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Hull v. Giesler

Supreme Court of Idaho

January 18, 2018

GREGORY HULL, Plaintiff-Counterdefendant-Appellant-Cross Respondent,
v.
RICHARD B. GIESLER and IDAHO TRUST DEEDS, LLC, Defendants-Counterclaimants-Respondents-Cross Appellants.

         2018 Opinion No. 11

         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.

          Gery W. Edson, Boise, and Terry Lee Johnson, Twin Falls, for appellant.

          Gery W. Edson argued.

          Wright Brothers Law Office, PLLC, Twin Falls, for respondents.

          Andrew B. Wright argued.

          HORTON, J.

         Gregory Hull appeals the decision of the district court concerning the allocation of development costs that he was required to share with Richard Giesler and Idaho Trust Deeds, LLC. This is the second appeal arising from a series of oral and written agreements between these parties to exchange and subdivide property. See Hull v. Giesler, 156 Idaho 765, 331 P.3d 507 (2014). As part of his challenge to the district court's apportionment of development costs, Hull claims that the district court erred by excluding testimony from his expert witness, Greg Ruddell. Both parties request an award of attorney fees on appeal. We affirm.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         This appeal arises from the second trial between these parties relating to profit-sharing from the development of a subdivision. Hull sold his interest in the subdivision to Giesler for $200, 000. The first trial between the parties established that Giesler was to develop the property, Hull was obligated to reimburse him for a prorated share of the development and other costs upon the sale of each remaining lot, and that Hull was entitled to one-half of the net profits from the sale of the remaining lots.

         The parties' oral agreement did not define the development costs that would be shared by the parties. Thus, in the second trial, the district court sought to identify and reasonably allocate the development costs. In the course of the trial, Hull attempted to present opinion testimony from Ruddell as to which expenditures were reasonable development costs. The district court did not permit the testimony, finding that it was neither based on specialized knowledge nor helpful to the court sitting as the finder of fact. Following the trial, the district court ordered Hull to reimburse Giesler for certain direct and indirect costs of development. Hull timely appealed.[1]

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         "The review of a trial court's decision after a court trial is limited to ascertaining 'whether the evidence supports the findings of fact, and whether the findings of fact support the conclusions of law.' " Griffith v. Clear Lakes Trout Co., 143 Idaho 733, 737, 152 P.3d 604, 608 (2007) (quoting Idaho Forest Indus., Inc. v. Hayden Lake Watershed Improvement Dist., 135 Idaho 316, 319, 17 P.3d 260, 263 (2000)). This Court will affirm a trial court's findings of fact unless those findings are clearly erroneous. Id.; I.R.C.P. 52(a)(7). Findings of fact that are supported by substantial and competent evidence are not clearly erroneous-even in the face of conflicting evidence in the record. Kelly v. Wagner, 161 Idaho 906, 910, 393 P.3d 566, 570 (2017). "Substantial and competent evidence is relevant evidence which a reasonable mind might accept to support a conclusion." Id. (quoting Lamar Corp. v. City of Twin Falls, 133 Idaho 36, 42-43, 981 P.2d 1146, 1152-53 (1999). Finally, because of the trial court's special role to weigh conflicting evidence and judge the credibility of ...


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