Articles Posted in Idaho Supreme Court - Civil

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The district court erred in affirming the magistrate’s decision that Medical Recovery Services, LLC (MRS) was estopped from requesting attorney fees under Idaho Code section 12-120(5). MRS attempted a garnishment of Penny Siler’s wages, which was returned unsatisfied because Siler, a school bus driver who cared for her disabled husband and made an average of $499.00 a month, did not earn enough to garnish. MRS agreed to accept $10.00 per month for payment on a default judgment entered after Siler failed to pay a medical bill. Siler went to MRS’s counsel’s office and was told the payoff amount was $1,224.88. She paid that amount in cash. Six days later, counsel for MRS filed an application for supplemental attorney fees under Idaho Code section 12-120(5). Following the hearing, the magistrate court issued an order denying MRS’s application for supplemental attorney fees. In its order, the magistrate court, sua sponte, found that MRS was barred by quasi and equitable estoppel from asking for attorney fees because MRS had told Siler the “payoff amount” was $1,224.88, and MRS did not inform Siler it planned to pursue additional postjudgment fees. MRS appealed the magistrate’s decision to the district court. The district court affirmed, finding “the Magistrate Court retains discretion as to whether, or what amount of, attorney fees will be awarded,” and therefore was free to consider any factor it deemed appropriate, including quasi or equitable estoppel, in determining the amount of attorney fees. View "Medical Recovery Svcs v. Siler" on Justia Law

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In 2011, John Wyman first visited Julie L. Scott, P.A., to address a lesion he had discovered on his left heel. P.A. Scott diagnosed the lesion as an infected wart, prescribed antibiotic ointment, and instructed John to return for a follow-up appointment, scheduled for January 5, 2012. For reasons unclear, John did not attend the follow-up appointment. John returned to see P.A. Scott on April 19, 2012, because his lesion did not improve. Still believing the lesion was an infected wart, P.A. Scott froze it off during that appointment. She again instructed John to return for a follow-up appointment, scheduled for May 10, 2012. For reasons unclear, John did not attend the follow-up appointment. He never again returned to see P.A. Scott. John’s lesion, however, failed to improve. It would later be diagnosed as a stage IIIC malignant melanoma tumor, and not a wart. Nearly two years after the date of the biopsy, on August 28, 2014, the Wymans filed a pre-litigation screening application with the Idaho State Board of Medicine. On September 5, 2014, the Wymans lodged a complaint in district court, alleging medical malpractice claims against P.A. Scott and her employer, Center for Lifetime Health, LLC, for their alleged failure to perform a biopsy that would have revealed cancer. In the following medical malpractice suit against Scott, her employer and the hospital, the district court concluded a two-year statute of limitations barred the Wymans' claims. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Wyman v. Eck" on Justia Law

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On December 26, 2011, Mitchell Morrison arrived at the emergency department of St. Luke’s Regional Medical Center, Ltd. (“St. Luke’s”), in Meridian, complaining of chest pains. The emergency room doctor determined Mr. Morrison did not have a heart attack, but that he should consult with a cardiologist. On December 27, 2011, Barbara Morrison, Mr. Morrison’s wife, called for an appointment with the cardiologist, and the telephone was answered by a scheduler for St. Luke’s. The scheduler stated that the first available appointment for the cardiologist was in four weeks. Mrs. Morrison requested an earlier appointment, and she was given an appointment in three weeks with another St. Luke’s cardiologist. On January 11, 2012, Mr. Morrison died from a heart attack. On June 10, 2013, Mrs. Morrison, on her behalf and on behalf of her minor children, filed a wrongful death action against St. Luke’s, the emergency room doctor and the doctor's employer. Mrs. Morrison contended that St. Luke’s and the doctor's employer were liable based upon their own negligence and the imputed negligence of the doctor. St. Luke’s and the employer both filed motions for partial summary judgment seeking dismissal of the claims that they were negligent, and the district court granted those motions. The case was tried to a jury, which found that the emergency room doctor had not failed to meet the applicable standard of health care practice. Mrs. Morrison then timely appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Morrison v. St. Luke's RMC" on Justia Law

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Robert Mena was licensed to practice medicine and surgery in Idaho in 2003. In 2007, staff members at the hospital in Jerome where he had privileges reported behaviors that suggested to them that Dr. Mena might have been abusing drugs or alcohol. Dr. Mena was evaluated and tested negative for chemical dependency. But staff, still concerned about Dr. Mena's psychological status, opined that he was not then currently fit to practice medicine. After further evaluation, it was recommended that Dr. Mena curtail his work-weeks to 40 to 50 hours. The Idaho State Board of Medicine ("Board") also had begun an investigation regarding Dr. Mena's training and ability to perform certain medical procedures. The Board and Dr. Mena entered into a Stipulation and Order in 2009, in which he admitted that he had violated the Medical Practice Act by failing to provide health care that met the required standard and in which he agreed to specific conditions of probation and restrictions on his license to practice medicine. On September 26, 2011, the Board issued an order terminating the Stipulation and Order. That same day, the hospital in Jerome gave Dr. Mena written notification that it had granted him limited medical privileges on the condition that he obtain additional training, that he had failed to do so, and that his privileges were forfeited. A month later, the Board sent Dr. Mena a letter asking him to respond to the hospital's action. He eventually submitted a thirteen-page written response that was rambling with many obscure references, grammatical and syntax errors, and vague sentences. More evaluations were ordered. The Board issued its Final Order in early 2014, finding that Dr. Mena suffered from "some level of impairment," and it stated that "sanctions were necessary upon [Dr. Mena's] license." Dr. Mena filed a petition for judicial review to the district court, arguing: (1) the Board initiated proceedings pursuant to the Disabled Physician Act and then imposed sanctions that were not permitted by that Act; (2) the Board's order was not supported by substantial evidence; and (3) the hearing officer erred in holding that certain evidence was inadmissible. The district court upheld the Board's action, and Dr. Mena then appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, finding that Board's own evaluation of the evidence showed that there was insufficient evidence to support the Board's order. View "Mena v. Idaho Bd. of Medicine" on Justia Law

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Appellant Altrua HealthShare appealed the district court's decision affirming the Idaho Department of Insurance's (Department) determination that Altrua transacted insurance without a certificate of authority. Altrua argued that both the Department and the Ada County district court erred in finding that Altrua was an insurer because Altrua never assumed the risk of paying its members' medical bills. The Department found, and the district court affirmed, that when members make their predetermined monthly payments into the escrow account Altrua operates, the risk of payment shifts from the individual members to the escrow account, and in turn to Altrua. Altrua also contended that the Department's determination that it is an insurer despite the disclaimers in its membership contract to the contrary is an unconstitutional interference with Altrua's right to contract. Upon review, the Supreme Court found that the Department's conclusion that Altrua's membership contract was an insurance contract was clearly erroneous, and reversed the findings. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Altrua Healthshare v. Deal" on Justia Law

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The Idaho Supreme Court was asked in a certified question of law from the United States District Court for the District of Idaho whether a legal malpractice claim that is transferred to an assignee in a commercial transaction, along with other business assets and liabilities, is assignable. The question arose from a a wrongful termination and False Claims Act action brought by former hospital employees against their employer. Magic Valley Medical Center was the entity being sued. Twin Falls County owned Magic Valley. Twin Falls County (on behalf of itself and Magic Valley), Twin Falls Health Initiatives Trust, Ltd. (TFHIT), and St. Luke’s Health System, Ltd., St. Luke’s Regional Medical Center, Ltd., and St. Luke’s Magic Valley Regional Medical Center (St. Luke's) entered into a Sale and Lease Agreement for the Creation of a New Health System (Agreement). The sale closed, and St. Luke's carried the burden of the employee litigation, ultimately settling with the plaintiffs. After the transaction closed, Magic Valley no longer existed. Though technically not a merger, the operation and management of the center was taken over by St. Luke's. St. Luke's then sued Magic Valley's former legal counsel for legal malpractice in connection with the employee litigation. The firm moved for summary judgment, arguing that St. Luke's could not pursue a malpractice claim because the purported assignment of such a claim was invalid in Idaho as a matter of law. Upon review, the Idaho Supreme Court answered the district court's certified question in the affirmative: although legal malpractice claims are generally not assignable in Idaho, where the legal malpractice claim is transferred to an assignee in a commercial transaction, along with other business assets and liabilities, such a claim is assignable. View "RE: Order Certifying Question - St. Lukes Magic Valley RMC v. Luciani, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-Counterdefendant-Appellant David Oakes, M.D. was employed as a cardiologist by Defendant-Counterclaimant-Respondent Boise Heart Clinic Physicians, PLLC (BHC) from January 2000 until the end of July 2008, when he left to pursue other employment opportunities. While employed by BHC, Plaintiff had an employment agreement that entitled him to half the adjusted gross charges he generated. Because of his complicated arrangements with other service providers, Plaintiff's final payment was not calculated until after his departure. After his employment ended, Plaintiff corresponded with BHC regarding his final payment. Plaintiff never received payment. Instead, he received a series of letters that detailed the evolving computation of his final payment. BHC's last letter to Plaintiff included a demand for repayment. Plaintiff then sued claiming that BHC still owed him money under the employment agreement. In rendering its verdict, the jury was given a choice between three special verdict forms that corresponded with the three possible verdicts: one finding that neither party is entitled to recover from the other; one that finding that BHC owed money to Plaintiff; and one finding that Plaintiff owed money to BHC. The jury returned with a verdict in favor of Plaintiff, and against BHC, that awarded Plaintiff $2,043.92. Ultimately the district court entered a final judgment that awarded Plaintiff $2,043.92 and declared that neither party was the prevailing party for purposes of costs and attorney fees. Plaintiff appealed the "prevailing party" decision to the Supreme Court. e sought. The district court entered a judgment conferring to Oakes the amount awarded by the jury, but found that neither party was the prevailing party for purposes of costs or attorney fees. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that the district court abused its discretion by not finding Plaintiff to be the prevailing party. The case was remanded for a determination of costs and fees. View "Oakes v. Boise Heart Clinic Physicians, PLLC" on Justia Law

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At the center of this case was a permissive appeal from the district court's interlocutory entry of a protective order, which held certain documents related to the suspension of Appellant Paul J. Montalbano’s privileges at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center (SARMC) were not discoverable by Montalbano. The interlocutory order came from Dr. Montalbano’s lawsuit filed against SARMC in district court with ten causes of action including breach of fiduciary duties and defamation; this appeal dealt solely with the protective order. In 2009, Appellant filed suit and sought to discover an extensive list of documents "related to the processes, activities, and decisions that ultimately led to the suspension of his privileges." When SARMC asserted a peer review privilege, Appellant filed a motion to compel. SARMC then moved for a protective order. The court granted in part and denied in part the motion to compel. The district court concluded that the materials related to the peer review process were protected: "[t]here can be no discovery of the peer review records nor can any witness be questioned about any information provided to the peer review committees nor the interpretation nor analysis of any evidence submitted as part of this process." Appellant thereafter moved for leave to file a permissive appeal of the court’s interlocutory order. The Supreme Court granted the permissive appeal to review the applicability of I.C. 39-1392b in physician disciplinary proceedings because it posed a question of first impression. The Court found that the applicable peer review statute " cannot be reasonably construed to state that if a physician brings a lawsuit, the privilege is waived in order to permit the physician to use otherwise privileged records. … The physician cannot waive the right of the hospital or anyone else who is entitled to assert it." Accordingly, the Court affirmed the district court's ruling to deny Appellant discovery of the records.