Articles Posted in Idaho Supreme Court - Civil

by
On July 11, 2013, the Idaho Department of Labor (“IDOL”) mailed an eligibility determination for unemployment benefits (the “2013 determination”) to William Wittkopf. This determination found Wittkopf underreported his wages for several weeks, which resulted in an overpayment in unemployment benefits. As a result, Wittkopf was: (1) ordered to repay the overpayment; (2) ineligible for any unemployment benefits for a fifty-two week period; and (3) assessed a civil penalty. Additionally, Wittkopf was told that he would remain ineligible for unemployment benefits until all amounts were repaid. Pursuant to Idaho Code section 72– 1368(3) the last day for Wittkopf to file a protest to the 2013 determination was July 25, 2013, which he failed to do. IDOL attempted to collect on the 2013 determination over the next year without success. Subsequently in early 2016, Wittkopf filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The debt he owed to the state of Idaho was included in his bankruptcy and was discharged by order of the Bankruptcy Court. In September 2016, Wittkopf began filing new claims for unemployment benefits with IDOL because he worked a seasonal job and was not receiving any income in the winter months. After not receiving benefits for several weeks, Wittkopf called IDOL which informed him he was ineligible for unemployment benefits because he had failed to pay back his overpayment, civil penalty, and interest he owed IDOL, even though those amounts were discharged in bankruptcy. Wittkopf mailed a letter to IDOL protesting the denial of his unemployment benefits. Wittkopf claimed in this letter that he was eligible for unemployment benefits because his bankruptcy discharged any amount he owed to IDOL. An Appeals Examiner construed Wittkopf’s 2016 letter as a protest of the 2013 determination. Two days later the Appeals Examiner issued a written decision finding there was no jurisdiction to hear Wittkopf’s protest because it was not filed within fourteen days of when it was issued on July 25, 2013, as required by Idaho Code section 72-1368. On November 3, 2016, Wittkopf appealed the Appeals Examiner’s decision to the Industrial Commission. On January 27, 2017, the Industrial Commission affirmed the Appeals Examiner’s decision. The Idaho Supreme Court determined the Industrial Commission erred in affirming the examiner without having determined first whether: (1) the bankruptcy discharge voided IDOL's 2013 determination; (2) whether the discharge operated as an injunction against any effort to collect, recover or offset the 2013 debt; and if yes, (3) why the Department's denial of current benefits on the basis of the 2013 debt wasn't a violation of the injunction. The matter was remanded back to the Industrial Commission for further proceedings. View "Wittkopf v. Idaho Dept of Labor" on Justia Law

by
Jessica Barr appealed an Idaho Industrial Commission (Commission) decision finding her ineligible for unemployment benefits and affirming the decision of an Appeals Examiner for the Idaho Department of Labor’s (IDOL) Appeals Bureau. The Commission found that Barr was discharged by her employer, Citicorp Credit Services, Inc. USA (Citicorp), for misconduct in connection with employment and determined that Barr was not eligible for benefits pursuant to Idaho Code section 72-1366(5). Barr argued that Citicorp representatives provided false information to the Appeals Examiner and her unemployment benefits should have been restored. Finding that the Commission's decision was supported by substantial and competent evidence, the Supreme Court affirmed the IDOL Appeals Examiner's decision. View "Barr v. CitiCorp Credit Svc" on Justia Law

by
In 2008, Joseph Gerdon was seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident that arose out of and in the course of his employment. He was a passenger in a vehicle being driven by a coworker, who drove off the road. The Industrial Commission awarded Gerdon benefits. Gerdon requested a hearing to determine whether he was also entitled to benefits for a compensable psychological injury. That issue was heard before a referee, who issued proposed findings of fact, conclusions of law, and a recommendation that Gerdon had failed to prove that he was entitled to additional psychological care. The Commission adopted the referee’s proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law and issued an order. Gerdon appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court. Because the Commission’s decision was based upon its constitutional right to weigh the evidence and determine the credibility of conflicting expert opinions, the Supreme Court affirmed the Commission's order. View "Gerdon v. Con Paulos, Inc." on Justia Law

by
While claimant-appellant Judith Weible was employed by Safeway, Inc., she requested time off because she had to have surgery. Safeway granted her request and agreed to hold her job until she was able to return to work, which she intended to do. She was gone for approximately six weeks. While on leave, claimant applied for unemployment benefits. She was denied because during her leave of absence she was still employed, even though she was not working. An appeals examiner upheld the denial, and the Industrial Commission upheld the appeals examiner. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the Industrial Commission. View "Weible v. Dept of Labor" on Justia Law

by
Respondent-Appellant Pneumotech, Inc. appealed the Industrial Commission's determination that its former employee, Petitioner-Appellee Angela Hopkins, was eligible for unemployment benefits. Pneumotech hired Petitioner as a bookkeeper and receptionist on July 3, 1995. She worked at Pneumotech until June 22, 2010, when her supervisor fired her. The same month, Petitioner filed a claim for unemployment benefits with the Idaho Department of Labor. At the hearing, Pneumotech presented testimony that Petitioner was discharged because: (1) for two years she had been habitually late for work; (2) she took time off without supervisor permission; (3) she took sick time off but went to the water park instead; (4) she spent time at work playing video games and talking on her cell phone; and (5) she failed to help train a new employee when asked. Petitioner denied all of these accusations, including that her supervisor had repeatedly warned her that her conduct was unacceptable. In fact, the supervisor testified that Petitioner never received a written warning or suspension, and in January 2009, she received a $2-per-hour raise. Upon review, the Supreme Court found that the Commission did not abuse its discretion or violate Pneumotech's right to procedural due process in denying the company's request for a new hearing. Furthermore, substantial and competent evidence supported the Commission's decision to uphold Petitioner's award of unemployment benefits. Accordingly, the Court affirmed. View "Hopkins v. Pneumotech, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Claimant-Appellant Dennis Current appealed the Idaho Industrial Commission's denial of his unemployment benefits. Claimant argued that the Commission erred in finding he willfully made a false statement, and in failing to call one of his witnesses. The Department of Labor argued the Commission's findings were supported by substantial and competent evidence. The Supreme Court found that there was indeed substantial and competent evidence to support the Commission's findings that Claimant willfully made a false statement. The Court also found that the hearing officer did not abuse her discretion in finding that one of Claimant's witnesses would not provide relevant testimony. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the Commission's decision. View "Current v. Haddons Fencing, Inc. " on Justia Law

by
Claimant-Appellant William Rigoli appealed an Industrial Commission's decision that found him ineligible for unemployment benefits because he was discharged for misconduct in connection with his employment. Claimant worked as a toy department manager for Respondent Wal-Mart, and was fired for using foul language and leaving before his assigned shift was completed. Initially, Claimant was determined by the Department of Labor to be eligible for unemployment benefits, but his employer appealed his eligibility. The Department ultimately concluded that Claimant was ineligible, and he appealed to the Industrial Commission. The Commission upheld the Department's conclusion and denied benefits. Upon review, the Supreme Court found that there was substantial and competent evidence the Commission relied upon to conclude that Claimant was discharged for employment-related misconduct, and, therefore, was ineligible for unemployment benefits. View "Rigoli v. Wal-Mart Associates, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Claimant David Tarbet worked for Employer J.R. Simplot Company for thirty-six years until an accident in 2007 left him totally and permanently disabled. The issue before the Industrial Commission (Commission) was whether Employer was liable for all or only a part of Claimant’s income benefits. If Claimant’s total disability resulted solely from the last accident, Employer would be liable for all of the income benefits. If his total disability resulted from the combined effects of both that injury and impairments that pre-existed that injury, then Employer was liable only for that portion of the income benefits for the disability caused by the accident, and the Industrial Special Indemnity Fund (ISIF) would be liable for the remainder. The Industrial Commission found that the April 2007 accident was Claimant’s final industrial accident, that he was totally and permanently disabled as a result of the final accident, and that the impairments that existed prior to that accident did not contribute to his total disability. It found that ISIF was not liable for Claimant’s benefits and dismissed the complaint against it. Employer then appealed. Upon review of the Commission's record, the Supreme Court affirmed the Industrial Commission's order. View "Tarbet v. J.R. Simplot Co. " on Justia Law

by
Petitioner Shanna Locker appealed the Industrial Commission’s (Commission) finding that she was insubordinate when she failed to provide a medical release at the request of her employer, Logan’s Foodtown. The Commission found that this constituted employment-related misconduct which rendered Petitioner ineligible for unemployment insurance benefits. Upon review of the record before the Commission, the Supreme Court affirmed the Commission's decision. View "Locker v. How Soel, Inc " on Justia Law

by
Appellant Lesia Knowlton appealed the Industrial Commission's determination that she was not entitled to workers' compensation benefits. Appellant was employed as a secretary at Respondent Wood River Medical Center. In 2000, Appellant was working at her assigned station when a drain in a nearby patient's bathroom became clogged. One of the maintenance workers used a chemical cleaner to clear the drain. The chemical produced a foul odor. Workers placed fans at the doorway of the room for ventilation. The air blew past Appellant's station from morning until her shift ended in the afternoon. That night, Appellant developed a cough and body aches. Her symptoms persisted, allegedly from exposure to the chemical drain cleaner. Over the course of five years, Appellant visited multiple doctors and specialists to treat her "bronchitis-like" symptoms. Appellant filed a complaint with the Industrial Commission seeking reimbursement for her medical expenses and for temporary total disability benefits. At a Commission hearing, the referee ultimately concluded that Appellant failed to demonstrate that her medical symptoms were causally related to the chemical exposure. Although the referee determined that Appellant was not entitled to "time loss" benefits or any form of disability benefits, he did find that because the medical treatment Appellant received during the six weeks following the incident was a "reasonable precautionary step" taken in response to the exposure, she was entitled to compensation for those expenses. The Commission adopted the referee's findings of fact and conclusions of law. The Commission denied Appellant's motion for reconsideration. Subsequently Appellant appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court agreed that Appellant failed to demonstrate her medical symptoms were related to the chemical exposure. Accordingly the Court affirmed the Commission's determination.