Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Idaho Supreme Court - Civil
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Sharon Bruno appealed following a bench trial on a quiet title matter. Bruno and her father Howard Frost sought to quiet title to an express easement, pursued quiet title for an easement by prescription, and requested an injunction against two other nearby property owners. The gravamen of the suit was to establish an easement for irrigation hand lines and piping as well as to ensure access to irrigation equipment. The hand lines had been in place since the early 1980s. They originated at a pump near the Payette River and crossed an adjacent property now owned by Dana and Elisa Gilbert (the Gilberts) before reaching Bruno’s property. Bruno also contended that the way she and her father accessed the pump since its installation in 1981 was over a driveway on what was now the Gilberts’ property, as well as a switchback on adjacent property now owned by Alfred Alford. The Gilberts counterclaimed alleging trespass and slander of title. They also sought a declaratory judgment to extinguish the express easement which had been in effect since 2011. Alford also counterclaimed alleging trespass and seeking a declaratory judgment that Bruno had no interest in his property for purposes of accessing the pump. Bruno unsuccessfully moved for summary judgment and for a preliminary injunction. The claims were bifurcated, with the easement-related claims to be tried first before a judge, and the trespass claims to follow before a jury. At the close of the first trial, the district court found that the express easement clearly allowed Bruno ingress and egress along the legal description of the easement; however, the district court rejected the requested prescriptive easement across the Gilberts’ driveway and the switchback on Alford’s property. The district court found that any use of these roads had been permissive and therefore did not satisfy the requirements for a prescriptive easement. Accordingly, the district court dismissed Bruno’s prescriptive easement-related claims. After unsuccessfully moving for reconsideration, Bruno moved the district court to enter a 54(b) certificate to enable an immediate appeal, which was granted. Bruno then timely appealed. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court found no reversible error in the district court's judgment and affirmed. View "Frost v. Gilbert" on Justia Law

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In 2015, Ralph Isom filed for bankruptcy. Ultimately, a bankruptcy trustee for the estate settled with Isom’s primary creditor, Farms, LLC (“Farms”). As part of the settlement, the bankruptcy trustee conveyed a ten-acre parcel from the bankruptcy estate to Farms. Isom was living on the ten-acre parcel at the time. When Isom refused to vacate the ten-acre parcel, Farms initiated this forcible detainer action. The magistrate court entered judgment for Farms and ordered Isom to vacate the ten-acre parcel. Isom appealed to the district court, but also vacated the property as the magistrate court had ordered. Because Isom had vacated, and thus no longer occupied or owned the ten-acre parcel, the district court held that Isom’s appeal was moot. Further, the district court rejected the merits of Isom’s appeal. Isom appealed the district court’s decision on the merits, but failed to appeal the district court’s holding that his appeal was moot. The Idaho Supreme Court found that because Isom failed to raise, let alone argue against, the district court’s decision as it related to mootness, the issue was considered waived."Isom’s waiver is dispositive. As a result, we will not reach the merits of his appeal as it relates to the sufficiency of proof regarding the forcible detainer action." Judgment was thus affirmed. View "Farms, LLC v. Isom" on Justia Law

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Loyd Eugene Ware filed suit against the City of Kendrick (the City) alleging that in December 2016, a water pipe maintained by the City failed and flooded his property, causing damage. The City answered, claiming that Ware had failed to file a timely notice of tort claim within 180 days of the City’s alleged negligence, a statutory prerequisite to filing suit against a governmental entity under Idaho Code section 6-906. The City averred the flooding occurred on December 17, 2016, and the notice of tort claim was not filed until two hundred twenty-two days later. The City thus moved for summary judgment, which was granted by the district court. Ware timely appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the grant of summary judgment in favor of the City. View "Ware v. City of Kendrick" on Justia Law

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Alicia Gangi brought a declaratory judgment action against Mark and Jane Doe Debolt (“Debolts”), the owners of a parcel adjacent to Gangi’s property. While a water tank and deck lie on Gangi’s property, the system only served the Debolts’ property with water. Moreover, the Debolts enjoyed exclusive use and enjoyment of an above-ground deck atop the water tank, since their property included an easement to the land where the water tank and deck were located. After the district court denied Gangi’s motion for summary judgment, Gangi dismissed her own case with prejudice. Thereafter, the Debolts sought attorney fees on the basis of a recorded agreement Gangi’s and the Debolts’ predecessor in interest had with a third party regarding the water system. The agreement provided that attorney fees would be awarded to the prevailing party if a suit were brought to enforce or interpret the agreement. On the basis of that agreement, the district court granted Debolts’ request for attorney fees. Gangi appealed. The Idaho Supreme Court found that Gangi’s action was not brought to interpret or enforce the Debolts’ predecessor in interest’s agreement. “The true gravamen of the lawsuit was the interpretation of the 2012 Elliott-Debolt easement agreement and whether that agreement provided the Debolts with an exclusive easement to use the water system and the deck. Therefore, inasmuch as the district court’s decision was neither consistent with existing legal standards nor reached through the exercise of reason, we conclude that the district court abused its discretion by awarding attorney fees to the Debolts under the prior Elliott-Debolt agreement.” View "Gangi v. Debolt" on Justia Law

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This case presented the Idaho Supreme Court with a fundamental, but previously unanswered, question: what duty is owed by a hospital to someone who is on its premises solely to visit one of its patients? Summary judgment was entered against Victor Dupuis in a premises liability case brought against a hospital, Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center. Dupuis was visiting his hospitalized wife in January 2017 when he slipped and fell on ice in the hospital’s parking lot. Dupuis sued the hospital, alleging inadequate snow and ice removal in the parking lot caused him to fall. Dupuis argued that the hospital had breached the duty of care it owed to him as an invitee. The district court granted the hospital’s motion for summary judgment, holding that Dupuis was a licensee, and the hospital did not have superior knowledge of the dangerous conditions over that of Dupuis, and, therefore, the hospital did not breach any duty owed to Dupuis. Dupuis appealed, arguing the district court erred in determining that he was a mere licensee, rather than an invitee, and that even if he were a licensee, the hospital assumed and subsequently breached a duty of care to keep the property in reasonably safe condition. The Supreme Court found Dupuis was an invitee, thereby reversing the district court’s grant of summary judgment, vacating the judgment entered, and remanding the case for further proceedings. View "Dupuis v. Eastern Idaho Health Services Inc." on Justia Law

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The Estate of Frances Elaine Warren entered into a purchase and sale agreement with Tricore Investments, LLC involving real property near Priest Lake in Bonner County, Idaho. Before closing, the Estate sold the property to other buyers: John Stockton and Todd Brinkmeyer. Tricore filed a complaint against the Estate for breach of contract and violation of the Idaho Consumer Protection Act (“ICPA”), among other things, and sought specific performance of the purchase and sale agreement. The complaint also alleged that Stockton and Brinkmeyer tortiously interfered with the purchase and sale agreement and that the Estate, Stockton, and Brinkmeyer (collectively, “Appellants”) engaged in a civil conspiracy. The case proceeded to a bench trial where the district court found: (1) the purchase and sale agreement between the Estate and Tricore constituted a valid and enforceable contract; (2) the Estate breached the contract when it sold the property to Stockton and Brinkmeyer; (3) the Estate’s actions violated the ICPA; (4) Stockton and Brinkmeyer tortiously interfered with the contract; and (5) Appellants engaged in a civil conspiracy. The district court ordered specific performance of the contract but declined to award any additional damages. The Estate and Stockton jointly appealed; Brinkmeyer appealed separately. The Estate argued the purchase and sale agreement was not a valid, enforceable contract because it violated the statute of frauds and there was no meeting of the minds. In the alternative, the Estate argued it did not breach the contract because Tricore repudiated it, and it did not violate the ICPA. Stockton and Brinkmeyer argued they did not tortiously interfere with the purchase and sale agreement. Together, Appellants argued they did not engage in a civil conspiracy. The Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment for Tricore on the Estate’s statute of frauds defense. The Court also affirmed the district court's findings that: (1) the Estate breached the Tricore PSA; (2) the Estate violated the ICPA; and (3) Stockton and Brinkmeyer tortiously interfered with the Tricore PSA. The district court's finding that Appellants engaged in a civil conspiracy was reversed. As a result, the attorney fee award was affirmed only as it applied to the Estate from fees against Stockton and Brinkmeyer. Tricore was not entitled to monetary damages on the tortious interference claim. View "Tricore Investments LLC v. Estate of Warren" on Justia Law

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Cases consolidated for review by the Idaho Supreme Court were appeals of three separate judgments ejecting three non-beneficiary parties from the property of an estate. The personal representative of the Estate of Victoria H. Smith (“the Estate”) brought three separate ejectment actions against the Law Office of Vernon K. Smith, LLC, and Vernon K. Smith Law, PC (collectively “VK Law”); David R. Gibson; and Vernon K. Smith, III (“Vernon III”), after each party refused his demands to vacate their respectively occupied properties. None of the parties were beneficiaries of the Estate. The district courts granted partial judgment on the pleadings in favor of the personal representative in all three actions, entering separate judgments ejecting Gibson, Vernon III, and VK Law from the Estate’s properties. On appeal, Appellants raised numerous issues relating to the personal representative’s authority to eject them from the properties. Ford Elsaesser, the personal representative of the Estate, argued on appeal that the district courts did not err in granting partial judgment on the pleadings because he had sufficient power over Estate property to bring an ejectment action on the Estate’s behalf. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court. View "Elsaesser v. Gibson" on Justia Law

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Appellants were five individuals and one Idaho limited liability company (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) who owned real property in the City of Boise (“City”) and paid ad valorem taxes to Ada County, Idaho. Plaintiffs brought an action in district court challenging ordinances the City passed that allocate tax increment financing (“TIF”) revenues to Capital City Development Corporation (“CCDC”), the City’s urban renewal agency. Specifically, the ordinances approved the allocation of TIF revenues for CCDC’s use in the Shoreline District Urban Renewal Project Area and Gateway East Economic Development District Project Area. Because Plaintiffs’ alleged injuries were solely predicated upon their status as taxpayers, the district court dismissed their complaint for lack of standing. On appeal to the Idaho Supreme Court, Plaintiffs alleged they had standing under Koch v. Canyon County, 177 P.3d 372 (2008), in which the Supreme Court held that no particularized harm was necessary to establish taxpayer standing where a violation of article VIII, section 3 of the Idaho Constitution was alleged. Because the Supreme Court determined here that, as a matter of law, the ordinances Plaintiffs challenged did not violate article VIII, section 3, it affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Hoffman v. City of Boise" on Justia Law

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In 2013, Tech Landing, LLC leased a building to JLH Ventures, LLC (“JLH”) to operate a paintball business. After the building burned down in 2017, Tech Landing sued JLH, alleging breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and negligence. The breach of contract and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing claims involved payment of rent after the building was destroyed and the failure to insure the building against fire loss. Those claims were dismissed by stipulation of the parties and were not at issue here. With respect to its negligence claim, Tech Landing alleged the fire was caused by the negligence of JLH. After ruling certain opinions of Tech Landing’s expert witnesses were inadmissible, the district court granted summary judgment to JLH. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s ruling on the admissibility of the expert opinions, but reversed its grant of summary judgment because there were genuine issues of material fact that had to be decided by a jury. View "Tech Landing LLC v. JLH Ventures LLC" on Justia Law

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Respondent Mark Radford sued Appellant Jay Van Orden for damages from trespass of lands and trespass of cattle, among other claims, and also sued Appellant Seven J Ranches, Inc. (“Seven J”) for reimbursement for the construction of a partition fence pursuant to Idaho Code section 35-103. The two cases were later consolidated. Upon Van Orden’s motion for summary judgment, the district court determined that Radford had standing to sue Van Orden for trespass, even though Radford was not the property owner when the trespass occurred, because the previous property owner executed an assignment of claims to him. After a five-day bench trial, the district court found Van Orden was liable for trespass and awarded damages to Radford, and required Seven J to reimburse Radford for one half of a constructed partition fence. The district court also found Van Orden was not liable for trespass of cattle and ordered Radford to construct a gate at the southern edge of his property to allow Van Orden to access an easement that runs across Radford’s property. The district court determined Radford to be the overall prevailing party and awarded attorney fees only against Seven J. Van Orden and Seven J appealed the district court’s standing determination on summary judgment, the damages awarded against Van Orden on Radford’s trespass claim, the reimbursement awarded on the partition fence claim against Seven J, and the prevailing party determination for purpose of awarding attorney fees. Radford cross-appealed the district court’s denial of his claim for trespass of cattle damages and the district court’s requirement that he construct a gate for Van Orden at the edge of his property. Concerning Radford and Seven J’s appeal, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s rulings that: (1) Radford had standing; (2) Radford proved the trespass damages with reasonable certainty; (3) Radford’s partition fence notice to Seven J was sufficient and required Seven J to reimburse Radford for the fence; (4) Radford was the prevailing party against Seven J and was entitled to costs and reasonable attorney fees against Seven J. As to Radford’s cross-appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s ruling that Radford was required to remove his fence across the prescriptive easement or install a gate for Van Orden’s ingress and egress. However, the Court reversed the district court’s decision denying Radford damages for trespass of cattle against Van Orden, and remanded with instructions to consider whether Van Orden was entitled to relief under his unjust enrichment theory. View "Radford v. Van Orden" on Justia Law