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Raymond v. State

Supreme Court of Idaho

October 18, 2019

JACQUELINE MARIE RAYMOND, individually as an heir, and as Personal Representative of the ESTATE OF BARRY JOHNSON, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
IDAHO STATE POLICE, an Idaho State agency; Defendant-Respondent, and PAYETTE COUNTY, a political subdivision of the State of Idaho; SCOTT SLOAN, and JOHN and JANE DOES I-X, Defendants.

          Appeal from the District Court of the Third Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Payette County. Christopher S. Nye, District Judge.

         The District Court's dismissal of Appellant's complaint for tortious interference with a prospective civil action is reversed and the judgment is vacated. No attorney fees are awarded to Respondent Idaho State Police. Costs on appeal are awarded to Appellant.

          Peterson Moss Hall & Olsen, Idaho Falls, attorneys for Appellant. Nathan M. Olsen argued.

          Moore, Elia, Kraft & Hall, Boise, attorneys for Respondent. Michael J. Elia argued.

          BEVAN, JUSTICE

         I. Nature of the Case

         This appeal concerns whether Idaho recognizes tortious interference with a prospective civil action. This case was brought by the Plaintiff, Jackie Raymond, alleging, among other things, [1] that Idaho State Police ("ISP"), Payette County, and Deputy Sloan (collectively "the defendants") tortiously interfered with a prospective civil action. The defendants moved for dismissal of this claim, arguing Idaho does not recognize the tort, and even if it did, Raymond lacked standing and her claims were too speculative to establish causation.[2] The district court agreed with the defendants, holding that (1) Idaho had not recognized the tort as an independent cause of action (2) it would not acknowledge the tort, and (3) the facts were too speculative to establish such a claim. Thus, the district court dismissed the claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Idaho Rules of Civil Procedure. Raymond now appeals and requests this Court formally adopt a new tort for intentional interference with a prospective civil action by spoliation of evidence by a third party. We conclude that Idaho courts have already recognized the cause of action, but we take this opportunity to state this conclusion explicitly. We therefore reverse.

         II. Factual and Procedural Background

         In late 2011, Barry Johnson was killed in a vehicular accident while driving on Idaho State Highway 30. The accident occurred when a Payette County deputy sheriff, Deputy Scott Sloan, tried to pass Johnson while driving at a very high speed in the left lane while Johnson was making a lawful left turn into his private driveway. ISP was charged with investigating the accident and Deputy Sloan. Pursuant to that investigation, felony criminal charges were filed against Deputy Sloan for vehicular manslaughter. Deputy Sloan was bound over to district court but the charges were ultimately dismissed.

         Raymond, Johnson's daughter and personal representative for Johnson's estate, filed a complaint against the defendants, alleging wrongful death against the County and the Deputy, and adding claims for tortious interference with a prospective civil action, and in the alternative, tortious interference with a prospective economic advantage against the County, the Deputy, and ISP. Raymond's tortious interference with a prospective civil action alleged the following: 1) the defendants were negligent per se; 2) the defendants' violation of the applicable statutes constituted wrongful conduct; 3) the defendants knew litigation was likely to occur; 4) despite knowing litigation was imminent, the defendants willfully destroyed or concealed evidence disrupting Raymond's case; and 5) Raymond suffered damages from the increase in the cost of pursuing liability, the decrease in value of a potential award, interest accrued from the delay of the claim being resolved, and general damages. Raymond described the defendants' wrongful conduct:

17. During ISP's investigation of the misconduct of defendant Sloan as alleged, and prosecution of Sloan therefor, the defendants conspired and attempted to, and did, cover up Sloan's misconduct and/or unduly influence[d] the investigation, evidence, and witnesses accordingly, in order to shield defendants Sloan and Payette County from liability and responsibility for Sloan's aforesaid misconduct.
18. The defendants engaged in an enterprise or conspiracy with Sloan to, and did in fact, willfully and with full knowledge of Sloan's unlawful conduct, conceal evidence, harbor and protect Sloan from criminal and civil liability, and intimidate, influence, impede, deter, threaten, harass and obstruct witnesses and/or potential witnesses, all in violation of state and federal law but in favor of a corrupt policy and effort to protect fellow Idaho law enforcement officers from the consequences of their unlawful conduct.

         Payette County filed a motion for partial dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Idaho Rules of Civil Procedure requesting that the district court dismiss Raymond's tortious interference claims. ISP joined Payette County's motion for partial dismissal. In its memorandum order and decision, the district court granted Payette County's motion to dismiss both tortious interference claims. Raymond appealed only the district court's dismissal of the tortious interference with a prospective civil action claim.

         III. Issues on Appeal

1. Whether Idaho should formally adopt a new tort for intentional interference with a prospective civil action by spoliation of evidence by a third party.
2. Whether the district court erred in dismissing Raymond's tortious interference with a prospective civil action by spoliation of evidence claim.
3. Whether ISP is entitled to attorney fees and costs on appeal.

         IV. Standard of Review

         "This Court reviews de novo a district court's dismissal of a complaint under I.R.C.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim." Idaho Wool Growers Ass'n, Inc. v. State, 154 Idaho 716, 720, 302 P.3d 341, 345 (2012) (quoting Hoffer v. City of Boise, 151 Idaho 400, 402, 257 P.3d 1226, 1228 (2011)). "A 12(b)(6) motion looks only at the pleadings to determine whether a claim for relief has been stated." Hammer v. Ribi, 162 Idaho 570, 573, 401 P.3d 148, 151 (2017) (quoting Young v. City of Ketchum, 137 Idaho 102, 104, 44 P.3d 1157, 1159 (2001)). On review, this Court "determines whether the non-movant has alleged sufficient facts in support of his claim, which if true, would entitle him to relief." Id. (quoting Wool Growers, 154 Idaho at 720, 302 P.3d at 345). In doing so, this Court "draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party." Savage v. Scandit Inc., 163 Idaho 637, 640, 417 P.3d 234, 237 (2018) (quoting Hammer, 162 Idaho at 573, 401 P.3d at 151).

         V. Analysis

         A. We formally adopt the tort of intentional interference with a prospective civil action by ...


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