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Joseph A. Gerdon v. Joshua R. Rydalch

July 2, 2012

JOSEPH A. GERDON, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
JOSHUA R. RYDALCH, AN INDIVIDUAL,
DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS.



Appeal from the District Court of the Fifth Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Jerome County. Hon. John K. Butler, District Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: W. Jones, Justice

2012 Opinion No. 108

Stephen W. Kenyon, Clerk

The district court's grant of summary judgment is affirmed. Attorney's fees and costs on appeal are awarded to Respondent.

I. NATURE OF THE CASE

This appeal involves a negligence claim arising out of a motor vehicle accident. The Appellant, Joseph Gerdon, was a passenger in an automobile, traveling with the Respondent, Joshua Rydalch, when the vehicle veered off the road and went down an embankment. At the time of the accident, both Gerdon and Rydalch were employees of Con Paulos Chevrolet, Inc., and were transporting a vehicle for their employer. Gerdon and Rydalch were injured during the accident, and both parties received workers' compensation benefits for a work-related injury. Gerdon also filed a Complaint against Rydalch for negligent driving. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Rydalch, finding that both Gerdon and Rydalch were acting in the course and scope of their employment during the accident. As a result, the district court held that Gerdon's claim of negligence was barred by the exclusive remedy rule under Idaho's Workers' Compensation statutes. Gerdon now appeals to this Court, arguing that the district court erred in holding that Rydalch was acting in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident, and that the court abused its discretion by striking a portion of Gerdon's affidavit.

II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Joseph Gerdon and Joshua Rydalch worked as salesmen for Con Paulos Chevrolet, Inc., ("Con Paulos"), a car dealership located in Jerome, Idaho. Rydalch was a member of Gerdon's sales team, with Gerdon serving as the team's leader. Gerdon's mother ("Mrs. Gerdon") was interested in purchasing a GMC Acadia from Con Paulos. Rydalch testified that he had several conversations with Mrs. Gerdon about facilitating the deal. Jerry King, a manager at Con Paulos, located the desired model at a dealership near Spokane, Washington. On June 11, 2008, arrangements were made for Gerdon and Rydalch to fly to Spokane to retrieve the Acadia, and then drive the vehicle back to the Idaho dealership. Both Gerdon and Rydalch had previously couriered a vehicle on behalf of Con Paulos on at least one occasion prior to the accident. Mrs. Gerdon purchased two plane tickets for Gerdon and Rydalch to retrieve the Acadia because she wanted the vehicle as soon as possible. Con Paulos later reimbursed Mrs. Gerdon for the plane tickets.

On June 12, 2008, Gerdon and Rydalch arrived at the dealership and attended the regular morning sales meeting at 8:30 a.m. After the meeting, both men waited for Con Paulos to issue a check for the purchase of the Acadia from the Washington dealership. Then, Gerdon and Rydalch were expected to begin the travel trip and return back to work at Con Paulos in time for the 8:30 a.m. sales meeting the next morning. After obtaining the check, Gerdon and Rydalch headed to the airport, but they missed their original flight. Gerdon contacted his mother and Mrs. Gerdon purchased a second set of tickets for the men to travel to Spokane.

Once Gerdon and Rydalch arrived in Spokane, Washington, they headed to Elliott Motors dealership and purchased the Acadia on behalf of Con Paulos. When they left the Washington dealership to head back to the Idaho dealership, Gerdon was driving the Acadia. Gerdon continued to drive for a few hours before stopping at a hotel casino to walk around and take a break. Rydalch testified that they were inside the casino for about a half an hour and only gambled "a couple of dollars." Rydalch also testified that neither he nor Gerdon had any food or beverages while inside the casino. Then, when the two men left the casino, Gerdon told Rydalch that he was tired and asked Rydalch to drive the Acadia.

Rydalch began driving while Gerdon reclined his seat and fell asleep in the passenger's seat. Then, at approximately 3:49 a.m., Rydalch testified that he saw a deer in the road as he was coming around a bend, he applied the brakes to disengage the cruise control and steered the vehicle toward the left lane to avoid hitting the deer. However, he turned the wheel too far and the driver's side tire dropped off the pavement. At that point, Rydalch lost control of the vehicle and it veered off the road into an embankment and collided with a fence.*fn1 Gerdon has no personal knowledge of how the accident happened because he was sleeping when the collision occurred. Nevertheless, Gerdon claims that just after the accident, Rydalch told Gerdon that he had no idea how the accident happened. Gerdon suspects that Rydalch fell asleep at the wheel. Both Gerdon and Rydalch were injured as a result of the accident and both men received workers' compensation benefits from their employer, Con Paulos.

Gerdon filed his Workers' Compensation Complaint on September 22, 2009, claiming that while he and his co-worker were traveling from Spokane to Jerome, his co-worker fell asleep at the wheel and the car veered off the road, causing claimant's injuries.*fn2 Gerdon then filed suit against both Rydalch and Con Paulos on November 18, 2009. In his Complaint, Gerdon alleged that Rydalch was negligent in driving the vehicle at a rate of speed that was unreasonable under the circumstances, and for driving the vehicle without sufficient sleep. Gerdon also attempted to impute negligence to Con Paulos because Rydalch was operating the Acadia with the permission of the dealership. Rydalch and Con Paulos filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, arguing that Gerdon's claim of negligence is barred by the exclusive remedy rule under Idaho's Workers' Compensation statutes. Gerdon opposed the motion, arguing that there is a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether Rydalch was acting in the course and scope of his employment when the accident occurred. Rydalch and Con Paulos filed an Amended Motion for Summary Judgment to supplement the record with the depositions of Joshua Rydalch and Butch Heatwole (a sales manager at Con Paulos). Gerdon relied on his original Memorandum in Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and included the affidavits of Joseph Gerdon, Mickey Gerdon, and Douglas Crandall. Rydalch and Con Paulos moved the court to strike paragraphs 7, 11, 12, and 13 from the Affidavit of Joseph Gerdon, on the grounds that the statements contradicted Gerdon's prior admissions. On August 23, 2010, the district court held a hearing on Rydalch and Con Paulos' Motion to Strike the Affidavit of Joseph Gerdon. The district court stuck paragraph 7 of Gerdon's affidavit, finding that it was inconsistent with his prior testimony and conclusory. The lower court also granted Rydalch and Con Paulos' Motion for Summary Judgment finding that Gerdon's claim of negligence was barred by the exclusive remedy rule because Rydalch was acting in the course of his employment when the collision took place. Gerdon filed a Motion for Reconsideration, which was denied by the lower court. On November 17, 2010, the district court issued a final judgment granting summary judgment in favor of Rydalch and Con Paulos and dismissing all claims against them. Gerdon filed his Notice of Appeal, but then moved to dismiss Con Paulos as a Respondent. Therefore, Rydalch is the only Respondent in this appeal. Gerdon now appeals to this Court, arguing that the district court erred in granting summary judgment because a genuine material issue of fact exists regarding whether Rydalch was acting in the course of his employment when the accident occurred. Gerdon also argues that the district court abused its discretion in striking a portion of his affidavit.

III. ISSUES ON APPEAL

1. Whether the district court erred in granting summary judgment, finding that Rydalch was acting in the course and scope of his employment when the accident occurred?

2. Whether the district court abused its discretion by striking a portion of the ...


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