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Teurlings v. Larson

Supreme Court of Idaho

February 10, 2014

WILLIAM P. TEURLINGS, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
MALLORY E. LARSON nka MALLORY E. MARTINEZ, Defendant-Respondent

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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2014 Opinion No. 11

Appeal from the District Court of the Second Judicial District of the State ofIdaho, Clearwater County. Hon. Carl B. Kerrick, District Judge.

The judgment of the district court dismissing the action is vacated. The district court's denial of the motion to strike is affirmed and the matter is remanded to the district court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Smith & Cannon PLLC, Lewiston, for appellant. Ned A. Cannon argued.

Clements, Brown & McNichols, P.A., Lewiston, for respondent. Sonyalee R. Nutsch argued.

HORTON, Justice. Chief Justice BURDICK and Justices EISMANN and W. JONES, CONCUR. J. JONES, Justice specially concurring.

OPINION

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[156 Idaho 68] HORTON, Justice.

This appeal arises from an action filed against Mallory Martinez[1], a National Guard member, by William Teurlings. Teurlings alleged he suffered personal injury and economic damage resulting from a vehicle collision caused by Martinez's negligence. Martinez moved for summary judgment asserting immunity under I.C. § 6-904(4), which provides immunity to National Guard members for claims arising out of certain federal training or duty. The district court granted the motion after concluding Martinez fell within the scope of the statutory immunity. Teurlings appeals, arguing that Martinez is not immune under I.C. § 6-904(4) because she was not " engaged in training or duty" and she was not acting within the course of her employment at the time of the collision. Teurlings also appeals the district court's denial of a motion to strike portions of affidavits offered in support of Martinez's motion for summary judgment.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On January 7, 2007, at about 12:43 p.m., Martinez was involved in a traffic accident with Teurlings. At the time, Martinez was a member of the Idaho National Guard, 145th HHC Support Battalion, headquartered in Lewiston. Martinez was required to attend instructional drills one weekend each month. Section Sergeant Tony Rice was her immediate superior. That weekend, National Guard members were considered on duty from 12:00 a.m. January 6, 2007 to 11:59 p.m. on January 7, 2007. At the time of the accident, Martinez was returning from Lewiston to her home in Nampa after the National Guard members were released early from training due to an incoming snow storm. For the weekend of January 6-7, Sergeant Rice had requested that Martinez provide transportation to and from Lewiston for fellow Guard member, Danielle Poe, who lived in the Boise area. Poe was in the car with Martinez during the accident. Martinez was not compensated for her travel expenses but a Report of Investigation completed after the collision found Martinez was in the " line of duty" at the time of the accident, and consequently the National Guard paid her medical expenses.

In 2009, Teurlings brought a state law negligence claim against Martinez. Martinez raised the affirmative defense of immunity under the Idaho Tort Claims Act (ITCA), I.C. § § 6-901 to 929, specifically, I.C. § 6-904(4). Martinez later moved for summary judgment seeking dismissal of Teurlings'

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[156 Idaho 69] claims based on National Guard immunity under I.C. § 6-904(4), supported by affidavits from Sergeant Rice and Martinez. Teurlings moved to strike portions of the affidavits of Martinez and Sergeant Rice arguing they contained inadmissible legal conclusions that Martinez was " on duty."

The district court denied Teurlings' motion to strike, explaining the statements of Martinez and Sergeant Rice were not legal conclusions but facts about which they had personal knowledge. The district court then granted Martinez's motion for summary judgment based on I.C. § 6-904(4). The district court determined Martinez was " engaged in training or duty" because she was on duty for training under 32 U.S.C. § 502 and complying with the orders of a superior at the time of the accident. In making this determination, the district court relied on 38 U.S.C. § 101(22), which is the definition section for veterans benefits and defines " active duty for training" to include travel to and from such training. The district court also held that in the alternative, summary judgment was appropriate because Martinez was acting within the course and scope of her employment at the time of the accident based on the special errand exception to the coming and going rule. The district court entered a final judgment dismissing Teurlings' cause of action. Teurlings filed a motion to reconsider and a motion to alter or amend the judgment along with a supplemental affidavit of Sergeant Rice in support of his motions. The district court denied both motions and Teurlings timely appealed.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

This Court reviews appeals from a grant of summary judgment using the same standard as is used by the district court ruling on the motion. Rees v. State, Dep't of Health and Welfare, 143 Idaho 10, 14, 137 P.3d 397, 401 (2006). Summary judgment is proper " if the pleadings, depositions, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." I.R.C.P. 56(c). When applying this standard, this Court liberally construes the facts and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Rees, 143 Idaho at 14, 137 P.3d at 401. Only a " slight doubt as to the facts is not sufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact," but if " reasonable people could reach different conclusions or inferences from the evidence, the motion must be denied." Finholt v. Cresto, 143 Idaho 894, 896-97, 155 P.3d 695, 697-98 (2007). On appeal from summary judgment, this Court exercises " free review over interpreting a statute's meaning and applying the facts to the law." Stonebrook Const., LLC v. Chase Home Fin., LLC, 152 Idaho 927, 930, 277 P.3d 374, 377 (2012) (quoting VFP VC v. Dakota Co., 141 Idaho 326, 331, 109 P.3d 714, 719 (2005)).

This Court applies an abuse of discretion standard when reviewing a district court's determination of the admissibility of affidavits offered to support or oppose a motion for summary judgment. Fragnella v. Petrovich, 153 Idaho 266, 273, 281 P.3d 103, 110 (2012). A district court does not abuse its discretion " if it (1) correctly perceives the issue as discretionary, (2) acts within the bounds of discretion and applies the correct legal standards, and (3) reaches the decision through an exercise of reason." Id. (quoting O'Connor v. Harger Constr., Inc., 145 Idaho 904, 909, 188 P.3d 846, 851 (2008)).

III. ANALYSIS

The district court granted summary judgment holding Martinez was immune from suit pursuant to I.C. § 6-904(4). On appeal, Teurlings argues that there are genuine issues of material fact as to whether Martinez was engaged in training or duty at the time of the accident and that Martinez was not acting within the course and scope of her employment. Teurlings also argues the district court erred in denying his motion to strike portions of the affidavits offered by Martinez because they contained legal conclusions.

We reverse the district court's grant of summary judgment but affirm the court's decision denying the motion to strike. Specifically, we hold the scope of immunity granted by I.C. § 6-904(4) is coextensive

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[156 Idaho 70] with the federal government's acceptance of responsibility for the negligence of National Guard members under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) and is to be analyzed uniformly with it. In addition, the district court's application of the coming and going rule to its analysis of course and scope of employment under I.C. § 6-904 was improper. The requirement that employees be acting within the " course and scope of their employment" in I.C. § 6-904 is to be analyzed under Idaho's law of respondeat superior. This Court declines to extend the workers' compensation coming and going rule and its exceptions to third-party negligence actions. We address these issues in turn.

A. Idaho Code § 6-904(4) provides immunity for National Guard members when they are considered federal employees and the scope of " engaged in training or duty" is coextensive with the interpretation of this phrase within the FTCA.

Idaho Code § 6-904 states in relevant part:

A governmental entity and its employees while acting within the course and scope of their employment and without malice or criminal intent ...

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