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Green River Ranches, LLC v. Silva Land Co. LLC

Supreme Court of Idaho

May 26, 2017

GREEN RIVER RANCHES, LLC, an Idaho Limited liability company, Plaintiff-Counterdefendant,
v.
SILVA LAND COMPANY, LLC, et al., Defendants-Counterclaimants. JACK MCCALL, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
MAX SILVA, an individual; Defendant-Appellant, and SILVA DAIRY, LLC, an Idaho limited liability company, Defendant. JACK MCCALL, Plaintiff,
v.
SILVA LAND COMPANY, LLC, et al., Defendants. JACK MCCALL, an individual and doing business as JT LIVESTOCK, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
MAX SILVA, Defendant-Appellant.

         2017 Opinion No. 52

         Appeal from the District Court of the Fifth Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Twin Falls County. Hon. Randy J. Stoker, District Judge.

         The judgment of the district court is affirmed.

          Petersen Moss Hall & Olsen, Idaho Falls, for appellant. Nathan Olsen argued.

          Givens Pursley LLP, Boise, for respondent. Bradley J. Dixon argued.

          HORTON, Justice.

         Max Silva appeals from the judgment of the district court in Twin Falls County finding him personally liable for the purchase of 116 dairy cows. This appeal is part of a consolidated action brought by Jack McCall and Green River Ranches, LLC (Green River) against Silva, Silva Dairy, LLC (Silva Dairy), and Silva Land Company, LLC. After a bench trial, the district court found Silva personally liable for the purchase of the cows and dismissed the other claims against him. Silva contends that the district court erred when it found him personally liable for the purchase. Silva also argues that the district court abused its discretion when it failed to award him attorney fees proportionate to the claims on which he prevailed at trial. We affirm.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         The consolidated action began as four separate lawsuits arising from transactions involving a dairy operation. This appeal focuses on the claims asserted by McCall against Silva personally.

         Silva Dairy and Green River began working together in approximately 2009. Silva is a part owner of Silva Dairy and McCall is a part owner of Green River. On August 18, 2010, Silva Dairy filed for Chapter 12 bankruptcy. After Silva Dairy filed for bankruptcy, McCall negotiated two transactions with Silva for the sale of dairy cows. The first transaction was for 101 cows and the second was for fifteen cows. There was no written agreement for either sale. The primary issue in this appeal is whether McCall sold the cows to Silva in his individual capacity or in his capacity as an agent of Silva Dairy.

         McCall asserted claims against Silva for (1) mismanagement of McCall's dairy herd; (2) conversion of McCall's cattle feed; (3) pasture rent; (4) an unpaid loan for $10, 000; (5) damages for the sale of 15 cows; and (6) damages for the sale of 101 cows. After a bench trial, the district court held that Silva was not personally liable for the first three claims because Silva Dairy was liable on those claims. As to the fourth claim, the district court found that McCall lent $10, 000 to Silva personally but that the loan was offset against McCall's lease obligation to Silva Dairy. As to the final two claims, the district court found that McCall sold the cows to Silva personally and not to Silva Dairy. The cost of the cows was not disputed and the district court entered judgment in favor of McCall in the amount of $104, 770.55 plus prejudgment interest.

         The district court then found that that there was no prevailing party in the action because each side had prevailed on some claims and failed to prevail on others. Therefore, the district court did not award attorney fees or costs. Judgment was entered on July 16, 2015. Silva timely appealed.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         "This Court limits its review of a trial court's decision to determining 'whether the evidence supports the findings of fact, and whether the findings of fact support the conclusions of law.' " City of Meridian v. Petra Inc., 154 Idaho 425, 434-35, 299 P.3d 232, 241-42 (2013) (quoting Shore v. Peterson, 146 Idaho 903, 907, 204 P.3d 1114, 1118 (2009)). "Unless the trial court's findings of fact are clearly erroneous, they will not be set aside." Id. at 435, 299 P.3d at 242. "A district court's findings of fact in a court-tried case are construed liberally on appeal in favor of the judgment entered." Elec. Wholesale Supply Co., Inc. v. Nielson, 136 Idaho 814, 820, 41 P.3d 242, 248 (2001). "It is the province of the trier of fact to weigh conflicting evidence and testimony and to judge the credibility of the ...


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