Newell v. Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company of Idaho et al
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER. IT IS ORDERED: Newell's Motion to Amend/Correct Complaint (Dkt. 37 ) is GRANTED. Newell will have 7 days from the date of this order file his Amended Complaint as outlined in Dkt. 37. Signed by Judge David C. Nye. (km)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF IDAHO
Case No. 1:17-cv-00277-DCN
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND
FARM BUREAU MUTUAL
INSURANCE COMPANY OF IDAHO,
an Idaho corporation; IDAHO FARM
BUREAU FEDERATION, INC., an
Idaho corporation; and, FARM BUREAU
LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, an
Plaintiff Mike Newell seeks leave of the Court to add a claim to his Complaint for
negligent infliction of emotional distress. Defendants oppose the proposed amendment.
Having reviewed the record and briefs, the Court finds that the facts and legal arguments
are adequately presented. Accordingly, in the interest of avoiding further delay, and
because the Court finds that the decisional process would not be significantly aided by
oral argument, the Court will decide the motion without oral argument. Dist. Idaho Loc.
Civ. R. 7.1(d)(2)(ii). For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS the Motion.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER - 1
On December 22, 2016, 1 Newell filed suit in State Court. On June 28, 2017,
Defendant Farm Bureau removed the case to this Court. On November 10, 2017, Newell
filed a Motion for Extension of Time to Amend Complaint. Dkt. 34. None of the
Defendants opposed the Motion and the Court granted the same on December 5, 2017.
Dkt. 36. The Court’s order gave Newell until January 12, 2018, to file any motion
regarding amendment. Id.
On January 12, 2018, Newell filed the instant Motion to Amend, seeking to add a
claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress2 against Farm Bureau and the
III. LEGAL STANDARD
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) states that leave to amend “shall be freely
given when justice so requires.” Leave to amend lies within the sound discretion of the
trial court, which “must be guided by the underlying purpose of Rule 15 to facilitate
decisions on the merits, rather than on the pleadings or technicalities.” United States v.
Webb, 655 F.2d 977, 979 (9th Cir. 1981). The Rule 15 “policy is ‘to be applied with
Although it has no impact on this Motion, the Court notes that in its prior decision (Dkt. 36) it
erroneously stated in the background paragraph and in footnote 4 that Newell filed suit on June
28, 2017. Newell filed suit on December 22, 2016, and Defendants removed the action on June
It seems there was some initial confusion regarding whether the claim was for negligent or
intentional infliction of emotional distress. Newell clarified in his reply brief (Dkt. 43) that the
claim he seeks to add is one for negligent infliction of emotional distress.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER - 2
extreme liberality.’” Eminence Capital, LLC v. Aspeon, Inc., 316 F.3d 1048, 1051 (9th
Cir. 2003) (citation omitted). “A district court, however, may in its discretion deny leave
to amend due to undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant,
repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice
to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, [and] futility of
amendment.” Zucco Partners, LLC v. Digimarc Corp., 552 F.3d 981, 1007 (9th Cir.
2009), as amended (Feb. 10, 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The
party opposing amendment bears the burden of showing why the Court should not grant
leave to amend. See DCD Programs, Ltd. v. Leighton, 833 F.2d 183, 187 (9th Cir. 1987).
In this case, Defendants oppose Newell’s Motion only on the grounds that
amendment would be futile. “An amendment is futile when ‘no set of facts can be proved
under the amendment to the pleadings that would constitute a valid and sufficient claim
or defense.’” Missouri ex rel. Koster v. Harris, 847 F.3d 646, 656 (9th Cir. 2017)
(quoting Miller v. Rykoff–Sexton, Inc., 845 F.2d 209, 214 (9th Cir. 1988)). “When a
motion to amend is opposed on the grounds that amendment would be futile, the standard
of review in considering the motion is akin to that undertaken by a court in determining
the sufficiency of a complaint which is challenged for failure to state a claim under the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 12(b)(6).” Arbon Valley Solar LLC v. Thomas &
Betts Corp., No. 4:16-cv-00070-DCN, 2017 WL 5613009 (D. Idaho Nov. 21, 2017)
(quoting Doe v. Nevada, 356 F. Supp. 2d 1123, 1125 (D. Nev. 2004)).
“A Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal may be based on either a ‘lack of a cognizable legal
theory’ or ‘the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory.’”
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER - 3
Johnson v. Riverside Healthcare Sys., LP, 534 F.3d 1116, 1121 (9th Cir. 2008) (citation
omitted). “[I]n considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court must view the “complaint
in the light most favorable to” the claimant and “accept all well-pleaded factual
allegations as true, as well as any reasonable inference drawn from them.” Id. at 1122.
In Farm Bureau’s opposition to this Motion, which the other two Defendants
subsequently joined, it asserts that Newell’s proposed amendment is futile because (1)
Idaho law does not allow negligence infliction of emotional distress claims in an at-will
employment circumstance such as this, and (2) Newell has not put forth any evidence to
support a negligence infliction claim. As Farm Bureau bears the burden of showing why
the Court should not grant leave to amend, the Court will address each argument in turn.
A. Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress Claims under State Law
Negligent infliction of emotional distress requires a showing of “(1) a legally
recognized duty, (2) a breach of that duty, (3) a causal connection between the
defendant’s conduct and the breach, and (4) actual loss or damage.” Bollinger v. Fall
River Rural Elec. Co-op., Inc., 272 P.3d 1263, 1273 (Idaho 2012). Additionally, the
plaintiff must demonstrate a physical manifestation of the alleged emotional injury. Black
Canyon Racquetball Club, Inc. v. Idaho First Nat’l Bank, 804 P.2d 900, 906 (Idaho
In the employer/employee context, an employer does not breach a legal duty to an
at-will employee simply by terminating him without cause. See Sorensen v. St. Alphonsus
Reg’l Med. Ctr., 118 P.3d 86 (Idaho 2005). In other words, unless the employer breached
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER - 4
an independent legal duty, a negligent infliction claim cannot stem simply from an
employer firing an employee. See Wright v. Ada Cty., 376 P.3d 58, 68 (Idaho 2016);
Hatheway v. Bd. of Regents of Univ. of Idaho, 310 P.3d 315, 330 (Idaho 2013).
In his original Complaint (Dkt. 1-2), Newell alleges five causes of action. Four of
the claims deal with contracts and contract provisions that cannot independently give rise
to a negligent infliction tort claim. In Aardema v. U.S. Dairy Sys., Inc., the Idaho
Supreme Court held:
Negligence and breach of contract are two distinct theories of recovery.
Ordinarily, breach of contract is not a tort, although a contract may create the
circumstances for the commission of a tort. . . . A tort requires the wrongful
invasion of an interest protected by the law, not merely an invasion of an
interest created by the agreement of the parties.
215 P.3d 505, 510 (2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Newell’s first
cause of action, however, is “Religious Discrimination in Violation of Title VII and the
IRHA.” Dkt. 1-2, at 10. Title VII and the Idaho Human Rights Act impose numerous
legal duties on employers to act in certain ways. 3 Violation of these independent legal
duties could give rise to a negligent infliction claim and is the “anchor” Newell must use.
At the pleading stage, utilizing a 12(b)(6) standard, the Court must take Newell’s
factual allegations as true. Newell alleges that Farm Bureau violated legal duties under
Title VII and IHRA; therefore, Newell can add a negligent infliction claim to the suit
under Idaho law even though he was an at-will employee.
“The IHRA does create certain duties for employers, the violation of which could form the
basis of a negligent infliction of emotional distress claim.”Hatheway, 310 P.3d at 330.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER - 5
B. Sufficient evidence
Second, Farm Bureau claims that Newell’s amendment would be futile because he
cannot produce any evidence to support his claim. The Court understands Farm Bureau’s
argument, but it is premature. As just noted, at the pleading stage of a case, the standards
are lower and Newell only needs to allege facts—not produce evidence—in support of
his claims. Evidence will become more relevant down the road as Newell must defend
this claim against dispositive motions or at trial; but for now all that Newell needs is a
simple, plain statement.
As an aside, there appears to be some confusion regarding what, if anything,
Newell has produced in support of this claim. Newell implies in his reply brief (Dkt. 43,
at 3-4) that around the same time as Defendants responded to the instant Motion, Newell
produced some medical records and other documents in support of his negligent infliction
claim. The Court does not know if these documents remedy Defendants’ concerns, but
even assuming arguendo that Newell has not produced anything to date, Newell did not
need to. In his original Complaint, Newell alleged that he has suffered, among other
things, “mental anguish, and emotional and physical distress,” (Dkt. 1-2, at 11) due to
Defendants’ conduct. These allegations are adequate to support a negligent infliction
claim and were sufficient to put Defendants on notice of potential “distress” related
claims. No further evidence is required at this stage.
Upon review, Defendants have not met their burden of establishing that
amendment would be futile. Accordingly, the Court will GRANT Newell’s Motion to
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER - 6
Amend/Correct in order to add a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress
stemming from violations of Title VII and the Idaho Human Rights Act.4
IT IS ORDERED:
Newell’s Motion to Amend/Correct Complaint (Dkt. 37) is GRANTED.
Newell will have 7 days from the date of this order to file his Amended
Complaint as outlined in Dkt. 37.5
DATED: April 16, 2018
David C. Nye
U.S. District Court Judge
This will require Newell to alter his Amended Complaint to remove references to contracts
violations which cannot be the basis for his negligent infliction claim (portions of proposed
As Newell noted in his reply brief, he needs to correct some typos—namely the word
“intentional” that was erroneously used instead of “negligent.” The Court will allow Newell to
correct any typos, and the language in paragraph 76, but otherwise, he shall file the Amended
Complaint as proposed in Dkt. 37-1, “Exhibit A.”
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER - 7
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