258 P.3d 340 (Idaho 2011), 36861, Allied Bail Bonds, Inc. v. County of Kootenai

Docket Nº:36861.
Citation:258 P.3d 340, 151 Idaho 405
Opinion Judge:HORTON, Justice.
Party Name:ALLIED BAIL BONDS, INC., an Idaho corporation, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. COUNTY OF KOOTENAI, a political subdivision of the State of Idaho, Rocky Watson, Kootenai County Sheriff, John and Jane Does 1 through 13, Defendants-Respondents.
Attorney:Bistline Law, PLLC, Coeur d'Alene, for appellant. Drake D. Mesenbrink argued. Kootenai County Prosecutor's Office, Coeur d'Alene, for respondents. Darrin L. Murphey argued.
Judge Panel:Chief Justice EISMANN and Justices BURDICK, J. JONES and W. JONES concur.
Case Date:July 08, 2011
Court:Supreme Court of Idaho
 
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258 P.3d 340 (Idaho 2011)

151 Idaho 405

ALLIED BAIL BONDS, INC., an Idaho corporation, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

COUNTY OF KOOTENAI, a political subdivision of the State of Idaho, Rocky Watson, Kootenai County Sheriff, John and Jane Does 1 through 13, Defendants-Respondents.

No. 36861.

Supreme Court of Idaho, Coeur d'Alene

July 8, 2011

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[151 Idaho 408] Bistline Law, PLLC, Coeur d'Alene, for appellant. Drake D. Mesenbrink argued.

Kootenai County Prosecutor's Office, Coeur d'Alene, for respondents. Darrin L. Murphey argued.

HORTON, Justice.

In April, 2001, Allied Bail Bonds, Inc. (Allied), the Kootenai County Sheriff (Sheriff), and the Kootenai County Board of Commissioners (Board) entered into a settlement agreement setting forth procedures for how inmates at the county jail would be informed of and obtain bail bonds. Allied brought this suit alleging several claims, including breach of the settlement agreement. The district court dismissed Allied's claims. We affirm.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

In September 2000, Allied brought suit against the Sheriff and Kootenai County, alleging that the Sheriff's practices interfered with its business. On April 19, 2001, Allied, the Sheriff, and the Board entered into a settlement agreement. The agreement outlined the process by which the Sheriff was required to inform inmates of their bail bond options. On October 9, 2007, Allied filed the instant action, alleging the Sheriff and the Board had breached the settlement agreement, failed to produce documents pursuant to a request for public records, and interfered with Allied's ability to engage in its bail bonds business.

The following day, October 10, 2007, Allied filed a $700 surety bond with one surety in relation to its suit against the Sheriff. As an affirmative defense, the Sheriff asserted that Allied had " failed to comply with the bond requirement set forth in Idaho Code § 6-610." The district court heard argument on the bond issue and ordered Allied to file a $25,000 bond with two sureties. Allied filed a $25,000 bond with one surety. The defendants objected that " Allied's filing of a bond with the court after the complaint was filed is untimely and therefore does not satisfy the requirements of Idaho Code § 6-610. Additionally, the power of attorney filed by Allied does not satisfy the undertaking requirements required by the statute, in that the power of attorney has an expiration date and the court has not received adequate surety." The district court held that because Allied failed to post a bond contemporaneously with its complaint against the Sheriff and because Allied failed to file an undertaking of two sureties, application of I.C. § 6-610 required dismissal of the action.

Allied filed a second amended complaint on December 9, 2008. The second amended complaint contained additional allegations that, by encouraging the use of credit card bond payments, the Sheriff had violated article VIII, section 4 of the Idaho Constitution. Allied also alleged that I.C. §§ 19-3947 and 31-878, statutes authorizing county commissioners to supervise adult misdemeanor probation, violated Article X, Section 5 of the Idaho Constitution.

The defendants filed a motion to dismiss Allied's claims. The defendants argued that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over Allied's tort claims because Allied had not complied with the notice requirements of the Idaho Tort Claims Act (ITCA), I.C. §§ 6-901 through 6-929. They also argued that Allied's complaint failed to state a claim under the public records request statutes and that the settlement agreement was void and unenforceable. The defendants asserted that Allied lacked standing to challenge I.C. §§ 19-3947 and 31-878, and that those statutes were constitutional. Further, the defendants argued that Allied did not have a protected property interest in its bail bond business.

The district court dismissed Allied's claims, and entered judgment dismissing Allied's second amended complaint on March 9,

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[151 Idaho 409] 2009. The court later found the defendants were the prevailing parties and awarded them attorney fees pursuant to the settlement agreement. The court held that even if the settlement agreement was unenforceable, it entitled the defendants to attorney fees. Although the Sheriff and the Board had advanced statutory bases for an award of attorney fees, the court did not address the statutory claims based upon its determination that the settlement agreement provided for fees.

Allied timely appealed the district court's final judgment.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

This Court exercises free review over questions of law, including jurisdictional and constitutional issues. Meisner v. Potlatch Corp., 131 Idaho 258, 260, 954 P.2d 676, 678 (1998). Whether a contract violates public policy is a question of law. Bakker v. Thunder Spring-Wareham, LLC, 141 Idaho 185, 189, 108 P.3d 332, 336 (2005).

On review of a district court's I.R.C.P. 12(b)(6) dismissal, this Court views all inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Orthman v. Idaho Power Co., 126 Idaho 960, 962, 895 P.2d 561, 563 (1995). When considering a 12(b)(6) motion, we look only to the pleadings to determine whether a claim for relief has been stated. Young v. City of Ketchum, 137 Idaho 102, 104, 44 P.3d 1157, 1159 (2002). The issue is not whether the plaintiff will ultimately prevail, but whether the party is entitled to offer evidence to support the claim. Orthman, 126 Idaho at 962, 895 P.2d at 563 (citations omitted).

III. ANALYSIS

A. Allied waived its challenge to the constitutionality of I.C. §§ 19-3947 and 31-878.

At oral argument, Allied expressly waived its argument that I.C. §§ 19-3947 and 31-878, which vest power to manage adult misdemeanor probation in county commissioners, are unconstitutional because article X, section 5 of the Idaho Constitution vests all power to manage matters of adult probation and parole solely in the State Board of Correction. We therefore decline to address the issue.

B. The district court properly dismissed Allied's article VIII, section 4 claim for lack of timely notice of the claim.

Allied asserts that the Sheriff granted preferential treatment to credit card providers and thereby violated Idaho Constitution article VIII, section 4. Allied contends that the Sheriff's conduct gives rise to a cause of action for tortious interference with a business relationship, as well as a constitutional cause of action under article VIII, section 4. It is undisputed that Allied failed to provide timely notice of its claims against the Board and the Sheriff as required by the ITCA, and is therefore barred from pursuing tort claims against the respondents. However, Allied argues that its claim under article VIII, section 4 is a claim arising under the Idaho Constitution, and is thus excluded from the requirements of the ITCA.1 The Sheriff responds that the ITCA applies to all claims for money damages arising out of a wrongful government act, including Allied's claim. The district court held that tortious interference

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[151 Idaho 410] with a business relationship was the gravamen of Allied's claim under article VIII, section 4, and that the court therefore lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the claim.

Under the ITCA, government entities are liable for money damages arising out of most of their own, or their employees', " negligent or otherwise wrongful act[s] or omission[s]." I.C. §§ 6-902(7) & -903(a). The ITCA mandates that if a claimant does not provide the government with timely notice of its claim, it loses the right to assert the claim. I.C. § 6-908. Timely and adequate notice under the ITCA " is a mandatory condition precedent to bringing suit, the failure of which is fatal to a claim, no matter how legitimate." McQuillen, 113 Idaho at 722, 747 P.2d at 744.

Allied contends that article VIII, section 4 of the Idaho Constitution gives rise to a...

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