United States District Court, D. Idaho
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
Honorable Candy W. Dale United States Magistrate Judge.
the Court is Defendants' motion to strike Plaintiff's
punitive damages claim, filed on July 8, 2016. (Dkt. 35.)
Defendants argue the punitive damages claim is not properly
before the Court pursuant to Idaho Code § 6-1604.
motion is fully briefed. Having reviewed the record herein,
the Court finds the facts and legal arguments are adequately
presented in the briefs and record. Accordingly, in the
interest of avoiding delay, and because the Court
conclusively finds that the decisional process would not be
significantly aided by oral argument, the motion will be
decided on the record before this Court without oral
argument. Dist. Idaho L. Rule 7.1(d).
March 4, 2016, Plaintiff Grant Comfort filed a complaint for
special, general, and punitive damages for personal injury
against Defendants Choice Hotels International, Inc. and
NB&J, LLC, dba Rodeway Inn Boise in the United States
District Court for the District of Montana. (Dkt. 1.) NB&J
moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(2) for
lack of personal jurisdiction or, in the alternative, to
transfer venue pursuant to 28 U.S.C.S. 1404(a). (Dkt. 3.) The
Montana District Court entered an order granting NB&J's
motion to change venue, finding Idaho to be the proper venue.
The matter was transferred to this Court on June 1, 2016.
complaint alleges that, on August 13, 2015, Comfort checked
in at the Rodeway Inn in Boise. Upon stepping into the
bathroom to bathe, Comfort alleges he stepped on a hypodermic
needle that had been lying on the floor. The next day,
Comfort allegedly sought medical treatment, which involved an
exam and blood test. Comfort contends that, as a condition of
employment, he must undergo periodic drug and alcohol
screening, and that because of the needle stick, he will be
required to be continuously tested for contagious diseases in
the future. In the prayer of the complaint, Plaintiff seeks
an award of punitive damages.
argue Idaho law requires leave of the court to plead punitive
damages. Plaintiff contends that Idaho Code § 6-1604(2)
is merely a procedural requirement, and because this matter
was brought in federal court, federal procedural law applies.
Accordingly, Plaintiff argues the punitive damages claim is
properly pled, because in a diversity case, federal
procedural law controls.
argument is directly contrary to controlling Idaho law and
previous cases decided by this Court. Claims for punitive
damages are substantive in nature and Idaho law is
controlling. Bauer v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co.,
No. 2:08-cv-00284-LMB, 2010 WL 2595291, at *5 (D. Idaho June
23, 2010) (citing Strong v. Unumprovident Corp., 393
F.Supp.2d 1012, 1025 (D. Idaho 2005) (“The question of
whether to permit a claim for punitive damages is substantive
in nature and accordingly is controlled by relevant Idaho
case law.”); citing Doe v. Cutter Biological,
844 F.Supp. 602, 610 (D. Idaho 1994)); Windsor v.
Guarantee Trust Life Ins. Co., 684 F.Supp. 630, 633 (D.
Idaho 1988) (“After careful review of the applicable
authorities, the Court holds that § 6- 1604(2) is
substantive in nature and therefore controlling in federal
court in a diversity case.”).
Code § 6-1604 allows the trial court to grant a motion
to amend to seek punitive damages only if, “after
weighing the evidence presented, the court concludes that,
the moving party has established ... a reasonable likelihood
of proving facts at trial sufficient to support an award of
punitive damages.” Later, at the trial stage, an award
of punitive damages is permissible only where the claimant
proves, “by clear and convincing evidence, oppressive,
fraudulent, malicious or outrageous conduct by the party
against whom the claim for punitive damages is
asserted.” Id. But first, before allowing a
party to allege a claim for punitive damages, there is a
statutorily mandated requirement that a hearing be held.
Pointedly, “after weighing the evidence presented,
” has been interpreted to mean that a hearing must be
held before a complaint may be amended to add a claim for
punitive damages. See Doe v. Cutter Biological, 844
F.Supp. 602, 609 (D. Idaho 1994).
upon controlling Idaho authority, the motion will be granted.
THEREFORE IT ...