Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Inc. v. Farm Supply Distributors, Inc.

Supreme Court of Idaho

October 17, 2018

H2O ENVIRONMENTAL, INC., an Idaho corporation, Plaintiff-Appellant,
FARM SUPPLY DISTRIBUTORS, INC., an Oregon corporation, Defendant-Respondent.

          Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Ada County, Hon. Gerald F. Schroeder, Senior District Judge.

         The judgment of the district court is reversed and remanded with instructions.

          Fisher Rainey Hudson, Boise, for Appellant.

          Perkins, Mitchell, Pope & McAllister, LLP, Boise, for Respondent.

          Rebecca A. Rainey argued.

          Hans A. Mitchell argued.


         The underlying dispute in this case involves a commercial transaction between H2O Environmental, Inc. (H2O) and Farm Supply Distributors, Inc. (Farm Supply). Following a bench trial before the magistrate court, H2O was awarded $7, 354.64 for Farm Supply's breach of an express oral contract. The magistrate court subsequently awarded attorney's fees to H2O pursuant to Idaho Code section 12-120(3), but limited its award to the amount in controversy. H2O appealed to the district court, claiming that the magistrate court abused its discretion. The district court affirmed and awarded attorney's fees to Farm Supply. H2O timely appealed. We reverse and remand with instructions.


         Farm Supply employed H2O to clean up a fuel spill at a gas station in Boise in July of 2014. H2O billed Farm Supply $45, 828.19 for the work performed. Farm Supply paid $38, 473.55, leaving a balance due of $7, 354.64. H2O filed suit to recover the disputed amount. Farm Supply disputed whether a contract had been formed between H2O and Farm Supply and whether H2O's charges were reasonable. Near the end of the trial, H2O inquired: "Should we talk about a schedule for submitting things to [the magistrate court] in the way of closing?" The magistrate court stated in response: "The only reason I'm hesitating is because you've already spent so many hours on this case that, as I indicated, it's going to be hard for me to think there's reasonableness on the attorney fees over $7, 000."

         H2O prevailed at trial. The magistrate court awarded H2O the disputed amount of $7, 354.64 and pre-judgment interest of $597.32. H2O subsequently filed a memorandum of costs and fees in support of its request for an award of $55, 924.46. Attorney's fees accounted for $53, 403.50 of this sum. Farm Supply opposed H2O's request for costs and fees. The magistrate court addressed the issue of costs and fees in June of 2016. The magistrate court held that H2O was the prevailing party in the litigation. The magistrate court then observed:

What I don't find is that it needed all that time and all the attorney's fees that [H2O] requested.
And I think [Farm Supply] did a very good job of going through all the factors that I, as a judge, am supposed to look at in terms of determining what are reasonable fees. And I agree, this was not a hard factual case. . . . It was not a hard legal case. I mean, you had some legal arguments, but . . . this was not about some remote legal theor[ies]. It was the facts and putting them on.
And thus, I am going to basically adopt [Farm Supply's] memo on terms of attorney's fees and I will award some fees. I will award the amount in dispute. And I will award the mandatory costs, but I am not going to award more.
. . . .
And I think as I said before, I feel-I regret that somehow I was not more helpful in getting this resolved. I sort of feel like I have a bit of a record of doing that, of getting cases resolved before they go to trial. And in my court they don't turn into attorney fees cases. You were a rare one that did. But I do not find a basis to award more than what was in dispute. And if [Farm Supply] will prepare me an order along those lines, I will sign it.

         H2O appealed to the district court asserting that the magistrate court abused its discretion by limiting the award of attorney's fees to the amount in controversy. The district court held that the magistrate court had not predetermined the amount of attorney's fees it would award, noting that the magistrate court considered all of the factors required under Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 54(e)(3). Thus, the district court affirmed the magistrate court's award of attorney's fees. The district court then awarded Farm Supply its attorney's fees on appeal pursuant to Idaho Code section 12-120(3). H2O timely appealed.


         When reviewing the decision of a district court sitting in its capacity as an appellate court:

The Supreme Court reviews the trial court (magistrate) record to determine whether there is substantial and competent evidence to support the magistrate's findings of fact and whether the magistrate's conclusions of law follow from those findings. If those findings are so supported and the conclusions follow therefrom and if the district court affirmed the magistrate's decision, we affirm the district court's decision as a matter of procedure.

Bailey v. Bailey, 153 Idaho 526, 529, 284 P.3d 970, 973 (2012) (quoting Losser v. Bradstreet, 145 Idaho 670, 672, 183 P.3d 758, 760 (2008)).

         The amount of attorney's fees to be awarded is a decision committed to the discretion of the trial court. Id. As we recently clarified, an alleged abuse of discretion is reviewed under a four-part test:

Whether the trial court: (1) correctly perceived the issue as one of discretion; (2) acted within the outer boundaries of its discretion; (3) acted consistently with the legal standards applicable to the specific choices available to ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.