from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District,
State of Idaho, Ada County. Hon. Nancy A. Baskin, District
of the district court vacated and remanded.
Seiniger Law, Boise, for appellant. William Breck Seiniger,
& Burke, P.A, Boise, for respondent. Joshua S. Evett
BURDICK, CHIEF JUSTICE.
County during 2010, Kermit Jackson ("Jackson")
filed a complaint against Jennifer J. Crow ("Crow")
arising from a 2008 automobile collision. No substantive
action took place in the trial court until 2016 when Crow
moved for summary judgment.
interim, Crow filed for bankruptcy in 2014 listing Jackson as
a potential unsecured creditor with a claim of unknown value.
Jackson filed a proof of claim with the bankruptcy court and
eventually received his pro rata share of the distribution of
Crow's assets. Crow received a bankruptcy discharge in
2014, releasing her from personal liability on the claim.
Afterwards, Jackson proposed to move forward with this case
against Crow as a nominal defendant, seeking to secure a
judgment in order to recover from Crow's insurer, rather
than Crow personally.
motion for summary judgment argued that: (1) allowing
Jackson's case to go forward against her violates the
permanent discharge injunction of 11 U.S.C. §§ 524
and 727; (2) even if this procedure does not violate the
Bankruptcy Code's permanent injunction, naming her as a
nominal defendant is (a) not permitted by Idaho case law, the
Idaho Rules of Civil Procedure, and Idaho's
no-direct-action rule, and (b) violates the Bankruptcy
Code's policy of providing her a financial "fresh
case of first impression, the district court ruled in favor
of Crow, reasoning that allowing the case to proceed against
Crow would violate 11 U.S.C. § 524 by impermissibly
causing negative economic consequences for Crow. The district
court further reasoned that allowing Jackson to proceed
directly against Crow's insurer would violate the
no-direct-action rule and permitting Jackson to proceed
against Crow nominally was not permitted by the Idaho Rules
of Civil Procedure or this Court's precedent. Jackson
moved the district court to reconsider, but his motion was
denied. Jackson timely appeals. We vacate and remand for
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
case stems from an automobile collision on October 5, 2008,
near what is now Kristin Armstrong Municipal Park in Boise,
Idaho. The collision occurred while Jackson was operating a
tractor with an attached lawn vacuum while working for the
City of Boise. Crow was operating a personal motor vehicle.
two years after the collision, on August 5, 2010, Jackson
filed a complaint in Ada County district court alleging that
Crow's negligence was the cause of the collision and
personal injuries. After the summons and complaint were
served on Crow, she filed an answer and demand for jury
trial. The matter was set for a jury trial to begin on April
2012 trial date was continued in order to allow Crow to file
a motion to exclude evidence of Jackson's workers'
compensation claim. Jackson then filed a motion to substitute
the City of Boise as the real party in interest. Granting
Crow's motion to exclude and denying Jackson's motion
to substitute, the district court again set the matter for
trial-this time to take place in September 2013.
the 2013 trial date, Crow filed a motion to continue the
trial setting on the basis that Jackson had filed for
bankruptcy. Jackson had, in fact, filed for bankruptcy a few
months prior to Crow's motion, but never filed a notice
with the district court. The matter was stayed for
three-and-a-half months after which Jackson joined Crow's
motion to continue the trial. The trial court entered an
order on June 10, 2013, vacating the trial date. Crow's
motion would be the last filing in the case for a period of
nearly three years.
Jackson received a bankruptcy discharge on June 4, 2013, the
bankruptcy trustee, with the bankruptcy court's approval,
hired Jackson's counsel in this case to pursue the
negligence claim on behalf of the bankruptcy estate. However,
Jackson's counsel did not pursue the claim during the
bankruptcy and the bankruptcy trustee eventually abandoned
the claim which reverted back to Jackson.
months after Jackson's bankruptcy discharge, Crow also
filed for bankruptcy. Like Jackson, Crow did not file a
notice of bankruptcy filing with the district court.
Crow's bankruptcy filing listed Jackson as a potential
unsecured creditor with a claim of unknown value. Jackson
filed a proof of claim in Crow's bankruptcy, valuing the
claim at $120, 000, but, after a request from the bankruptcy
trustee for a more definite valuation, Jackson filed an
amended proof of claim valuing the claim at $61, 018.56. The
trustee accepted the amended valuation. Crow received her
bankruptcy discharge in April of 2014 and the trustee's
final report was filed in September 2015. The discharge
included Crow's personal liability relating to the August
5, 2008, automobile collision with Jackson. In 2016, Jackson
received his pro rata distribution of the bankruptcy
estate's assets in the amount of $1, 932.45.
2016, Jackson requested a status conference with the trial
court. Objecting, Crow argued that Jackson's claim
against her had been discharged in bankruptcy. Despite the
objection, the district court set a jury trial for January
2017. Crow then filed an amended answer and demand for jury
trial. The trial was reset for June 5, 2017.
September 30, 2016, Crow filed a motion for summary judgment
in which she argued that: (1) allowing Jackson's case to
go forward against her would violate the permanent discharge
injunction of 11 U.S.C. §§ 524 and 727; (2) even if
this procedure would not violate the Bankruptcy Code's
permanent injunction, naming her as a nominal defendant was
(a) not permitted by Idaho case law, the Idaho Rules of Civil
Procedure, and Idaho's no-direct-action rule, and (b)
would violate the Bankruptcy Code's policy of providing
her a financial "fresh start"; (3) judicial
estoppel barred Jackson's lawsuit; and (4) the doctrine
of laches barred Jackson's lawsuit.
filed his own motion for summary judgment on February 1,
2017, arguing that he was entitled to summary judgment on the
following issues: (1) causation, because Crow's
negligence was the sole cause of the collision; (2)
negligence per se, because its elements were satisfied and no
valid excuse existed; (3) liability, because there was no
genuine issue of material fact regarding the proximate cause
of the collision; and (4) the issues raised in Crow's
motion for summary judgment.
hearing on the summary judgment motions, the district court
issued a memorandum decision and order granting Crow's
motion for summary judgment on April 13, 2017, holding that:
(1) the Bankruptcy Code's permanent injunction barred
Jackson's lawsuit; (2) the Bankruptcy Code's goal of
providing a financial fresh start to debtor would be violated
by allowing the claim to proceed; (3) allowing the suit
against Crow's insurer would violate Idaho's
no-direct-action rule; and (4) no case law or rule permitted
Jackson to proceed against Crow nominally. Concluding that
granting Crow's motion for summary judgment was
dispositive of the case, the district court did not reach the
issues of judicial estoppel and laches, and deemed
Jackson's motion for summary judgment moot.
memorandum decision, the district court acknowledged that
many federal courts allow suits such as Jackson's to
proceed, but distinguished it by stating that many of these
jurisdictions have "mechanisms for recovery against an
insurer after a judgment has been obtained against the
insured." In contrast, the district court was
"aware of no mechanism under Idaho law for suing a
defendant 'nominally' and then enforcing the judgment
against the defendant's insurer . . . to collect on the
judgment." The district court concluded that the case
Jackson relied on as providing authority for the use of
nominal defendants, Pigg v. Brockman, 79 Idaho 233,
314 P.2d 609 (1957), was factually distinguishable because
the Pigg decision was based on a contractual
provision in the insurance contract that allowed for suit
after obtaining a judgment against the insured. Because
neither party represented that Crow's policy included
such a provision, the district court could not rule on the
issue. Lastly, the district court reasoned that allowing the
case to proceed against Crow nominally would result in
negative economic consequences affecting her financial
"fresh start" under the Bankruptcy Code. These
consequences were: (1) Crow would have to pay a deductible;
(2) a judgment could have a negative impact on Crow for
purposes of explanation to future employers or creditors; and
(3) a judgment could also affect Crow's credit rating.
motion for reconsideration and motion to strike filed the
following day, Jackson argued: (1) there was no evidence that
any deductible would apply to Crow, and (2) he had requested
the insurance policy from Crow twice but never received it.
Jackson also filed a stipulation that if Crow should have to
pay any deductible, she may have a credit for it against any
future judgment entered against her. Basing his motion to
strike on the district court's ruling that the judgment
may harm Crow's credit score and affect her employment
prospects, Jackson argued these findings were based upon a
letter sent from Jackson's counsel to Crow's counsel.
Jackson argued that this letter, which Crow had included as
an exhibit in her motion for summary
judgment, was protected by Idaho Rule of
Evidence 408 as a statement made in the context of settlement
negotiations. Crow argued that Jackson had missed his
opportunity to object on this matter.
district court issued an order directing Crow to file a copy
of her complete insurance policy. The district court also
ordered the parties to file supplemental briefing as to how
the policy affected the district court's analysis under
Pigg. Crow filed the insurance policy and both
parties filed supplemental memoranda on the issue.
August 31, 2017, the district court issued an order denying
Jackson's motion to reconsider and motion to strike. In
doing so, the district court incorporated its previous
memorandum decision, but also found: (1) Crow's policy
did not create any rights for Jackson to join the insurance
company as a party in order to sue the insurer directly; (2)
Pigg was not applicable or binding; (3) the district
court had no legal authority to enter a judgment against Crow
nominally under the Idaho Rules of Civil Procedure; and (4)
it would be "unfair and prejudicial for a judgment to be
entered against Crow in any capacity because Jackson failed
to pursue the action during the pendency of Crow's
ISSUES ON APPEAL
the district court err in determining that Jackson could not
proceed by naming Crow as a nominal defendant in order to
recover from her insurer?
Crow's insurer or Crow's insurance policy be joined
as a defendant?
Jackson is entitled to summary judgment on the record?
STANDARD OF REVIEW
case, Jackson appeals both (A) the district court's grant
of Crow's motion for summary judgment and (B) the
district court's denial of the Jackson's motion for
A. Summary Judgment
an appeal from an order of summary judgment, this Court's
standard of review is the same as the standard used by the
trial court in ruling on a motion for summary judgment."
Lockheed Martin Corp. v. Idaho State Tax Comm'n,
142 Idaho 790, 793, 134 P.3d 641, 644 (2006). "Summary
judgment is proper when there is no genuine issue of material
fact and the only remaining questions are questions of
law." Chandler v. Hayden, 147 Idaho 765, 768,
215 P.3d 485, 488 (2009). "This Court liberally
construes all disputed facts in favor of the nonmoving party
and draws all reasonable inferences and conclusions supported
by the record in favor of the party opposing the
motion." Id. (citing Lockheed Martin
Corp., 142 Idaho at 793, 134 P.3d at 644).
Motion for Reconsideration.
motion for reconsideration, the district court "must
consider any new admissible evidence or authority bearing on
the correctness of an interlocutory order . . . . [But the
motion] need not be supported by any new evidence or
authority." Fragnella v. Petrovich, 153 Idaho
266, 276, 281 P.3d 103, 113 (2012) (citing PHH Mortg.
Servs. Corp. v. Perreira, 146 Idaho 631, 635, 200 P.3d
1180, 1184 (2009)).
When deciding the motion for reconsideration, the district
court must apply the same standard of review that the court
applied when deciding the original order that is being
reconsidered. . . . Likewise, when reviewing a trial
court's decision to grant or deny a motion for
reconsideration, this Court utilizes the same standard of
review used by the lower court in deciding the motion for
Id. Here, the trial court was asked to reconsider
the granting of a motion for summary judgment, so the summary
judgment standard applied to the trial court deciding the
motion for reconsideration and now applies to our review of
that decision on appeal. Id.
the district court grants summary judgment and then denies a
motion for reconsideration, this Court must determine whether
the evidence presented a genuine issue of material fact to
defeat summary judgment." Idaho First Bank v.
Bridges, 164 Idaho 178, 186, 426 P.3d 1278, 1286 (2018)
(quoting Massey v. Conagra Foods, Inc., 156 Idaho
476, 480, 328 P.3d 456, 460 (2014)).
both motions, "[i]f the evidence reveals no disputed
issues of material fact, then only a question of law remains,
over which this Court exercises free review." Brooks
v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 164 Idaho 22, 27, 423
P.3d 443, 448 (2018) (quoting Lockheed Martin Corp.,
142 Idaho at 793, 134 P.3d at 644).
The district court erred in granting Crow's motion for
parties disagree about the scope of Jackson's suit. As a
debtor whose personal liability has been discharged by a
bankruptcy court, Crow argues that any legal action
attempting to recover from her violates the Bankruptcy
Code's permanent injunction under 11 U.S.C. §
524(a)(2). Maintaining that his lawsuit's purpose
is not to recover from Crow personally, Jackson argues that
federal courts read the Bankruptcy Code to permit state-court
actions naming discharged debtors as nominal defendants when
doing so is a prerequisite to recovery from a third party
liable for the debt. The district court ruled that such an
action is permitted under federal law, but is nevertheless
blocked by Idaho's no-direct-action rule. Each part of
this ruling will be discussed in turn.
The district court correctly ruled that maintaining a
case against a discharged debtor nominally is permitted under