Articles Posted in Idaho Supreme Court - Civil

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Victoria H. Smith was nearly 100 years old when she died on September 11, 2013. During her life she married Vernon K. Smith Sr., a lawyer who died of a heart attack in 1966. The couple had three children: Joseph H. Smith, Vernon K. Smith Jr., and Victoria A. (Smith) Converse. This case centered on Victoria’s estate: the magistrate court ruled that Victoria died intestate after finding that her will was a product of the undue influence of her son, Appellant Vernon Smith Jr. Vernon appealed that ruling, as well as an earlier partial summary judgment ruling that invalidated a series of transactions that transferred all of Victoria’s assets to a limited liability company that Vernon owned and a corresponding judgment entered pursuant to Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 70(b). After review, the Idaho Supreme Court found no reversible error in the magistrate court’s judgment and affirmed. View "Smith v. Smith" on Justia Law

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The estate of Paul Robert Welch (Welch) appealed the grant of summary judgment to the estate of Barbara Sue Chitwood (Chitwood). Chitwood was murdered in August 2015, at which time a dispute arose over ownership of funds Chitwood and Welch held at Farmers Bank in two bank accounts designated as “JOINT - WITH SURVIVORSHIP (and not as tenants in common or community property)[.]” Farmers Bank interpled the funds with the district court and initiated this action to resolve the dispute. Law enforcement’s investigation into Chitwood’s death led to Welch being charged with murdering Chitwood. Accordingly, in the interpleader action, Chitwood asserted Idaho’s slayer statute precluded Welch from taking the funds. The district court ruled on summary judgment that the funds went to Chitwood, concluding Chitwood’s slayer statute defense was dispositive. Welch appealed the district court’s ruling concerning the funds. But finding no reversible error in the district court's decision, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Hodge v. Waggoner" on Justia Law

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Petrus Family Trust and Edmond Petrus, Jr., individually and as trustee of the Petrus Family Trust (collectively, Petrus) sued Chris Kirk d/b/a Kirk Enterprises (Kirk) and several other parties for claims arising from Petrus’s purchase of a home Kirk built in McCall. Kirk moved for summary judgment, and the district court granted the motion in Kirk’s favor. The district court also awarded attorney fees to Kirk under Idaho Code section 12-121, apportioning the award so as to award Kirk fees only insofar as Kirk was required to defend against a frivolous claim. Petrus appealed. As relevant here, Kirk moved for summary judgment contending, in part, that: (1) Petrus’s conspiracy-to-defraud claim was unsupported; and (2) Petrus’s breach of the implied warranty of habitability claim was untimely under Idaho Code section 5-241(b). Petrus responded that the breach of implied warranty of habitability claim was timely under section 5-241(a) because it arose in tort, not in contract, and did not address the conspiracy-to-defraud claim. The district held a hearing on Kirk’s summary judgment motion, at which Petrus conceded summary judgment for Kirk was proper on the conspiracy-to-defraud claim, leaving only the breach of the implied warranty of habitability claim. The district court then granted summary judgment to Kirk, concluding Petrus’s breach of the implied warranty of habitability claim arose in contract and was therefore untimely under section 5-241(b). Even if Petrus’s claim arose in tort, the district court concluded it would be barred by the economic loss rule. Petrus timely moved for reconsideration, but the district court denied the motion after concluding Petrus had not offered any new argument or evidence that would warrant a different result. Thereafter, the district court awarded attorney fees to Kirk under Idaho Code section 12-121, apportioning the award so as to award fees to Kirk only insofar as he was required to defend against Petrus’s conspiracy-to-defraud claim. The Idaho Supreme Court concluded the district court was correct that a breach of the implied warranty of habitability arose in contract, making Petrus’s claim untimely. "This conclusion, however, is not to say that a home buyer is left without a tort remedy when a builder negligently constructs a home and causes tort damages. In that scenario, an appropriate tort claim may be asserted, and our ruling today does not foreclose that claim." Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed summary judgment entered in favor of Kirk and appointment of attorney fees. View "Petrus Family Trust v. Kirk" on Justia Law

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Donald Frizzell (“Frizzell”) appealed the dismissal of his complaint. Frizzell and defendants Edwin and Darlene DeYoung (collectively, the “DeYoungs”), were parties to an existing trust, with Edwin serving as trustee and Frizzell and Darlene as beneficiaries. The parties entered into an agreement pursuant to the Trust and Estate Dispute Resolution Act (“TEDRA agreement”). The TEDRA agreement was designed to modify the existing trust terms and also resolve issues related to Edwin’s administration of the trust in his role as trustee. Two years after the TEDRA agreement was filed with the district court, Frizzell filed suit against the DeYoungs alleging Edwin was breaching the TEDRA agreement and his fiduciary duties. The district court granted the DeYoungs’ motion to dismiss based on provisions in the TEDRA agreement that purported to hold Edwin harmless for any actions taken in his role as trustee. The district court also stated Frizzell was bound by the TEDRA agreement to pursue nonjudicial dispute resolution, rather than file a lawsuit for Edwin’s breach of duty. Frizzell appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court. The Supreme Court found the district court erred in dismissing the complaint because the parties were not able to waive future claims for negligence or breach of fiduciary duty. Frizzell was not prohibited by TERDA or the agreement from seeking judicial action based on Edwin's alleged breaches of the agreement. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the district court’s order dismissing Frizzell’s complaint and remanded for further proceedings. View "Frizzell v. DeYoung" on Justia Law

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Appellant Jadwiga Melton (“Jadwiga”), challenged a district court’s determination that Respondent Heinz Alt (“Heinz”), filed a timely claim against the Estate of Robert Ernest Melton (“Robert”) and Hedwig Melton (“Hedy”). Hedy died in 2008, and in 2010 Robert married Jadwiga. In 2013, Robert died. Jadwiga commenced joint probate proceedings for both Hedy and Robert, pursuant to Idaho Code section 15-3-111, because Hedy’s will was never probated. Heinz filed a creditor claim against the estate for approximately to the penny $102,574.50, alleging that he loaned money to Hedy and Robert to build a home and in exchange they agreed to execute wills that would leave their estate to him. Jadwiga filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that Hedy was the only one who signed the promissory note and Heinz failed to bring a claim within three years of Hedy’s death. The magistrate court determined that, because Heinz failed to bring the claim against Hedy’s estate within three years of her death, his claim was barred by Idaho Code section 15-3-803. Heinz appealed and the district court reversed the magistrate court, holding that Heinz’s claim was timely, pursuant to Idaho Code section 15-3-111, because Heinz brought his creditor claim within three years of Robert’s death. Upon review, the Idaho Supreme Court determined the district court erred when it construed the statutory language of 15-3-111 because the statute was not ambiguous. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the district court and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Melton v. Alt" on Justia Law

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Dwight Randy Green, Kathy Lefor, and Gary Green (collectively, “Siblings”), appealed the district court’s grant of summary judgment and dismissal of their lawsuit against James Green (“James”). Siblings brought this action to challenge the Sixth Amendment to the Ralph Maurice and Jeanne Green Revocable Inter Vivos Trust (“the Trust”), alleging it was the product of undue influence. The Trust was amended from an equal distribution between all of Ralph and Jeanne Green’s children to a 100% distribution to James to the exclusion of the Siblings. The district court granted summary judgment after determining that Siblings had failed to show a genuine issue of material fact which would support a finding of undue influence. Finding no reversible error in the district court’s judgment, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Green v. Green" on Justia Law

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After the death of James Kenneth Slavens (Jim), James Adam Slavens, Alexa Slavens, Tanner Slavens, Twin G Holdings, LLC, and Jim’s Estate (Respondents) sought a declaratory judgment as to the parties’ rights in Twin G Holdings, LLC (Twin G), which Jim formed before he died. The district court determined that Jim's wife (and administrator of his estate) Melanie Slavens had no rights in Twin G and entered judgment that: (1) Jim’s three oldest children, James Adam, Alexa, and Tanner, each owned 33% of Twin G; (2) the Eldest Children were Twin G’s sole members; (3) James Adam was Twin G’s sole manager; and (4) Melanie was never a member or manager of Twin G. Melanie, both personally and as administrator, appealed. The trial court found that Jim formed Twin G for asset protection purposes. Twin G’s Articles of Organization listed Jim as Twin G’s managing member. Twin G’s Operating Agreement designated Jim and Johnny Slavens, Jim’s brother, as members, with Jim owning 1% and Johnny owning the remaining 99%. Johnny held a largely passive role in Twin G and testified he held the 99% ownership interest in Twin G for Jim’s benefit until Jim’s death and then for the Eldest Children’s benefit. Jim’s relationship with Johnny soured when real property recorded in Johnny’s name became involved in a lawsuit in spring 2011. Jim took efforts to remove Johnny from Twin G. Jim first sent to Johnny an “Addendum” to Twin G in 2011. If signed, the Addendum purported to transfer Johnny’s ownership interest. The Addendum recited that Johnny “desires to have no interest in Twin G” and, therefore, “has agreed to convey his entire interest to James K. Slavens and Melanie Slavens in such a way that they will share an equal interest in the property.” Johnny never signed the Addendum. After Jim died, Melanie opened a probate proceeding in Utah, where Jim was domiciled, and was appointed special administrator of Jim’s estate. Melanie then asserted rights in Twin G and filed the Amended Certificate with the Idaho Secretary of State. Johnny maintained he still had membership and ownership rights in Twin G, despite having executed the Amended Certificate. As Johnny explained, delivery of the Amended Certificate to Jim was conditional on Jim filing it with the Idaho Secretary of State, which Jim never did. Thus, in August 2013, Johnny executed transfer documents purporting to transfer and assign membership, management, and ownership rights in Twin G to the Eldest Children. With regard to the declaratory judgment action, Melanie moved to dismiss, which the district court denied. Respondents then moved for partial summary judgment, which the district court granted. Melanie filed a motion to reconsider, which the district court denied. The Supreme Court concluded that the trial court abused its discretion in admitting Johnny's affidavit at trial under the Deadman Statutes, but that the trial court properly denied Melanie's motion to dismiss. View "Slavens v. Slavens" on Justia Law

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This case was an appeal from the district court’s decision to affirm a magistrate court’s summary dismissal of the Estate of John Cornell’s claims involving the administration of a trust. John and his sister, Toni Johnson, were beneficiaries of their parents’ trust. When the time came to distribute the assets, Johnson refused, which led John to file a petition for the administration of the trust and removal of Johnson as trustee. Shortly after filing the petition, John committed suicide. Consequently, the magistrate court granted Johnson’s motion to dismiss John’s petition. Kareen Cornell, John’s surviving spouse, subsequently petitioned the magistrate court for administration of the trust and to remove Johnson as trustee. The magistrate court once again granted Johnson’s motion to dismiss, basing its decision on the trust distribution survivorship clause and on abatement of the claims. John’s Estate appealed, and the district court affirmed. On appeal to the Supreme Court, the Estate argued that its claims survived John’s death. The Supreme Court agreed, reversed and remanded the case back to the district court for further proceedings. View "Estate of Cornell v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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The Department of Health and Welfare appealed an order that disallowed its attempt to recover assets in a probate proceeding. The Department sought to recover assets of a dead Medicaid recipient for medical assistance payments made on the decedent's behalf from her widower. The magistrate court held that the Department could not reach the separate property of the decedent's spouse. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded the Department was permitted to seek recovery from the decedent's community property that was transmuted to her widow as his separate property. View "In re Estate of Wiggins" on Justia Law

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Ronald (Ron) and Dorothy Arnold appealed the district court's decision to grant a constructive trust property interest in favor of Ron's sister, Mary Snider (Toni) and her husband, Steve Snider. The property in question is a cabin and accompanying forest service permit for land located in Valley County. Toni and Ron's father built the cabin and willed it, along with the permit, to his wife, Bette Arnold. The district court imposed a constructive trust on the property in favor of the Sniders finding that Bette transferred the property to both the Arnolds and the Sniders in 1983. The Arnolds appealed the decision, arguing that the Sniders failed to present clear and convincing evidence of a constructive trust and the district court's finding that Bette intended to give the property to both parties was clearly erroneous. Upon review, the Supreme Court found no error and affirmed the opinion of the district court. View "Snider v. Arnold" on Justia Law