Justia Business Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Idaho Supreme Court - Civil
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This case involved a dispute over the return of earnest money following termination of an agreement to purchase a storage facility between River Range, LLC, (River Range), the buyer, and Citadel Storage, LLC, (Citadel), the seller. Following River Range’s termination of the agreement, River Range demanded the return of its earnest money. Citadel refused, arguing that the deadline for the return of the earnest money had passed. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Citadel. River Range appealed, arguing that the district court erred in holding that: (1) the agreement was unambiguous and an addendum eliminated River Range’s right to have the earnest money refunded after a certain date; (2) River Range waived its right to terminate the agreement when it did not exercise the right to terminate the agreement by the due diligence deadline; and (3) Citadel did not breach the duty of good faith and fair dealing. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "River Range v. Citadel Storage" on Justia Law

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At issue in this appeal before the Idaho Supreme Court was the doctrine of successor liability and its applicability to a business known as “Fatty’s Bar” (“Fatty’s”). Tons of Fun, LLC opened Fatty’s in October 2010 and a short time later its manager, Clay Roman, signed a textile services agreement with Alsco, Inc. The Agreement contained an automatic renewal clause, by which the Agreement would renew automatically for a period of 60 months if neither party terminated it in writing at least 90 days before its initial expiration. Fatty’s fell on difficult financial times, and closed for a period in January 2013. Soon after, Steven and Jennifer Masonheimer created a limited liability company called Fatty’s Bar, LLC, and re-opened Fatty’s in mid-February, 2013, continuing to receive textiles from Alsco. The Agreement automatically renewed in March 2016. In March 2017, Fatty’s Bar, LLC terminated the Agreement, well before the 60-month term was set to expire. Alsco then sued Fatty’s Bar, LLC and Clay Roman, seeking damages based on a liquidated damages provision in the Agreement. After a court trial, the district court held that both Fatty’s Bar, LLC and Roman, were jointly and severally liable to Alsco for damages under a liquidated damages clause that was also in the Agreement. Fatty’s Bar, LLC appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Alsco v. Fatty's Bar" on Justia Law

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Jeff Good and Harry’s Dairy entered into a contract providing that Harry’s Dairy would purchase 3,000 tons of Good’s hay. Harry’s Dairy paid for and hauled approximately 1,000 tons of hay over a period of approximately eight weeks, but did not always pay for the hay before hauling it and at one point went several weeks without hauling hay. After Harry’s Dairy went a month without hauling additional hay, Good demanded that Harry’s Dairy begin paying for and hauling the remaining hay. Harry’s Dairy responded that it had encountered mold in some of the hay, but would be willing to pay for and haul non-moldy hay at the contract price. Good then sold the remaining hay for a substantially lower price than he would have received under the contract and filed a complaint against Harry’s Dairy alleging breach of contract. Harry’s Dairy counterclaimed for violation of implied and express warranties and breach of contract. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Good on all claims, and a jury ultimately awarded Good $144,000 in damages. Harry’s Dairy appealed, arguing that there were several genuine issues of material fact precluding summary judgment, that the jury verdict was not supported by substantial and competent evidence, and that the district court erred in awarding attorney fees, costs, and prejudgment interest to Good. Finding only that the district court erred in granting summary judgment on the implied warranty of merchantability counterclaim, the Idaho Supreme Court reversed as to that issue, affirmed as to all others, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Good v. Harry's Dairy" on Justia Law

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Employers Resource Management Company (“Employers”) returned to the Idaho Supreme Court in a second appeal against the Idaho Department of Commerce. In 2014, the Idaho Legislature passed the Idaho Reimbursement Incentive Act (“IRIA”). The Economic Advisory Council (“EAC”), a body created under IRIA to approve or deny tax credit applications, granted a $6.5 million tax credit to the web-based Illinois corporation Paylocity, a competitor to Employers Resource Management Company. Employers claimed Paylocity’s tax credit created an unfair economic advantage. Paylocity, however, had yet to receive the tax credit because it did not satisfy the conditions in the Tax Reimbursement Incentive agreement. Having established competitor standing in Employers Res. Mgmt. Co. v. Ronk, 405 P.3d 33 (2017), Employers argued the Idaho Reimbursement Incentive Act was unconstitutional under the separation of powers doctrine. The district court dismissed Employers’s case upon finding the Act constitutional. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Employers Resource Mgmt Co v. Kealy" on Justia Law

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Jeff Good and Harry’s Dairy entered into a contract providing that Harry’s Dairy would purchase 3,000 tons of Good’s hay. Harry’s Dairy paid for and hauled approximately 1,000 tons of hay over a period of approximately eight weeks, but did not always pay for the hay before hauling it and at one point went several weeks without hauling hay. After Harry’s Dairy went a month without hauling additional hay, Good demanded that Harry’s Dairy begin paying for and hauling the remaining hay. Harry’s Dairy responded that it had encountered mold in some of the hay, but would be willing to pay for and haul non-moldy hay at the contract price. Good then sold the remaining hay for a substantially lower price than he would have received under the contract, and filed a complaint against Harry’s Dairy alleging breach of contract. Harry’s Dairy counterclaimed for violation of implied and express warranties and breach of contract. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Good on all claims, and a jury ultimately awarded Good $144,000 in damages. Harry’s Dairy appealed, arguing that there were several genuine issues of material fact precluding summary judgment, that the jury verdict was not supported by substantial and competent evidence, and that the district court erred in awarding attorney fees, costs, and prejudgment interest to Good. The Idaho Supreme Court determined the district court erred only in its decision with respect to Good’s breach of contract claim and Harry’s Dairy’s breach of the implied warranty of merchantability claims. Judgment was vacated and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Good v. Harry's Dairy" on Justia Law

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Michelle Ryerson appealed district court decisions entered during the dissolution and winding up of West Foothills TIC, a partnership in which she was a partner. Specifically, Ryerson argued the district court misapplied the Idaho Uniform Partnership Act by entering an order requiring liquidation of the partnership’s real property by sale at a fixed price, and by allowing her former partner the opportunity to purchase the property from the partnership. Ryerson also argued the district court erred in granting summary judgment on the issue of the real property’s value as of the date of dissolution because, as the real property’s owner, she was presumed competent to testify about its value. Finally, Ryerson argued the district court erred in dismissing her counterclaim seeking a determination that she was entitled to 50 percent of the partnership’s profits upon dissolution. Joseph Guenther, the other partner in West Foothills TIC, cross-appealed, arguing the district court misapplied a provision of the Idaho Uniform Partnership Act by determining that it could not allow Guenther to purchase the partnership’s real property without the consent of the partnership’s creditors. Guenther also argued the district court erred in declining to award him attorney’s fees because he was the prevailing party and the gravamen of his claims was a commercial transaction. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding: (1) the Idaho Uniform Partnership Act required the sale of partnership property upon dissolution unless otherwise agreed by the parties; and (2) the district court erred in fixing the price at which the property was to be listed for sale. The Court reversed the district court’s order attributing 100 percent of post-dissolution increases in equity in the partnership’s real property to Guenther. The Court affirmed the district court’s order denying attorney’s fees. View "Guenther v. Ryerson" on Justia Law

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Mark Ciccarello formed a company named F.E.M. Distribution, LLC for the purpose of marketing and selling a product line called “Lotus Electronic Cigarettes.” In 2013, Ciccarello faced federal criminal charges related to his operation of another business that sold and marketed synthetic cannabinoids. As a result of the federal charges, some of F.E.M.’s assets were seized by the federal government. To prevent further seizure of F.E.M.’s remaining assets, Ciccarello contacted attorney Jeffrey Davies; Ciccarello and Davies discussed options for safeguarding F.E.M.’s assets, which included the possible sale of F.E.M. to another company. Davies drafted documents to form two new companies, Vapor Investors, LLC, and Baus Investment Group, LLC, which collectively owned Lotus Vaping Technologies, LLC. Davies put together a group of investors. The members of Vapor and Baus orally agreed with Ciccarello that he would receive $2 million and a majority ownership interest in Baus in exchange for the sale of F.E.M.’s assets to Lotus, the shares to be held by Bob Henry until Ciccarello's federal problems concluded. F.E.M. was sold to Lotus, and Ciccarello continued to act as CEO and manage operations. In January 2014, the federal government issued a letter stating it had no further interest in Ciccarello’s involvement in Lotus. Ciccarello requested his shares in Baus be returned and that the sale documents be modified to reflect him as the owner of the Baus shares. However, this was never done. In June 2014, Ciccarello was incarcerated due to his federal criminal case. Lotus ceased making monthly payments to Ciccarello in July 2014 and never resumed. At some point in 2014, Ciccarello was also ousted from Lotus by its members and Bob Henry took over his role as CEO. In April 2016, Ciccarello sued Lotus, Vapor, Davies, Henry, and several other investors involved in the sale of F.E.M. to Lotus, seeking recovery of damages Ciccarello alleged he suffered as a result of the structure of the sale. Ciccarello’s claims against Davies was negligence claims asserting legal malpractice. Shortly after Ciccarello made his expert witness disclosure, Davies moved for summary judgment, arguing that even if Davies represented Ciccarello at the time of the F.E.M. sale, Davies was not negligent in his representation. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court determined the district court did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of Davies, denying Ciccarello’s motion for reconsideration, or denying Ciccarello’s motion for relief under Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b). View "Ciccarello v. Davies" on Justia Law

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Francisca Gomez died as the result of a horrific industrial accident while she was cleaning a seed sorting machine as part of her employment with the Crookham Company (“Crookham”). Her family (the Gomezes) received worker’s compensation benefits and also brought a wrongful death action. The Gomezes appealed the district court's decision to grant Crookham’s motion for summary judgment on all claims relating to Mrs. Gomez’s death. The district court held that Mrs. Gomez was working within the scope of her employment at the time of the accident, that all of the Gomezes’ claims were barred by the exclusive remedy rule of Idaho worker’s compensation law, that the exception to the exclusive remedy rule provided by Idaho Code section 72-209(3) did not apply, and that the Gomezes’ product liability claims failed as a matter of law because Crookham was not a “manufacturer.” In affirming in part and reversing in part, the Idaho Supreme Court determined the trial court erred when it failed to consider whether Crookham committed an act of unprovoked physical aggression upon Mrs. Gomez by consciously disregarding knowledge that an injury would result. As such, the matter was remanded to the district court for further proceedings. View "Gomez v. Crookham" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Idaho Supreme Court's review concerned an unjust enrichment claim brought by Kenworth, a commercial truck dealer, against Skinner Trucking, one of its customers. Kenworth claimed Skinner was unjustly enriched when Kenworth paid past due lease payments and the residual balance owed on Skinner’s lease with GE Transportation Finance. The district court entered judgment for Skinner on the grounds that, as to the residual value of the trucks, Kenworth had not conferred a benefit on Skinner, and that as to both the residual value of the trucks and the past due lease payments, Kenworth was an “officious intermeddler” because it had voluntarily paid GE without request by Skinner and without a valid reason. In a subsequent order, the district court denied Skinner’s request for attorney fees under Idaho Code sections 12-120(3) and 12-121. Kenworth appealed the district court’s judgment; Skinner appealed the district court’s order regarding costs and fees. The Supreme Court concluded after review: (1) the "officious intermeddler" rule was not an affirmative defense; the district court did not err in concluding Kenworth was an officious intermeddler; and (3) the district court did not err in determining that Skinner was not entitled to attorney fees under the circumstances. View "Kenworth Sales v. Skinner Trucking" on Justia Law

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This case arose from the division of a three-member accounting firm, Siddoway, Wadsworth & Reese, PLLC. The three members of the firm were the personal professional corporations solely owned by each accountant. In early 2015, Reese PC signed a purchase agreement to buy a one-half interest in the client base of Siddoway PC for $200,000. This purchase agreement included an arbitration clause. In August of 2015, Siddoway left the accounting firm, taking several employees and the clients’ information with him. Following Siddoway’s departure, the firm (now named Wadsworth Reese, PLLC), along with its remaining members, filed a complaint in the district court against Siddoway and his personal professional corporation and two of the employees who followed him. Siddoway counterclaimed. The parties brought a range of claims. Reese PC and Siddoway PC also went to arbitration for claims related to their purchase agreement, but the arbitrator determined the purchase agreement was void for failure of a condition subsequent. The remaining claims between the parties were tried by the district court. The district court ultimately decided to “leave the parties where it found them.” This included final determinations pertinent to this appeal: (1) dissociation of Siddoway’s personal professional corporation as a firm member; (2) Siddoway and Siddoway PC were not entitled to attorney fees for compelling arbitration; (3) Siddoway PC failed to show unjust enrichment from the void purchase agreement; and (4) the firm could fund Reese’s personal professional corporation’s litigation and arbitration costs because resolving the purchase-agreement dispute served a legitimate business purpose. Siddoway and Siddoway PC appealed. The Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s judgment: Siddoway and Siddoway PC were not entitled to attorney fees for compelling arbitration, nor did they show unjust enrichment or breach of membership duties. View "Wadsworth Reese v. Siddoway & Co" on Justia Law