Articles Posted in Idaho Supreme Court - Civil

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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

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Danielle Quemada, the daughter and personal representative of Richard Ortega (Decedent), initiated this action to set aside two quitclaim deeds. At the time of the Decedent's death, he had three children: Richard Ortega, Jr., Denise Mota, and Quemada. On January 12, 2012, Respondents, Efren Arizmendez and Gilbert Acosta filed a petition to adjudicate the intestacy of the Decedent and to be appointed as the personal representative of the Decedent's estate. The proceeding was assigned to the magistrate court. Thereafter, Quemada filed a petition for appointment as personal representative, which was granted. On April 20, 2010, Quemada filed a verified Petition, invoking the Trust and Estate Dispute Resolution Act (TEDRA) to set aside two of the deeds. She alleged that the deeds to the properties should have been set aside because the Decedent signed them based on Celia Ortega's fraudulent misrepresentations, undue influence, and design to intentionally interfere with inheritance. During a telephonic status conference, the district court granted Quemada leave to file an amended petition narrowing the issues in dispute, and the parties stipulated to waive a jury trial. Quemada filed an unverified Amended Petition which was identical to the original Petition, except that it left out the intentional interference with inheritance cause of action. The district court ruled in response to a Rule 12(b) motion of Respondents that Quemada could not pursue a claim for damages, nor any claim against Celia Ortega, having failed to allege either in the Amended Petition. The Respondents answered the Amended Petition and shortly thereafter moved for summary judgment. Subsequent to the hearing on the motion to dismiss, the district court issued its Memorandum Decision, finding that no genuine issues of material fact existed, and that Respondents were entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Quemada appealed to the Supreme Court. Finding no error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Quemada v. Arizmendez" on Justia Law

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This appeal came before the Supreme Court from a declaratory judgment action brought by Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company of Idaho (Farm Bureau). Farm Bureau brought suit in response to a claim for insurance benefits filed by the personal representatives of the estate of a deceased policyholder (the Estate). Farm Bureau requested a judgment declaring that the Estate was not an "insured" under the decedent's insurance policy and was therefore not entitled to payment of wrongful death damages under the Policy's underinsured motorist coverage. The district court granted the Estate's motion for summary judgment, determining that Idaho's wrongful death statute, entitled the insured's Estate to recover damages for wrongful death and that the Policy provided coverage for those damages. Farm Bureau appealed. Upon review, the Supreme Court reversed: as to the Estate, the Court determined that under the plain language of the wrongful death statute, the Estate was not legally entitled to recover damages for itself, but only to bring an action on behalf of the heirs to recover their damages. "The Estate stepped into [the decedent's] shoes for those claims, and Farm Bureau made those payments to the Estate. Farm Bureau's payment of these legitimate claims under the insurance contract does not constitute a change of position or an admission that coverage exists for other claims. We hold that these payments do not prevent Farm Bureau from arguing that it is not required to pay the Estate for damages that [the decedent] was not legally entitled to recover." View "Farm Bureau v. Estate of Eisenman" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from a claim filed by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare in the probate proceeding of George D. Perry, the deceased spouse of Medicaid recipient Martha J. Perry. The Department sought to recover funds under I.C. 56-218 from the sale of the couple’s home (their only significant asset) to recoup Medicaid benefits paid to Martha during her lifetime. The magistrate court disallowed the Department’s claim for recovery, finding that Martha had no interest in the real property because George, acting for Martha under a power of attorney, conveyed the property to himself before his death. That decision was upheld on appeal to the district court. The Department appealed to the Supreme Court. Upon review, the Court found that the district court erred in finding that federal law preempted the Department's ability to recover from George's estate what was once Martha's community property during the marriage. The Court reversed the district court and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Id. Dept. of Health & Welfare v. McCormick" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from a dispute regarding the requirements for determining whether a claimed amount of attorney fees was reasonable. After extended litigation to settle his parents’ estate, Kim Bailey, the estate’s personal representative, asked the magistrate court for an award of attorney fees from estate funds. The magistrate court found that Bailey was entitled to reasonable fees to be determined under I.R.C.P. 54(e)(3) and ordered Bailey to provide an accounting of his attorney fees, including the time his attorney spent providing legal services. Bailey’s attorney notified the court that he was unable to comply with the order, explaining that he did not keep time records because the attorney-client contract expressly stated that the fee would not be based upon an hourly rate, but upon the attorney’s opinion of the reasonable worth of his services. The beneficiaries of the estate challenged the sufficiency of the accounting. The magistrate court denied Bailey’s request for fees and concluded that without time records it could not determine a reasonable fee amount in compliance with I.R.C.P. 54(e)(3)(A). The district court upheld the denial of fees, and Bailey timely appealed. Upon review, the Supreme Court agreed with the district court and affirmed. View "Bailey v. Bailey" on Justia Law

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On remand, the district court granted Wayne Dawson's Motion for Relief from Judgment and issued its Second Amended Judgment, which in part quieted title to and in part took judicial notice of four undivided one-fourth interests in a forty-acre parcel of land located in Teton County. On appeal, John Bach contended, among other things, that Dawson lacked standing to file his Motion for Relief from Judgment and that the district court abused its discretion and lacked personal and subject matter jurisdiction when it granted the Motion for Relief from Judgment and entered the Second Amended Judgment. Because all of Bach's claims were either frivolous or waived, the Supreme Court affirmed the Second Amended Judgment. View "McLean v. Cheyovich Family Trust" on Justia Law