VIANNA STIBAL, dba THETAHEALING INSTITUTE OF KNOWLEDGE, INC., and NATURE'S PATH, Plaintiffs-Respondents,
APRIL FANO, RIGHT WAY PUBLISHING, LLC, Defendants-Appellants
2014 Opinion No. 107.
Appeal from the District Court of the Seventh Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Bonneville County. Hon. Jon J. Shindurling, District Judge.
The judgment of the district court is reversed in part and affirmed in part. Attorney fees and costs on appeal are awarded to appellant Fano against respondents and to respondents against appellant Right Way Publishing, LLC.
Alan F. Johnston, Idaho Falls, attorney for appellants.
Stephen A. Meikle, Idaho Falls, attorney for respondents.
W. JONES, Justice. Chief Justice BURDICK, Justices EISMANN, J. JONES and HORTON CONCUR.
[157 Idaho 430] W. JONES, Justice
April Fano and Right Way Publishing, LLC, appeal the district court's judgment following a bench trial in which the district court found Fano liable for breaching a Release Agreement and entered judgment against Fano and Right Way Publishing, LLC, in favor of respondent, Vianna Stibal, for $56,250 in damages and punitive damages and $28,186 in attorney fees and costs. We reverse the judgment in part and affirm in part.
I. Nature of the Case
While Fano and Stibal were involved in prior litigation, they reached a settlement through mediation and signed a Release Agreement, which mutually released Stibal and Fano from liability to each other for their acts prior to the agreement. The Release Agreement further prohibited the parties from making any future negative or disparaging comments about the other. Prior to executing the Release Agreement, Fano had provided negative information about Stibal to a book author. Fano also formed a limited liability company and paid to print 500 books about Stibal. The books were printed before the Release Agreement was executed. Stibal subsequently brought the present action, alleging that Fano had breached the Release Agreement.
II. Factual and Procedural Background
Vianna Stibal and April Fano were involved in previous litigation in Bonneville County. That litigation included claims by Stibal seeking damages for defamation, libel, slander, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Fano counterclaimed for fraud, breach of contract, and unjust enrichment. Six days before their scheduled trial, the parties mediated and settled their dispute. As part of the settlement agreement, the parties signed and executed a Release Agreement on July 30, 2010. Stibal paid Fano $12,500 pursuant to the terms of the agreement. The Release Agreement included the following relevant provisions:
8. April and Vianna agree to keep confidential the terms of this Agreement, as well as all matters, documents, and medical records pertaining to the lawsuit unless:
a. Ordered to do so by a court of law,
b. Upon the request of a law enforcement officer acting in his or her official capacity
c. Confidential disclosure to an accountant or tax adviser in connection with preparation of income tax returns or other financial documents as necessary;
d. Agreed to by the parties
[157 Idaho 431] 9. April and Vianna agree not to make any disparaging, defaming, or otherwise negative comment regarding each other to any third party as of the date of this Agreement forward unless:
a. Ordered to do so by a court of law
b. Upon the request of a law enforcement officer acting in his or her official capacity,
c. Agreed to by the parties.
10. April and Vianna agree to remove any comment regarding each other that is posted on the internet, for which each one of them has control, within 45 days of this agreement. April shall make a good faith effort to have the video of Vianna posted on www.youtube.com regarding USANA removed, and will provide Vianna's ...