Dickinson Foods v. J.R.SimplotAnnotate this Case
In December 2016, the J.R. Simplot Company (Simplot) filed suit in Washington state relating to the dissolution of a business relationship between Simplot and two entities Simplot co-owned with Frank Tiegs (Tiegs). Dickinson Frozen Foods (DFF), also operated by Tiegs, was not named as a party in the Washington litigation; however, the complaint contained allegedly defamatory statements about DFF. In March 2017, DFF filed suit in Idaho district court alleging defamation per se against Simplot and its Food Group President Mark McKellar (McKellar), as well as the two law firms who represented Simplot in the Washington litigation: Yarmuth Wilsdon, PLLC (Yarmuth) and Thompson Coburn, LLP (Thompson). DFF also claimed breach of contract against Simplot, claiming Simplot had breached a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). Counsel for Yarmuth and Thompson made special appearances so that they could contest personal jurisdiction, and simultaneously moved for dismissal on that basis. Yarmuth, Thompson, McKellar, and Simplot also sought dismissal or partial summary judgment on the basis of the litigation privilege. The district court dismissed DFF’s claims for defamation per se against all defendants, determining the statements were protected by the litigation privilege. However, the district court declined to rule on Yarmuth and Thompson’s motions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction in light of its rulings on the merits. Later, the district court granted Simplot’s motion for summary judgment on DFF’s breach of contract claim. DFF appealed. The Idaho Supreme Court determined it lacked personal jurisdiction over Yarmuth and Thompson; the Court affirmed the district court in all other respects.