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Bear Crest Limited LLC v. State

United States District Court, D. Idaho

July 17, 2019

BEAR CREST LIMITED LLC, an Idaho limited liability company; YELLOWSTONE BEAR WORLD INC., an Idaho corporation; VELVET RANCH LLC, an Idaho limited liability company; MICHAEL D. FERGUSON, an Idaho resident, Plaintiffs,
v.
STATE OF IDAHO; IDAHO TRANSPORATION DEPARTMENT, a department within the State of Idaho; MADISON COUNTY, a political subdivision of the State of Idaho, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          Honorable Candy W. Dale United States Magistrate Judge.

         INTRODUCTION

         Pending before the Court are Defendants' motions to dismiss. (Dkt. 17, 18.) This case involves a road project that Plaintiffs contend resulted in an unlawful taking of their property and a denial of their rights to due process under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States. Plaintiffs claim also breach of contract by Defendants based on alleged violations of deed restrictions, as well as claims under the Constitution of the State of Idaho. Defendants assert the complaint should be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6).[1]

         BACKGROUND

         1. Factual Background

         Plaintiff Bear Crest Limited LLC owns real property located in Madison County, Idaho, at the intersection of U.S. Highway 20 and Madison County Road 4300 West (the “Property”). Bear Crest operates a tourist and entertainment attraction on a portion of the Property, known as Yellowstone Bear World. Until 2016, visitors to Yellowstone Bear World accessed the Property from U.S. Highway 20 via a connection (the “Intersection”) at Madison County Road 4300 West (“Bear World Road”).

         The Intersection was constructed upon land formerly owned by the Gideons, who deeded the land to the State of Idaho in November of 1973 by warranty deed. The Gideon Deed was part of a realignment that moved the point of the Intersection north on Highway 20.[2] The Gideon Deed expressly reserved to the grantors: “Access to the County Road Connection.” Plaintiffs claim that the reservation of rights in the Gideon Deed created an easement or contract right in favor of the owner of the Property. Bear Crest, as the successor in interest to the Gideons, owns the Property and all access rights and easements related thereto. Plaintiffs claim the financial success of Yellowstone Bear World depends upon the continued existence of the Intersection at the location set forth in the Gideon Deed.

         In 2016, Defendants converted U.S. Highway 20 into a controlled access road and, in doing so, closed the Intersection and terminated access to the county road connection from Bear World Road. Plaintiffs allege that, as a result of the closure of the Intersection, access to Bear Crest's Yellowstone Bear World attraction and to the Property from U.S. Highway 20 as set forth in the Gideon Deed was taken, and was otherwise substantially impaired. Plaintiffs claim that the closure of the Intersection and the substantial impairment of and unreasonable access to the Property has caused Bear Crest to suffer damages, which include losses to its business and to the fair market value of the Property.

         2. Procedural Background

         Plaintiffs' Complaint includes four claims for relief as follows: (1) inverse condemnation under Article I Section 14 of the Idaho Constitution[3] and the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution; (2) violation of Plaintiffs' substantive due process rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Article I, Section 13 of the Idaho Constitution; (3) violation of Plaintiffs' procedural due process rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Article I, Section 13 of the Idaho Constitution;[4] and (4) breach of contract based upon violation of the Gideon deed restriction.

         While the motions were pending, the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in Knick v. Twp. of Scott, Pennsylvania, 139 S.Ct. 2162, 2164 (June 21, 2019), which overruled the state litigation requirement of Williamson Cnty. Regional Planning Comm'n v. Hamilton Bank of Johnson City, 473 U.S. 172 (1985). As a result, the Court conducted a telephonic status conference with the parties on July 8, 2019, to discuss the impact of Knick upon Plaintiffs' takings claim in count one of the Complaint.[5] During that conference, Defendants conceded that, pursuant to Knick, they no longer have a basis upon which to request dismissal of count one of the complaint based upon Williamson. However, the State of Idaho and the Idaho Transportation Department reserved their assertion of immunity from suit under the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution, as asserted also in their motion to dismiss. (Dkt. 17.)

         Based upon the parties' representation that Knick controls, the Court will confine its analysis to the State Defendants' Eleventh Amendment immunity argument; Plaintiffs' due process claims and state constitutional claims; and the state law claim for breach of contract.

         ANALYSIS

         1. Motion to Dismiss Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” in order to “give the defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss “does not need detailed factual allegations, ” it must set forth “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Id. at 555. To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570. A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Id. at 556. The plausibility standard is not akin to a “probability requirement, ” but it asks for more than a sheer ...


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