiff claimed that the district court erred on two separate grounds: (1) failing to disqualify a juror for cause; and (2) admitting evidence that he received disability benefits from the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) to impeach statements made by plaintiff on direct examination. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Mulford v. Union Pacific Railroad" on Justia Law

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In 2007, Steven and Valerie Hruza sought to obtain a loan from Clearwater Mortgage (Clearwater). Clearwater requested Defendant-Respondent Wade Massey to perform an appraisal of their real property located in Caldwell. Massey owned co-defendant Capitol West Appraisals and is a professional appraiser licensed to practice in Idaho. Massey performed the appraisal and sent a Summary Appraisal Report to Clearwater indicating that market value of the property was $1,150,000. Clearwater decided to deny the Hruzas' loan application before considering the appraisal. Massey admitted that both he and Clearwater were aware that the appraisal contained errors. Clearwater's president and Massey agreed that Massey would not fix the errors and Clearwater would not pay Massey for the appraisal. The Hruzas submitted a subsequent loan application to Idahy Federal Credit Union (now known as Icon). Icon approved the loan, secured by a deed of trust on the Hruzas' property. Icon sent a check to Capitol, and Capitol accepted payment. Plaintiff-Appellant CUMIS Insurance Society, Inc. was the fidelity bond insurer for Icon. It paid Icon as a result of the Hruzas' default on their loan. As Icon's subrogee, CUMIS filed suit against Massey and Capitol, alleging professional negligence, negligent misrepresentation, and breach of contract based on Massey's conduct in preparing the appraisal. A central point of dispute between the parties was how Icon obtained the appraisal. CUMIS alleged that the Hruzas included the appraisal with their loan application, thus prompting Icon to pay Capitol for the appraisal. Massey suggested that Icon improperly obtained the appraisal, pointing to Icon's admission that it did not know how it obtained it and that Icon did not request a letter of assignment from Clearwater to use or rely on the appraisal. The district court concluded that CUMIS could not establish that Massey owed a legal duty to Icon, that Idaho does not recognize a cause of action for negligent misrepresentation against appraisers, and that CUMIS had no breach of contract claim. Therefore, the district court granted Massey’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed all claims asserted by CUMIS, with prejudice. Finding that there remained issues of material fact, the Supreme Court vacated the district court's judgment dismissing CUMIS's complaint. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "CUMIS Insurance Society, Inc. v. Massey" on Justia Law