On January 29, 2024, the Idaho Supreme Court issued an opinion in Idaho State Athletic Commission v. Office of the Administrative Rules Coordinator. In the decision, the Court held that it does not have original jurisdiction to decide declaratory actions and affirmed the Legislature’s power to pre-approve rules promulgated by executive agencies.

The facts

The Oregon Supreme Court has long held the legislature did not create a private right of action under the Unfair Claims Settlement Practices Act (ORS 746.230). Policyholders could bring a tort claim against their insurance company only if the insurer was subject to a standard of care independent of the insurance policy.[i]  But the Court’s mood changed last month in Moody v. Oregon Community Credit Union, 371 Or 772 (2023).

Moody’s facts are not complex.  Plaintiff Christine Moody’s husband, Troy, was accidentally shot and killed by a friend during a camping trip. Christine sought life insurance benefits, and the insurer denied Christine’s claim based on a policy exclusion for deaths caused by or resulting from the insured being “under the influence of any narcotic or other controlled substance.”  Troy evidently had marijuana in his system when he died.

Christine sued the insurer, alleging claims for breach of contract, breach of an implied contractual covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and negligence. She sought both economic damages and emotional distress damages. In her negligence claim, Christine alleged the Unfair Claims Settlement Practices Act provided an independent standard of care outside the terms of the insurance contract.  She asserted the insurer violated several claims handling practices, such as failing “to pay the insurance benefits without conducting a reasonable investigation based on all available information” and “[n]ot attempting, in good faith, to promptly and equitably settle a claim in which the insurer’s liability has become reasonably clear.”  Christine further alleged that the insurer “knew, or in the exercise of reasonable care as a corporation engaged in the business of marketing and selling insurance, should have known, that one or more of its foregoing acts or omissions would create an unreasonable risk of harm to the beneficiaries of its insured, including [Christine].” Finally, because of the insurer’s negligence, she had suffered “the noneconomic loss of increased emotional distress and anxiety caused by having fewer financial resources to navigate the loss of a bread-winning spouse.”Continue Reading The Mood Swings on Insurer Bad-Faith in Oregon: An Analysis of the Oregon Supreme Court Decision in Moody v. Oregon Community Credit Union

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.