In Stratford v. Umpqua Bank, No. 100717-5 (Sept. 14, 2023) (slip op.), the Washington Supreme Court rejected the application of the “apex doctrine” in Washington. The apex doctrine has been adopted by some jurisdictions to shield high-level executives and officials from being deposed. See, e.g., Robinett v. Opus Bank, No. C12-1755MJP, 2013 WL 5850873, at *5 (W.D. Wash. Oct. 30, 2013) (citing Salter v. Upjohn Co., 593 F.2d 649, 651 (5th Cir. 1979)). In this case, Defendant Umpqua Bank argued that Washington should adopt a specific application of the apex doctrine, where a party seeking to depose a high-level officer must first show that: (1) the witness has unique, non-repetitive, firsthand knowledge of the facts at issue in the case, and (2) other less intrusive means of discovery, such as interrogatories and depositions of other employees, have been exhausted without success. Stratford, slip op. at 10. The Washington Supreme Court rejected both this specific application and the doctrine more generally. Continue Reading Washington Supreme Court Unanimously Rejects the Apex Doctrine
We recently addressed the Idaho Supreme Court’s decision in 616 Inc. v. Mae Properties, LLC, No. 49190 (Feb. 8, 2023), and specifically the essential elements of a lease. The decision also includes an important appellate practice point regarding the risks of pursuing a cross-appeal.
As a reminder, 616 Inc. appealed from the district…
On February 14, 2023, the Court released a unanimous decision in Treasure Valley Home Solutions, LLC v. Chason. This post will focus on the Court’s analysis of when a real estate transaction is a commercial transaction such that attorney’s fees can be awarded under Idaho Code § 12-120(3), as that analysis may create confusion for lower courts.
By way of background, Treasure Valley Home Solutions, LLC (“TVHS”), described as “an Idaho limited liability company that buys and sells properties,” submitted an offer to purchase Richard Chason’s personal residence. A dispute arose about whether the parties had entered a contract for the purchase, and the Court ultimately determined that they had not.
As the prevailing party, Chason requested his attorney’s fees under Section 12-120(3). That provision allows recovery of attorney’s fees in civil actions to recover on a contract relating to a “commercial transaction.” A commercial transaction is statutorily defined as “all transactions except transactions for personal or household purposes.”
The district court held that TVHS intended to purchase the property for commercial development, thus the contract at issue was a commercial transaction and Chason was entitled to his attorney’s fees under Section 12-120(3). On appeal, the Court disagreed, finding that “the record does not support the conclusion that the transaction itself was commercial” in part because “Chason submitted no evidence that the property was to be used for a commercial purpose.”
Continue Reading Idaho Supreme Court Update: Attorney’s Fees in Real Estate Litigation Under Idaho Code § 12-120(3)
On January 25, 2023, the Court issued a substitute opinion in Easterling v. HAL Pacific Properties. The decision, which was decided 3-2, provides insights into the Court’s views on statutory interpretation and construction. It also addresses actions that fall within Idaho’s catch-all statute of limitations, Idaho Code § 5-224.
The facts. The case concerns landlocked parcels owned by the Easterlings. The Easterlings sued an adjacent landowner, Hal Pacific Properties (“HAL”), claiming an easement by necessity over HAL’s property. The trial court mostly ruled in the Easterlings’ favor on summary judgment and at a bench trial. The trial court rejected HAL’s affirmative defense that the Easterlings’ claims were barred by the statute of limitations set forth in Idaho Code § 5-224, and held that the Easterlings were entitled to an easement by necessity over HAL’s property and set the location and width of the easement. HAL appealed.
The issues. The decision largely centered on whether the catch-all statute of limitations of Section 5-224 applies to an easement by necessity claim. Section 5-224 provides: “An action for relief not hereinbefore provided for must be commenced within four (4) years after the cause of action shall have accrued.” HAL argued that a plain reading of the statute requires its application to an easement by necessity claim, while the Easterlings argued the statute was inapplicable because the claim cannot be time barred. If Section 5-224 does apply to an easement by necessity claim, the issue turned to the accrual of the claim.Continue Reading Idaho Supreme Court Update: Idaho’s catch-all statute of limitations revokes any common law rule that a claim cannot be time barred
Idaho’s Supreme Court recently issued a new opinion discussing the requirements to form a valid lease agreement. Unfortunately, the case raises as many questions as it answers.
In 616 Inc. v. Mae Properties, LLC, No. 49190 (Feb. 8, 2023), the court reminded us that four necessary terms must be agreed upon to create an enforceable lease: (1) a definite agreement as to the extent and bounds of the property leased; (2) a definite and agreed term (length of time); (3) a definite and agreed price of rental, and (4) the time and manner of payment. If any of those essential terms are left for future negotiations, no lease comes into being and the parties are left with an unenforceable “agreement to agree.” In addition, if the length of the lease term is more than one year, the lease will not be enforceable against a party unless the four essential elements are memorialized in a writing that is signed by that party. The court may, however, overlook the lack of a signed writing in cases where the contract has been partially performed if there is other sufficient evidence of agreement on all the essential terms.Continue Reading Idaho’s Supreme Court Raises New Questions About the Essential Elements of a Lease
On January 6, 2023, the Idaho Supreme Court issued its decision in Katseanes v. Katseanes. The decision addresses the enforceability of a trial court’s oral rulings and appellate review of criminal sanctions for contempt of court.
The facts. As part of a property settlement in a divorce, Jeff agreed to pay spousal support, which…
On January 5, 2023, the Idaho Supreme Court issued its opinion in Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawaii, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky v. State of Idaho. In a 3-2 decision, the Court upheld three Idaho laws severely restricting access to abortion. The justices covered a lot of ground in a majority opinion and two dissents spanning 139 pages, but this post will focus on the role of originalism in the Court’s analysis.
The Court grappled with, among other things, whether Article I, Section 1 of the Idaho Constitution guarantees in some form the right to an abortion. The five justices answered that question in three ways, revealing their differences in constitutional interpretation along the way. A careful analysis of those differences informs how advocates should present future state constitutional questions to the Court.
Starting with a point of commonality, the justices all agreed that the Court should start with the text. Article I, Section 1 says: “All men are by nature free and equal, and have certain inalienable rights, among which are enjoying and defending life and liberty; acquiring, possessing and protecting property; pursuing happiness and securing safety.” That list of inalienable rights does not mention abortion, but the list is also not exhaustive. So the justices were left to determine whether Article I, Section 1 contains an implicit right to abortion. The justices diverged on how to answer that question, which then of course led to different answers.Continue Reading Idaho Supreme Court Update: Originalism in Idaho
The facts. This case was previously before the Idaho Supreme Court in Latvala v. Green Enterprises, Inc., 168 Idaho 686, 485 P.3d 1129 (2021) (Latvala I). It concerns the scope of a prescriptive easement over a road to reach a land-locked parcel of land. The parcel was originally part of a patented mining claim, and the road was used for that purpose. The Latvalas purchased the parcel and sought an easement to use the road to construct a residence there. Neighboring landowners challenged the easement. In Latvala I, the Court affirmed the trial court’s ruling that the Latvalas had a prescriptive easement over the road but vacated its determination that the road could be used to construct a residence on the parcel.Continue Reading Idaho Supreme Court Update: Latvala v. Green Enterprises, Inc.
On December 7, 2022, the Idaho Supreme Court issued an opinion in Schiermeier v. State of Idaho. This post will focus not on the merits of that decision, but on the Court’s “necessary discussion regarding the conduct of counsel.”
In Idaho, out-of-state attorneys may practice law only if they associate with local counsel and apply for pro hac vice admission. Idaho Bar Commission Rule 227. Local counsel, at the very least, must familiarize out-of-state counsel with the standards and expectations governing the practice of law in Idaho, and ultimately local counsel “take[s] responsibility for the conduct of out-of-state counsel.” To discharge that duty, local counsel must sign all submissions (certifying that local counsel has read the submission) and appear at all proceedings with out-of-state counsel (unless the requirement has been waived).Continue Reading Idaho Supreme Court Update: The Importance of Local Counsel
The facts. Donald Blaskiewicz, M.D., a highly trained neurosurgeon, was employed by the Spine Institute of Idaho, P.A. (“Spine Institute”) pursuant to a Professional Services Agreement (“PSA”). The PSA contained a non-compete clause that prohibited him from practicing medicine within 50 miles of the Spine Institute’s office for 18 months. Pursuant to the PSA, Blaskiewicz could avoid the non-compete by either paying the Spine Institute $350,000 or obtaining permission from the Spine Institute to practice medicine in the proscribed area. The district court concluded that the non-compete clause was against public policy and void as a matter of law. The Spine Institute appealed.
The issues. Three issues were on appeal: (1) whether the appeal was moot; (2) whether the district court had jurisdiction despite an arbitration provision; and (3) whether the district court erred in finding that the non-compete was unenforceable.Continue Reading Idaho Supreme Court Update: Blaskiewicz v. Spine Institute of Idaho, P.A.