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Haight v. Idaho Department of Transportation

Supreme Court of Idaho

January 9, 2018

DEA HAIGHT, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, Defendant-Respondent.

         2018 Opinion No. 5

          Appeal from the District Court of the First Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Kootenai County. Hon. Cynthia K. C. Meyer, District Judge.

         The judgment of the district court is affirmed. Attorney fees and costs on appeal are awarded to respondent.

          G. W. Haight, Coeur d'Alene, for Appellant. G. W. Haight did not appear at oral argument.

          Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General, Boise, and Law Offices of David Hansen, Liberty Lake, WA for Respondent. Renee R. Hollander-Vogelpohl and David B. Hansen appeared at oral argument.

          BEVAN, Justice

         This is an appeal from the district court's grant of summary judgment against Dea Haight ("Haight") and the dismissal of her complaint for damages and declaratory and injunctive relief. Haight alleged that the Idaho Department of Transportation ("ITD") was negligent in placing and maintaining construction barrels on Interstate 90 ("I-90") in Shoshone County, Idaho. In addition to her negligence claim, Haight alleged portions of Idaho's motorcycle and driver's manuals published by the State misrepresent the law and prescribe standards which present a danger to motorists. The district court concluded that Haight failed to present sufficient evidence to support her negligence claim and that she lacked standing to bring a declaratory judgment action against ITD. Haight now alleges the trial court erred. We affirm the trial court's dismissal of Haight's case.

          II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         At about 10:00 a.m. on July 11, 2014, Haight and her husband were travelling east on I-90 through Kellogg and Osburn, Idaho. In her complaint, Haight stated that the south lane of the east bound portion of the roadway was closed off by orange construction barrels. The barrels were placed on the broken line separating the south lane and the north lane of travel for the eastbound traffic. At Mile Post 53, Haight alleges that one of the barrels was completely within the lane of travel in the north passing lane for eastbound traffic-the only lane open for eastbound traffic at the time. Haight claims the barrel caught both arms on the awning of her fifth wheel camper trailer, ripping one arm completely away from the body of the camper and partially tearing away the other arm.

         Haight filed a complaint on August 20, 2015, alleging ITD "negligently, carelessly and contrary to law placed and maintained construction materials obstructing the public's lane of travel on I-90 in Shoshone County." Consequently, Haight asserted ITD's failure to maintain I-90 was negligence, negligence per se, and a breach of ITD's legal duty of care to the public. As a direct and proximate result of ITD's malfeasance or misfeasance, Haight claims damages in the amount of $2, 000. Additionally, as a result of the damage, Haight contends the camper is unusable, and the value of the loss is $300 per week starting on July 11, 2014 and continues to accrue until the damage is repaired.

         Haight's second cause of action is for declaratory relief seeking an injunction restraining ITD from publishing any information which is contrary to law. Haight alleges that portions of the Idaho motorcycle and driver's manuals published by the State misrepresent the law as it pertains to the operation of motor vehicles. Haight seeks a writ mandating ITD correct all licensing manuals and other materials related to qualifications for a vehicle operator's license.

         On April 20, 2016, the district court issued its scheduling order, notice of trial setting, and initial pretrial order. The scheduling order states that motions for summary judgment "shall be timely filed as to be heard not later than ninety-one (91) days (thirteen weeks) before trial." ITD served its first set of interrogatories and requests for production on Haight on April 28, 2016. On October 12, 2016, ITD deposed Haight. That same day Haight served her first set of interrogatories and requests for production on ITD, more than a year after filing her claim. ITD filed separate summary judgment motions on Haight's two claims on October 20, 2016, and the motions were noticed for hearing on November 22, 2016 in compliance with the Scheduling Order. ITD responded to Haight's discovery request on November 10, 2016. On November 14, 2016, Haight filed an untimely motion pursuant to Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 56(d) (formerly 56(f) (2015)) stating that she was unable to satisfy the district court's order to file affidavits opposing ITD's summary judgment motions and asked for more time to complete discovery.

         At the summary judgment hearing, the district court heard arguments regarding Haight's untimely motion, but ultimately denied the motion. ITD then presented arguments on the merits of the summary judgment motions, but Haight's counsel declined to argue Haight's negligence claim. On December 20, 2016, the district court issued its Memorandum Decision and Order on ITD's motions for summary judgment, granting both motions. A final judgment was entered on December 30, 2016 and filed with the clerk on January 3, 2017. On February 10, 2017, Haight timely filed her notice of appeal.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         When this Court reviews the district court's ruling on a motion for summary judgment, it employs the same standard as the district court's original ruling on the motion. Infanger v. City of Salmon, 137 Idaho 45, 46-47, 44 P.3d 1100, 1101-02 (2002). In a motion for summary judgment, the moving party bears the burden of proving the absence of a material fact. Sadid v. Idaho State University, 151 Idaho 932, 938, 265 P.3d 1144, 1150 (2011). "When considering whether the evidence in the record shows that there is no genuine issue of material fact, the trial court must liberally construe the facts, and draw all reasonable inferences, in favor of the nonmoving party." Liberty Bankers Life Ins. Co. v. Witherspoon, Kelley, Davenport & Toole, P.S., 159 Idaho 679, 685, 365 P.3d 1033, 1040 (2016). If the moving party has satisfied its burden, the non-moving party must then come forward with sufficient admissible evidence identifying specific facts that demonstrate the existence of a genuine issue for trial. Wattenbarger v. A.G. Edwards & Sons, Inc., 150 Idaho 308, 317, 246 P.3d 961, 970 (2010). Although circumstantial evidence can create a genuine issue for trial, a mere scintilla of evidence is insufficient to demonstrate the existence of a genuine issue of material fact. Callies v. O'Neal, 147 Idaho 841, 846, 216 P.3d 130, 165 (2009). Thus, the slightest doubt as to the facts will not forestall summary judgment. Zimmerman v. Volkswagen of America, Inc., 128 Idaho 851, 854, 920 P.3d 67, 70 (1996). "If the evidence reveals no disputed issues of material fact, then only a question of law remains, over which this Court exercises free review." Lapham v. Stewart, 137 Idaho 582, 585, 51 P.3d 396, 399 (2002).

          "This Court exercises free review over questions regarding the interpretation of the Idaho Rules of Civil Procedure." Boise Mode, LLC v. Donahoe Pace & Partners Ltd., 154 Idaho 99, 103, 294 P.3d 1111, 1015 (2013) (citation omitted). "The decision to grant or deny a Rule 56(f) [currently 56(d)] continuance is within the sound discretion of the trial court." Taylor v. AIA Services Corp., 151 Idaho 552, 572, 261 P.3d 829, 849 (2011) (citation omitted).

         Standing is a jurisdictional issue and presents a question of law. In re Jerome Cty. Bd. Of Comm'rs, 153 Idaho 298, 308, 281, P.3d 1076, 1086 (2012).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. The district court did not err when it denied Haight's Rule 56(d) (formerly 56(f)) motion to allow discovery before disposition of the summary judgment motion.

         Haight argues that there were circumstances justifying the untimeliness of her request to defer summary judgment under Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 56(d) because a series of events affected her counsel's ability to devote time to her case. Haight further contends that she was unable to provide affidavits in opposition to ITD's motion because she did not receive ITD's response to her discovery requests until it was too late for her to respond. Without necessary discovery, Haight maintains there was no way to know who was responsible for placement of the barrels, when they were placed there, why they were placed there, what purpose they were intended to serve, what alternative safety or control devices should have been used, who was employed at the job site, what activities they were or were not undertaking, and who knew or should have known that one or more barrels had been in the lane of travel. Therefore, Haight argues additional time for discovery was necessary under Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 56(d). Conversely, the State argues the district court properly exercised its discretion in denying the Rule 56(d) motion because (1) the motion was not timely filed, (2) Haight failed to meet her burden to specify what additional discovery would reveal and how it would preclude summary judgment, and (3) Haight failed to diligently pursue discovery.

         1. The district court properly denied Haight's request to defer summary judgment under Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 56(d) because Haight's request was untimely.

         Haight argues the district court abused its discretion under a reasonable view of the facts. Specifically, Haight asserts that her motion under Rule 56(d) should have been granted because a series of unforeseeable ...


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