BRYAN N. HENRIE, Plaintiff-Appellant,
THE CORPORATION OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS, Defendant-Respondent.
Opinion No. 56
from the District Court of the Sixth Judicial District of the
State of Idaho, Bannock County. Hon. Stephen S. Dunn,
is affirmed. No attorney's fees are awarded on
appeal. Costs on appeal are awarded to Respondent.
& Larsen, Chartered, Pocatello, attorneys for appellant.
Javier Gabiola argued.
Moffatt Thomas, Pocatello, attorneys for respondent. Bradley
J. Williams argued.
Nature of the Case
case arises out of injuries suffered by Bryan N. Henrie
("Henrie") while he was participating in a
community service event organized by the Mormon Helping Hands
("Helping Hands"), a priesthood-directed program
run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the
"Church"). Henrie asserts on appeal that the
district court erred when it dismissed his tort claim on
summary judgment. We affirm the judgment.
Factual and Procedural Background
of 2012, a fire broke out in the Charlotte Creek area of
Pocatello. Once the fire had been put out, Helping Hands
conducted a wide-scale effort to clean up the burned area.
Henrie was a member of the Paradise Ward of the Church, where
he was the president of the Elder's Quorum. In late June
of 2012, Henrie was contacted by Bishop Fred Zundel and
instructed to mobilize the members of the Quorum to aid in
the cleanup effort. Henrie characterizes the Bishop's
instruction as "an order, " which he felt
"compelled" to follow due to his status in the
14, 2012, Henrie traveled to Century High School, where
Helping Hands had set up a staging area for volunteers to
sign in to participate in the cleanup. When he arrived at the
high school a person, whom Henrie took
to be a representative of the Church, handed him a smock with
the Helping Hands logo on it. Henrie testified as follows:
Q: Okay. And did she say anything about it?
A: Whoever it was-I remember getting it. It was handed to me
and I remember saying this is really big. And they said, well
it's all we've got left, because apparently,
they'd been picked clean-well, not-I don't know how
clean because, you know, I can't vouch for how many were
left. But at that point they said this is all we've got
Q: Okay. And it looked big to you, too big for you, is that
what you're saying?
A: It looked really big. And, I mean, I don't know what
their standard was, but, I mean, to me it seemed-it could
have been a lot tighter fit-like a lot tighter fitting.
. . .
Q: And was there any discussion about whether you had to wear
it or should wear it or-
A: Yes, there was.
Q: What was that discussion?
A: I was told that I had to wear it to participate in the
cleanup. It was required.
was assigned to work with a crew on a property off Gibson
Jack road. He spent the day felling burned trees and rolling
or throwing the wood down an embankment on the property to be
hauled away later. Later that day, Henrie was attempting to
throw a tree stump down the embankment when it caught on his
smock. He was pulled down the embankment by the stump,
severely injuring his right knee in the process.
11, 2014, Henrie filed a complaint against the Church.
Therein, Henrie asserted that "[a]t the very least,
Defendant had a duty not to supply Plaintiff with gear or
clothing that would put him or his bodily safety in danger or
ultimately harm him . . . Defendant breached this duty of
care." He further asserted that "Defendant owed a
duty to Plaintiff to use reasonable care in nominating,
training, and supervising any and all of the clean-up
organizers and volunteers, including those who spoke with and
December 16, 2015, the Church filed a motion in limine to
exclude evidence. Therein, the Church requested that the
district court exclude any testimony given by Henrie with
respect to statements made by the volunteer who gave him his
smock. The Church argued that such statements were offered
"to prove that the Church 'mandated' that
everyone wear a smock in order to participate."
Accordingly, the Church concluded, such statements were
offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted and
therefore were inadmissible hearsay. The Church preemptively
argued that those statements do not qualify as an admission
of a party opponent because "[w]hen the declarant is
unknown or unidentifiable a plaintiff cannot show that the
declarant was an agent of the principal."
with its motion in limine, the Church filed a motion for
summary judgment on all of Henrie's claims. Therein, the
Church asserted that: (1) "the Church had no duty to
foresee or predict the accident . . . because [it was] a
'freak' accident that [was] not
'reasonably' foreseeable and [didn't] impose
unreasonable risks of harm"; and (2) "Henrie cannot
adduce admissible evidence to support his proximate cause
elements of his claims . . . Henrie cannot adduce any
admissible evidence that the Church forced him to wear the
March 16, 2016, the district court entered a memorandum
decision and order, in which it found that: (1) "[t]here
is no question the alleged statements made by the unknown and
unidentifiable volunteer are hearsay . . . [and] the record
is utterly devoid of any evidence of an agency relationship
between the unidentifiable person handing out the smocks and
the Church [so the statements do not qualify as admissions of
a party opponent]"; (2) "[u]nder the facts
presented here, there is nothing to indicate the Church could
foresee or reasonably be expected to anticipate the type of
harm that occurred here . . . [s]o this Court cannot find a
basis for imposing a duty on Defendant in this
instance"; (3) "there is no special duty between
the Church and Mr. Henrie"; and (4) "the Plaintiff