United States District Court, D. Idaho
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
C. Nye Chief U.S. District Court Judge
before the Court is Plaintiff Ross Hathaway's Motion to
Amend to Seek Punitive Damages Pursuant to Idaho Code §
6-1604 (“Motion”). Dkt. 145. Defendant Idaho Pacific
Corporation (“IPC”) opposed the Motion.
argument on this Motion was heard September 25, 2019. At the
conclusion of oral argument, the Court granted the motion;
however, the Court also explained its desire to issue a
formal ruling memorializing its decision. Accordingly, as was
stated on the record, and for the reasons discussed below,
the Court GRANTS Hathaway's Motion.
February 19, 2013, Hathaway claims to have slipped on potato
granules, causing him to fall and injure his left thumb,
hand, and shoulder. Hathaway reported the accident to Dwain
Gotch, IPC's Plant Safety Manager. Gotch prepared a
handwritten report detailing the accident, which Hathaway
reviewed and signed (“Handwritten Report”).
month later, on March 21, 2013, Hathaway went to Community
Care, IPC's workers' compensation provider, after he
experienced pain in his shoulders. This pain caused his arm
to seize up while he was at work. On March 22, 2013, Dr.
Larry Curtis informed Hathaway he had a shoulder strain from
the February 19, 2013, fall. Lorina Steele, IPC's human
resources administrator, received this information on the
same day but believed Hathaway's pain and arm-seizure
were caused by hyperglycemia. Because of this belief, she
responded by telling Community Care that this injury was not
workers' compensation related.
March 28, 2013, Dr. Curtis sent a letter to Steele stating he
“fe[lt] strongly that [Hathaway's injury] is work
comp related.” Dkt 145-8. The next day, Steele prepared
a workers' compensation report (“First
Report”) and sent it to Liberty Mutual, IPC's
insurer, along with the medical documentation she had
received from Community Care. In the First Report, Steele did
not include any information regarding Hathaway's shoulder
injury. In an email to Liberty Mutual, Steele stated she
didn't know how to complete a report for Hathaway because
she believed the March 21, 2013, arm seizure was not related
to his prior work injury.
mid-April of 2013, a co-worker informed Hathaway that IPC
omitted his shoulder injury from their records. When Hathaway
inquired about the omission, Gotch provided him a copy of an
unsigned, typed report in place of the Handwritten Report.
This typed report included only his thumb injury and did not
reference his shoulder. Gotch told Hathaway to see Mike
Willmore, another supervisor, about any concerns he had
regarding the shoulder injury or Handwritten Report. On April
17, Hathaway met with Willmore to discuss his concerns. On
April 18, IPC fired Hathaway, claiming he told another
employee he would intentionally hurt himself at work.
Hathaway was not given an opportunity to respond to those
seeks to amend his Complaint to add a claim for punitive
damages on his state cause of action. Typically, in federal
court, a motion to amend is governed by Rule 15 of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides a
“court should freely give leave [to amend] when justice
so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). Here, however, the
federal standard must be balanced with the limiting
provisions of Idaho statutory and case law. Strong v.
Unumprovident Corp., 393 F.Supp.2d 1012 at 1025 (D.
Idaho 2005) (“[A] claim for punitive damages is
substantive in nature and accordingly is controlled by
relevant Idaho case law.”).
damages are disfavored under Idaho law and should be awarded
in only the most “unusual and compelling
circumstances.” Cusack v. Bendpak, Inc., No.
4:17-CV-00003-DCN, 2018 WL 1768030, at *4 (D. Idaho Apr. 12,
2018) (quoting Seiniger Law Office, P.A. v. N. Pac. Ins.
Co., 178 P.3d 606, 614 (Idaho 2008)). Under Idaho Code
section 6-1604, a “claimant must prove, by clear and
convincing evidence, oppressive, fraudulent, malicious or
outrageous conduct by the party against whom the claim for
punitive damages is asserted.” Idaho Code §
6-1604(1) (2010). A claim for punitive damages cannot be made
in the original complaint but must be brought in a pretrial
motion. Id. at §6-1604(2). After conducting a
hearing, a court may grant leave to add a claim for punitive
damages “if, after weighing the evidence presented, the
court concludes that the moving party has established . . . a
reasonable likelihood of proving facts at trial sufficient to
support an award of punitive damages.” Id.
Thus, a court need not determine that the movant has
established clear and convincing evidence, but instead
focuses on if there is a reasonable likelihood of doing so at
can be summed up as a two-part inquiry. First, a
defendant's conduct must rise to the level of oppressive,
fraudulent, malicious, or outrageous conduct. Id. at
§ 6-1604(1). This requires an “intersection of two
factors: a bad act and a bad state of mind.” Myers
v. Workmen's Auto Ins. Co., 95 P.3d 977, 985 (Idaho
2004) (internal quotations omitted). Put differently, a
defendant must “act in a manner that was an extreme
deviation from reasonable standards of conduct, and that the
act was performed by the defendant with an understanding of
or disregard for its likely consequences.” Id.
If a defendant's actions do not meet this high threshold,
there can be no award of punitive damages.
a plaintiff must establish a reasonable likelihood of proving
that a defendant acted in such an outrageous manner. Idaho
Code §6-1604(2). This requires a plaintiff do more than
simply allege extreme conduct. It necessitates evidence,
direct or circumstantial, that a defendant acted in a
punitive manner. After a court examines all the evidence, if
it finds there is a reasonable likelihood that a plaintiff
can prove ...