Articles Posted in Idaho Supreme Court - Civil

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This appeal arose out of a retaliation action under the Idaho Protection of Public Employees Act (the “Whistleblower Act”) and a negligent infliction of emotional distress claim against the Idaho State Police. Plaintiff Brandon Eller alleged the Idaho State Police (ISP) retaliated against him in two ways: (1) after he testified against another officer in a preliminary hearing; and (2) when he voiced objections to a new ISP policy requiring members of the Crash Reconstruction Unit to destroy draft and peer review reports. A jury awarded Eller $30,528.97 in economic damages under the Whistleblower Act and $1.5 million in non-economic damages for his negligent infliction of emotional distress claim. The district court then entered a memorandum decision and order reducing the award for Eller’s negligent infliction of emotional distress claim to $1,000,000 because Idaho Code section 6-926 capped the State’s liability for actions brought under the Idaho Tort Claims Act (ITCA) at $500,000 per occurrence. Both Eller and ISP timely appealed on several grounds, and their appeals were consolidated. After its review, the Idaho Supreme Court held the district court incorrectly applied the ITCA to Eller’s claim because the Whistleblower Act supplanted it. The district court’s rulings that the Whistleblower Act bars non-economic damage awards and that the ITCA caps Eller’s damages were vacated, and the matter remanded for a partial new trial regarding non-economic damages solely under the Whistleblower Act. View "Eller v. Idaho State Police" on Justia Law

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Miranda Moser dislocated her right shoulder when she lifted a 24-pack of soda while working as a cashier for Rosauers Supermarkets, Inc. (“Rosauers”). Rosauers accepted the claim even though Moser had a pre-existing history of recurrent instability of her right shoulder. Moser underwent shoulder surgery. Afterward, she continued to suffer from “pseudosubluxation” and her surgeon, Dr. Adam Jelenek, recommended she receive a second opinion from a physician in Seattle. Rather than authorizing the request for referral, Rosauers arranged for Moser to be evaluated by Dr. Michael Ludwig who opined that Moser’s shoulder dislocation likely resulted from her pre-existing condition. Dr. Ludwig concluded that Moser had returned to her pre-injury baseline and that she did not require any further medical care. Rosauers filed a notice of medical exam to be performed by Dr. Joseph Lynch on February 5, 2018. Moser responded with a letter conveying she would not be attending the medical exam. Moser filed a Judicial Rule of Practice and Procedure (“J.R.P.”) 15 petition for a declaratory ruling, seeking an order on whether an employer could compel a claimant to attend an Idaho Code section 72-433 examination without first establishing the claimant was within her “period of disability,” which she argued was limited to a period when she was actually receiving benefits. Thereafter, Moser filed a notice that she would not attend the medical examination Rosauers had scheduled for April 2, 2018. The Commission held that following the claim of an accident, injury, or occupational disease, an employer may require a claimant’s attendance at such a medical examination. Moser appeals the Commission’s order. Finding no reversible error in the Commission’s judgment, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Moser v. Rosauers" on Justia Law

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Denise M. Ehrlich appealed an Idaho Industrial Commission (the Commission) order that determined she was ineligible for unemployment benefits. The Commission affirmed the determination of the Idaho Department of Labor and the Appeals Examiner that Ehrlich willfully underreported her weekly earnings. On appeal, Ehrlich contended the Commission’s finding that she willfully misrepresented her wages was clearly erroneous. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the Commission’s decision. View "Ehrlich v. IDOL" on Justia Law

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Bryan Oliveros filed a complaint with the Idaho Industrial Commission (“Commission”) after he was involved in a work related accident at Rule Steel Tanks, Inc. (“Rule Steel”). The accident resulted in the partial amputation of all four fingers on his dominant hand. The Commission awarded Oliveros compensation for a 32% partial permanent impairment (“PPI”) rating but declined to award any additional benefits after it later found his permanent partial disability (“PPD”) rating to be 25%. Oliveros appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court. While the Court concluded the Commission erred when it found Oliveros’ PPI could exceed his PPD, it otherwise affirmed the Commission’s decision. View "Oliveros v. Rule Steel" on Justia Law

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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