Smith v. Treasure Valley Seed Co.Annotate this Case
Vernon K. Smith (Smith) appealed a district court’s award of sanctions. This case originally arose from a contract for the sale of lima beans between Victoria Smith (“Victoria”) and Treasure Valley Seed Company (“TVSC”). As Victoria’s son, Smith filed a complaint against TVSC for breach of contract. The original complaint named Victoria as plaintiff, by and through her attorney in fact, Vernon K. Smith, by and through his “Durable and Irrevocable Power of Attorney.” TVSC learned that Victoria had died three months before Smith’s filing of the complaint. Based on Victoria’s death, TVSC moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that there was no longer a real party in interest. Smith argued that he was a real party in interest because the power of attorney he drafted was irrevocable. The district court held that Smith’s power of attorney terminated on Victoria’s death and granted TVSC’s motion to dismiss. At the hearing for costs and fees, the district court stated that Victoria’s estate should have brought the action, but because no probate had been filed, there was no real party in interest able to substitute or join. After ruling that the complaint was unreasonable and without foundation, the district court awarded attorney fees to TVSC under Idaho Code section 12-121, to be assessed jointly and severally against Victoria and Smith, as counsel. Smith appealed both the dismissal of the case and the award of attorney fees, but his appeal of the dismissal was not filed timely, so the Idaho Supreme Court only addressed Smith’s appeal of the attorney fees. The Idaho Supreme Court concurred with the district court with respect to termination of the power of attorney. Smith maintained the power of attorney gave him authority to sue on his mother's behalf, and upon remand of the case to the district court to determine the appropriate amount of fees to be assessed, the trial court awarded fees as a sanction under Rule of Civil Procedure 11. The Supreme Court declined of offer Smith "an opportunity for a mulligan" on his arguments about the power of attorney, and found the district court did not abuse its discretion when it awarded attorney fees, or levied sanctions against Smith.