Articles Posted in Idaho Supreme Court - Civil

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At the summary judgment stage, the district court found that an employee of Greenwald Neurosurgical, P.C. caused over $100,000 in losses to the P.C., while he was acting in the ordinary course of the P.C.’s business. The district court then issued a judgment to the P.C. for the policy amount of $100,000 pursuant to a Dishonesty Bond issued by Western Surety Company. Western appealed the district court’s determinations that the employee caused the loss while acting in the ordinary course of business and that the P.C. actually suffered the loss. The P.C. cross-appealed the district court’s findings that it was the only entity insured under the bond and argued it was awarded too little by way of attorney’s fees. The Idaho Supreme Court determined: (1) the district court correctly concluded that only the P.C. was an insured and the only entity that could recover under the bond; (2) whether the employee was acting the “ordinary course of [the P.C.’s] business” was a jury question; (3) a genuine issue of fact existed regarding the amount of losses the P.C. sustained; and (4) the district court erred in awarding attorney’s fees to the P.C. The Supreme Court therefore vacated summary judgment, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Greenwald v. Western Surety" on Justia Law

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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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AmeriTel Inns, Inc. appealed an Idaho Industrial Commission decision granting Megan Keller unemployment benefits after her employment with AmeriTel ended in June 2017. AmeriTel asked the Idaho Supreme Court to adopt a bright line rule that a one-day absence without notice was a voluntary quit under Idaho Code section 72- 1366(5). In the event that the Court declined to do so, AmeriTel argued the Commission’s factual findings that rendered Keller eligible for unemployment compensation benefits were not supported by substantial and competent evidence. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the Commission's decision. View "Keller v. Ameritel Inns; IDOL" 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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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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This appeal related to a purported agreement resolving a lawsuit between Kevin Seward and Musick Auction, LLC (“Musick”). Seward claimed that the parties entered into a binding oral settlement agreement and he moved to enforce the agreement. The district court granted Seward’s motion. Musick contended on appeal the district court erred in several respects when it held that the parties had entered into a binding settlement agreement. Finding no reversible error in the district court's judgment, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Seward v. Musick Auction, LLC" on Justia Law

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Carla Sparks appealed an Idaho Industrial Commission decision, which affirmed an Idaho Department of Labor (“IDOL”) finding that she was not entitled to unemployment benefits after being discharged by her employer, Laura Drake Insurance and Financial Services, Inc. (“Drake Insurance”). The appeals examiner held a telephonic hearing to determine Sparks’ unemployment benefit eligibility, but Sparks failed to appear. As a result, Laura Drake’s sworn testimony about the details of Sparks’ termination was undisputed. The appeals examiner found that Sparks was terminated for cause and thus was not entitled to unemployment benefits. The Commission affirmed, and Sparks appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court. The Supreme Court determined Sparks was properly found ineligible for unemployment benefits and the hearing officer/Commission’s denial of her request to provide additional evidence after the initial hearing was not an abuse of discretion. View "Sparks v. Idaho Dept of Labor" 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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On July 11, 2013, the Idaho Department of Labor (“IDOL”) mailed an eligibility determination for unemployment benefits (the “2013 determination”) to William Wittkopf. This determination found Wittkopf underreported his wages for several weeks, which resulted in an overpayment in unemployment benefits. As a result, Wittkopf was: (1) ordered to repay the overpayment; (2) ineligible for any unemployment benefits for a fifty-two week period; and (3) assessed a civil penalty. Additionally, Wittkopf was told that he would remain ineligible for unemployment benefits until all amounts were repaid. Pursuant to Idaho Code section 72– 1368(3) the last day for Wittkopf to file a protest to the 2013 determination was July 25, 2013, which he failed to do. IDOL attempted to collect on the 2013 determination over the next year without success. Subsequently in early 2016, Wittkopf filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The debt he owed to the state of Idaho was included in his bankruptcy and was discharged by order of the Bankruptcy Court. In September 2016, Wittkopf began filing new claims for unemployment benefits with IDOL because he worked a seasonal job and was not receiving any income in the winter months. After not receiving benefits for several weeks, Wittkopf called IDOL which informed him he was ineligible for unemployment benefits because he had failed to pay back his overpayment, civil penalty, and interest he owed IDOL, even though those amounts were discharged in bankruptcy. Wittkopf mailed a letter to IDOL protesting the denial of his unemployment benefits. Wittkopf claimed in this letter that he was eligible for unemployment benefits because his bankruptcy discharged any amount he owed to IDOL. An Appeals Examiner construed Wittkopf’s 2016 letter as a protest of the 2013 determination. Two days later the Appeals Examiner issued a written decision finding there was no jurisdiction to hear Wittkopf’s protest because it was not filed within fourteen days of when it was issued on July 25, 2013, as required by Idaho Code section 72-1368. On November 3, 2016, Wittkopf appealed the Appeals Examiner’s decision to the Industrial Commission. On January 27, 2017, the Industrial Commission affirmed the Appeals Examiner’s decision. The Idaho Supreme Court determined the Industrial Commission erred in affirming the examiner without having determined first whether: (1) the bankruptcy discharge voided IDOL's 2013 determination; (2) whether the discharge operated as an injunction against any effort to collect, recover or offset the 2013 debt; and if yes, (3) why the Department's denial of current benefits on the basis of the 2013 debt wasn't a violation of the injunction. The matter was remanded back to the Industrial Commission for further proceedings. View "Wittkopf v. Idaho Dept of Labor" on Justia Law

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Thomas Lunneborg claimed he was entitled to $60,000 severance because he was terminated without cause. Lunneborg was hired to be Chief Operating Officer (COO) of My Fun Life Corporation (MFL) on April 16, 2014. Lunneborg was terminated on July 29, 2014, ostensibly for cause. Lunneborg brought this action seeking his severance pay pursuant to the employment contract. After a bench trial, the district court found MFL did not have cause to terminate Lunneborg. Therefore, Lunneborg was awarded $60,000 in damages, which was trebled to $180,000 under the Idaho Wage Claims Act. Lunneborg was also awarded attorney fees. The court also pierced MFL’s corporate veil and found that Lunneborg’s judgment could be collected against MFL’s sole shareholder, Dan Edwards (Edwards), and against Edwards’ wife, Carrie Edwards (Carrie), personally. MFL, Edwards, and Carrie appealed, contending that the trial court erred by: (1) failing to uphold Edwards’ determination that Lunneborg was fired for cause; (2) piercing the corporate veil; and (3) abusing its discretion in the amount of attorney fees it awarded to Lunneborg. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Lunneborg v. My Fun Life" on Justia Law