CANDACE ELLIOTT, individually and FOR THE LOVE OF PETS FOUNDATION, INC., an Idaho corporation, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
STEVE MURDOCK, Defendant-Respondent.
Opinion No. 141
from the District Court of the Seventh Judicial District of
the State of Idaho, Jefferson County. Hon. Alan C. Stephens,
judgment of the district court is affirmed.
Whittington Law Office, Chtd., Idaho Falls, for appellant.
Hopkins Roden Crockett Hansen & Hoopes, PLLC, Idaho
Falls, and Duane Morris, LLP, San Francisco, California, for
JONES, Chief Justice
case arises from statements made on a call-in radio show by
Mr. Murdock about his neighbor Ms. Elliott. The show's
hosts were discussing a Bonneville County case that involved
allegations of horse abuse and neglect. Ms. Elliott called in
to comment. Several callers later, Mr. Murdock called in. He
questioned the veracity of Ms. Elliott's statements and
made various claims about the horse meat market and
(referring to Ms. Elliott) "Andi's humane
Elliott filed suit, alleging that seven of Mr. Murdock's
statements defamed her individually and her foundation, For
The Love Of Pets, Inc. The district court granted summary
judgment in favor of Mr. Murdock. Ms. Elliott timely
appealed, limiting her appeal to the statement,
"Andi's humane society puts .02% of the money they
hit everybody up [sic] back into the care of animals, "
which she alleges defames both her and her foundation.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
(Andi) Elliott moved to rural Hamer, Idaho, from Virginia in
2001. Soon after her move, Ms. Elliott became involved with
the Humane Society, serving as president of the Upper Valley
Humane Society for several years in the early 2000s. She
deems herself an advocate for animal welfare. Her concern for
the welfare of pets and livestock in her community is
reflected in her frequent letters to the editor on animal
welfare subjects in local newspapers. During the last six
years, she has authored over one hundred such letters. She
has also made over a dozen calls to the Sheriff's Office
seeking "welfare checks" of certain animals in
Hamer and neighboring communities. There is also evidence
that the Sheriff's Office has occasionally asked her for
assistance in animal welfare cases and referred citizens with
animal welfare related questions to her.
Elliott has also been involved in litigation related to her
activities. In her zeal to discover the condition of animals,
she has frequently been observed peering into yards and over
neighbor's fences, often taking pictures of others'
animals. She has also been accused of entering others'
property to check on or tend to animals. Indeed, Ms. Elliott
was charged with trespass in 2008, 2009 and 2011. She entered
a guilty plea in 2008 and judgment was withheld. The 2009
case was dismissed, and Ms. Elliott was acquitted in 2011.
sued individuals who have pressed trespassing charges against
her. She sued her neighbor, Brenda Murdock, for testifying
against her in connection with trespass charges. She also
filed a combined suit against the Jefferson County Sheriff,
Jefferson County Prosecutor, a Jefferson County deputy, a
Jefferson County deputy prosecutor, the Jefferson County
Sheriff's Department, the Jefferson County Commissioners,
and Jefferson County Commissioner Jerald Raymond.
suit arises from comments made by Ms. Elliott's neighbor,
Steve Murdock, on the Neal Larson radio show in March 2012.
The show's host was discussing a case of potential horse
neglect and abuse in Bonneville County that county officials
were investigating. He asked listeners to call in and comment
on whether there should be laws to require owners to properly
care for their animals or whether the law should respect the
owner's property rights. Several listeners responded to
the invitation to call in. Ms. Elliott called and commented
on the Bonneville County case, giving additional
"facts" she had gleaned from conversations with
friends and her interaction with the alleged owner. Several
callers later, Mr. Murdock called in and expressed his
opinion of Ms. Elliott. He also expressed his view regarding
the appropriateness of slaughter houses and horse meat
markets. He also declared that (referring to Ms. Elliott)
"Andi's humane society puts .02% of the money they
hit everybody up [sic] back into the care of animals."
March 2014, Ms. Elliott filed suit in Jefferson County,
alleging that seven statements made by Mr. Murdock during the
course of the radio broadcast were defamatory as to her
individually and to her foundation, For The Love Of Pets,
Inc. ("the Foundation"). During the course of the
litigation, the original seven statements were pared down to
two allegedly defamatory statements. On April 30, 2015, the
district court granted summary judgment in favor of Mr.
Murdock. On June 12, 2015, Ms. Elliott and the Foundation
timely appealed, limiting the appeal to Mr. Murdock's
statement, "And Andi's humane society puts .02% of
the money they hit everybody up [sic] back into the care of
animals, " alleging that it defamed her and the
ISSUES PRESENTED ON APPEAL
the district court erred in granting summary judgment to Mr.
Whether the district court erred in striking the declaration