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Christina Brooksby v. Geico General Insurance Company

September 17, 2012

CHRISTINA BROOKSBY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
GEICO GENERAL INSURANCE COMPANY,
DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.



Appeal from the District Court of the Seventh Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Bonneville County. Hon. Dane H. Watkins, Jr., District Judge.

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

2012 Opinion No. 126

Stephen W. Kenyon, Clerk

The district court's grant of motion to dismiss is affirmed. Costs on appeal are awarded to Respondent.

I. NATURE OF THE CASE

Christina Brooksby ("Brooksby") demanded payment from GEICO General Insurance Company ("GEICO"), the liability insurer of her father, Craig Brooksby ("Father"), alleging that Father negligently injured her by crashing the car in which she was riding. After GEICO refused Brooksby's demand pursuant to an exclusion in its insurance policy with Father, Brooksby sued GEICO for a declaratory judgment establishing coverage. The district court dismissed Brooksby's Complaint for lack of standing, holding that (1) Idaho has no common-law direct- action rule that would give an injured third party standing to sue her tortfeasor's insurer absent some statutory or contractual authorization, and (2) Idaho's Uniform Declaratory Judgment Act*fn1 does not confer standing where it does not otherwise exist. Brooksby appeals to this Court.

II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Brooksby's Complaint alleges that in December 2007 she was traveling with Father in Bonneville County. Father allegedly lost control of the car, causing a single-vehicle accident in which Brooksby was ejected from the car and injured. At the time of the accident, Father held an automobile insurance policy (the "Policy") with GEICO. Brooksby made a claim against GEICO, which GEICO denied under the Policy's "household exclusion" clause. In December of 2009, Brooksby filed suit against Father in Bonneville County Case No. CV-09-7120.*fn2 But, rather than pursuing that lawsuit, Brooksby filed the instant action against GEICO in which she seeks a declaratory judgment establishing coverage under the Policy, including a determination that Idaho law prohibits the household exclusion.

In December 2010 GEICO filed a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), arguing that Brooksby lacked standing and therefore failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. After briefing and oral argument from the parties, the district court granted GEICO's motion. The court first noted Idaho's longstanding rule that an injured party has no direct cause of action against her tortfeasor's liability insurer absent some statutory or contractual authorization. According to Brooksby, this rule barred her only from seeking money damages, as opposed to declaratory relief. However, the district court observed that Idaho's Uniform Declaratory Judgment Act does not create standing where it does not otherwise exist. After the district court entered a final judgment, Brooksby timely appealed to this Court, arguing that the district court erred by dismissing her Complaint. We affirm.

III. ISSUE ON APPEAL

The sole issue on appeal is whether the district court erred in granting GEICO's Motion to Dismiss under Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.

IV. Standard of Review

This Court reviews de novo a district court's dismissal of a complaint under Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Hoffer v. City of Boise, 151 Idaho 400, 402, 257 P.3d 1226, 1228, (2011) (citing Taylor v. McNichols, 149 Idaho 826, 832, 243 P.3d 642, 648 (2010)).

The Court on appeal must determine whether the non-movant has alleged sufficient facts in support of his claim, which if true, would entitle him to relief. The Court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. After drawing all inferences in favor of the non-moving ...


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