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Nettleton v. Canyon Outdoor Media, LLC

Supreme Court of Idaho

December 21, 2017

ALLEN G. NETTLETON, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
CANYON OUTDOOR MEDIA, LLC, an Idaho limited liability company, Defendant-Appellant.

         2017 Opinion No. 132

         Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Ada County. Hon. Samuel A. Hoagland, District Judge.

         The judgment of the district court is vacated and the case is remanded.

          Worst, Fitzgerald & Stover, Boise, for appellant. Louis V. Spiker argued.

          Dinius & Associates, PLLC, Nampa, for respondent. Sarah L. Hallock-Jayne argued.

          BRODY, Justice.

         This case arises from an employment agreement between Allen Nettleton and Canyon Outdoor Media, LLC ("Canyon Outdoor"), and specifically raises issues regarding Nettleton's entitlement to commission wages following his resignation. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Nettleton and denied Canyon Outdoor's motion for summary judgment and motion for reconsideration of the rulings on summary judgment. We vacate and remand.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Canyon Outdoor is in the business of selling billboard advertisements in southwestern Idaho. At some point during the fall of 2013, Nettleton was hired by Canyon Outdoor as an advertising salesperson. The parties did not enter into a written contract, and, therefore, the parties' competing assertions throughout the record are the primary source of information on the scope of the employment agreement.

         Nettleton was hired by Canyon Outdoor owner-manager Curtis Massood to sell billboard real estate. In April 2015, Nettleton resigned in light of disagreements that are not at issue in this case. At that time, Canyon Outdoor paid Nettleton the wages that it claimed were due. Canyon Outdoor did not pay Nettleton any additional wages following his resignation based on its belief that he was no longer entitled to compensation because he could not meet the terms of the employment agreement.

         During his employment, Canyon Outdoor compensated Nettleton through three methods: a car allowance, base wages, and commission wages. The car allowance and base wages are not at issue in this case. Nettleton received commission wages on new and renewal contract sales he procured. A new contract was a contract that was either sold to a new customer or sold to a current client and resulted in revenue above the existing contract revenue amount with that client. A renewal contract, on the other hand, was a contract that was sold to a current existing client but did not result in additional revenue above the existing contract revenue amount. When he was first hired, Nettleton received 10% of the revenue received by Canyon Outdoor on new contract sales. The record is unclear as to the percentage he received for renewal contracts.

         On February 28, 2014, Nettleton and Canyon Outdoor-through Massood-signed a written schedule setting forth commission rates for new and renewal contracts. The schedule set rates for renewal contracts on an adjustable scale based on the amount of new contract months that Nettleton procured during a given pay period. The schedule also provided that the rate for new contracts would remain the same, stating, "New Contracts will be paid at a Rate of 10% of the Monthly Revenue."

         Throughout Nettleton's employment, Canyon Outdoor paid commission wages monthly. The amount of commission wages Nettleton received for a given pay period depended on the amount of client revenue that Canyon Outdoor brought in from the respective client contracts. Nettleton testified that he never received commission wages before Canyon Outdoor received payment from the client. Canyon Outdoor clients normally paid in monthly terms. An exception occurred when Nettleton procured a new contract with Snake River Dental in November 2014. Thereafter, in December 2014, the client paid in advance the full amount of its twelve-month contract in exchange for a discounted rate. In this instance, after Snake River Dental paid in full, Canyon Outdoor paid Nettleton's commission wages for the entire contract up front.

         Following his resignation, in August 2015, Nettleton filed a two-count complaint against Canyon Outdoor in an effort to recover unpaid commission wages. An amended complaint corrected the name of the defendant and left the allegations unaltered. The first count set forth a wage claim under the Idaho Wage Claim Act, for which Nettleton sought treble damages pursuant to Idaho Code section 45-615. The second count alleged a breach of employment contract as an alternative cause of action that sought the same amount of damages without the statutory ...


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