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CNW, LLC v. New Sweden Irrigation District

Supreme Court of Idaho

November 3, 2016

CNW, LLC, an Idaho limited liability company, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
NEW SWEDEN IRRIGATION DISTRICT, an irrigation district, Defendant-Respondent, and CITY OF IDAHO FALLS, a municipal corporation, and DOE DEFENDANTS 1 THROUGH 6, Defendants.

         2016 Opinion No. 126

         Appeal from the District Court of the Seventh Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Bonneville County. Hon. Joel E. Tingey, District Judge.

         The judgment dismissing this action is vacated and the case is remanded.

          Hearn & Wood and Racine Olson Nye Budge & Bailey, Chartered, Idaho Falls, for appellant.

          Hall Angell Starnes, LLP, Idaho Falls, for respondent.

          ON THE BRIEFS HORTON, Justice.

         This is an appeal from the district court's order granting summary judgment and dismissing CNW LLC's (CNW) lawsuit against New Sweden Irrigation District (NSID). The district court held that CNW had failed to comply with the notice requirements of Idaho Code section 6-906. We vacate the judgment dismissing this action and remand.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         CNW owns an office building in the Taylor's Crossing business subdivision in Idaho Falls. In mid-June of 2012, a sinkhole developed under the parking lot of CNW's building. It was later determined that the sinkhole was caused by water from Porter Canal infiltrating an abandoned sewer line and eroding the soil under the parking lot. Porter Canal is owned and operated by NSID. The abandoned sewer line is owned by the City of Idaho Falls (City).

         On July 18, 2012, CNW's attorney contacted NSID's president, Lou Thiel, to discuss the sinkhole. Mr. Thiel informed CNW's attorney that he should contact Jerry Rigby, NSID's attorney, regarding the sinkhole. From July to October 2012, CNW and NSID communicated about the sinkhole exclusively through Mr. Rigby. On October 18, 2012, CNW sent a notice of tort claim to NSID which was addressed to "New Sweden Irrigation District c/o Jerry R. Rigby" and mailed to Mr. Rigby's office in Rexburg.

         After receiving the notice, Mr. Rigby forwarded it to NSID's secretary, DeLillian Reed. When she received the notice, Ms. Reed forwarded the claim to NSID's insurance carrier. Ms. Reed also sent a letter to CNW. This letter confirmed that Ms. Reed had received the notice that CNW sent to Mr. Rigby and informed CNW that Mr. Rigby did not represent NSID in connection with the matter. Ms. Reed requested that future communications be directed to NSID. Ms. Reed informed CNW that, if it wished to file a notice of tort claim, it would need to fill out an additional form and return it to NSID. The letter included a form for CNW to complete and return. CNW ceased communicating with Mr. Rigby but did not return the form to Ms. Reed.

         At this time, NSID denied responsibility for the sinkhole. On October 30, 2012, CNW served the City with a notice of tort claim. On December 5, 2012, NSID admitted that it had worked on the Porter Canal in the spring of 2012. Prior to this date, NSID had repeatedly denied performing any work on the canal.

         CNW filed this lawsuit against NSID and the City on December 19, 2012. On January 25, 2013, CNW served NSID with an amended notice of tort claim. NSID moved for summary judgment on September 29, 2014.

         On December 31, 2014, the district court granted NSID's motion for summary judgment. The district court found that CNW's letter of October 18, 2012, was not sufficient to satisfy the requirements of the Idaho Tort Claims Act (ITCA). The district court also found that the 180 day ...


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