STEPHEN BOSWELL and KARENA BOSWELL, husband and wife, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
AMBER DAWN STEELE, and the Estate of MARY STEELE, Defendants-Respondents.
from the District Court of the Sixth Judicial District of the
State of Idaho, Bannock County, Hon. William H. Woodland,
judgment of the district court is vacated and remanded for a
Merrill & Merrill, Chtd., Pocatello, for Appellants. Kent
A. Higgins argued.
& Larsen, Pocatello, for Respondents. Reed W. Larsen
and Karena Boswell appeal from the judgment entered in favor
of Amber Steele and the Estate of Mary Steele. The Boswells
sought to recover damages for injuries suffered by Stephen
after he was bitten by Amber's dog. Before the case was
submitted to the jury, the district court ruled that all of
the Boswells' claims sounded in negligence and so
instructed the jury, rejecting the Boswells' proposed
jury instructions on common law and statutory strict
liability. The jury found that the Steeles were not negligent
and the district court entered judgment consistent with that
verdict. We vacate the judgment and remand for a new trial.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
human actors in the events giving rise to this lawsuit are
related by blood or marriage. Stephen Boswell is married to
Karena Boswell. Karena is Mary Steele's daughter. Amber
is Mary Steele's granddaughter and owns a Scottish
terrier named Zoey. Amber and Zoey lived in Mary's home.
October 8, 2011, Stephen drove Mary home following a visit to
the Boswell's home. Stephen went into the house with
Mary. Zoey was confined in the kitchen behind a gate.
Although Stephen had previously held and petted Zoey, on this
day the dog barked and growled as Stephen neared. Stephen
approached Zoey and lowered his closed hand. Zoey bit
Stephen, removing some flesh from his hand.
was not Zoey's first offense. Previously, Zoey had bitten
other people, drawing blood on two occasions. The Steeles had
a "Beware of Dog" sign on the gate to their
property and Zoey was confined most of the time.
Boswells filed their complaint on September 24, 2012, seeking
damages under a number of different legal theories. After
both parties filed motions for summary judgment, the district
judge granted summary judgment in favor of the Steeles on
October 30, 2013. The Boswells appealed and the Idaho Court
of Appeals vacated the judgment and remanded, holding that
the Boswells had presented sufficient evidence in support of
their claims to survive summary judgment. Boswell v.
Steele, 158 Idaho 554, 348 P.3d 497 (Ct. App. 2015)
remand, the case proceeded to jury trial. Before trial, the
Boswells dismissed their negligence claims and attempted to
proceed only on their claims of strict liability and premises
liability. The district court, however, held that the
remaining claims sounded in negligence. At the conclusion of
the trial, the district court gave jury instructions that
focused on negligence and refused to give jury instructions
regarding the Boswell's strict liability theories. The
district court gave the jury a special verdict form. The
first two questions asked if Amber or Mary were negligent in
their conduct and instructed the jury to simply sign the
verdict form if it found that neither was negligent.
Following deliberations, the jury returned a verdict finding
that the Steeles were not negligent.
Boswells timely appealed. The appeal was originally assigned
to the Court of Appeals, which ruled in their favor in an
unreported decision. This Court then granted the Steeles'
petition for review.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
this Court gives serious consideration to the views of the
Idaho Court of Appeals when considering a case on review from
that court, it reviews the district court's decision
directly." State v. Hill, 161 Idaho 444, 447,
387 P.3d 112, 115 (2016) (quoting State v. Watkins,
148 Idaho 418, 420, 224 P.3d 485, 487 (2009)).
propriety of jury instructions is a question of law over
which this Court exercises free review." Mackay v.
Four Rivers Packing Co., 151 Idaho 388, 391, 257 P.3d
755, 758 (2011). "A requested jury instruction need not
be given if it is either an erroneous statement of the law,
adequately covered by other instructions, or not supported by
the facts of the case." Ballard v. Kerr, 160
Idaho 674, 702, 378 P.3d 464, 492 (2016) (quoting Puckett
v. Verska, 144 Idaho 161, 167, 158 P.3d 937, 943
Boswells advance two main arguments on appeal. First, the
Boswells assert that the district court erred when it found
that all of their claims sounded in negligence, leading it to
refuse to give jury instructions regarding common law and
statutory strict liability. Second, the Boswells contend that