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Powers Tolman Farley, PLLC has been named a “Best Law Firm” by U.S News – Best Lawyers

Firms included in the 2017 "Best Law Firms” list are recognized for professional excellence with persistently impressive ratings from clients and peers. The editors of the publication indicate that achieving a ranking signals a unique combination of quality law practice and breadth of legal expertise.

Best Lawyers is the oldest and most respected peer-review publication in the legal profession. A listing in Best Lawyers is widely regarded by both clients and legal professionals as a significant honor, conferred on a lawyer by his or her peers. For more than three decades, Best Lawyers lists have earned the respect of the profession, the media, and the public, as the most reliable, unbiased source of legal referrals anywhere.

Nicole Cannon and Steven Tolman obtained a defense verdict in a wrongful death case based upon a medical malpractice claim. Ms. Cannon and Mr. Tolman represented an emergency physician and a large emergency physicians’ group. Plaintiffs alleged the defendant physician failed to properly communicate his concerns regarding the decedent’s condition and failed to specify the expected timing of follow-up with a specialist. Prior to trial, Ms. Cannon obtained a summary judgment on behalf of the defendant physician’s group, dismissing the claim of direct negligence against it. Ms. Cannon also obtained favorable rulings on a number of evidentiary issues which precluded plaintiffs’ attempt to use state regulations, administrative requirements, and hospital policies in an attempt to establish a breach of the community standard of health care practice, as well as preventing plaintiffs from utilizing one of the defendant’s expert witnesses in their case in chief.
Ray Powers recently defended an insured in a jury trial on the issues of liability and damages related to a motor vehicle accident. In a case of admitted liability by the defendant, the jury assessed 25 percent negligence to the plaintiff for being distracted through the use of her cell phone at the time of the accident and not being able to avoid the accident, which was caused by the defendant's negligent lane change maneuver on the interstate. The plaintiff offered to settle the matter for approximately $100,000.00 prior to trial. Mr. Powers was successful in limiting the damage award. Significantly, the jury flat out rejected the testimony of the plaintiff's treating surgeon that her spine surgery was necessitated by the accident. The jury returned a verdict on April 18, 2014, awarding the plaintiff approximately $7,000.00 in economic damages and $0 in non-economic damages, which was well under plaintiff's final pre-trial settlement offer, as well as less than the pre-trial offer made by the defense.
Steven K. Tolman and Nicole L. Cannon obtained a directed verdict for the defense in a medical malpractice case in Ada County March 24, 2014. The case involved complex medical issues, including a suspected carotid dissection in a 15 year old girl who subsequently suffered several severe strokes. Prior to trial, Ms. Cannon argued and prevailed on a number of motions asking the court to limit or prohibit testimony from treating physicians as to causation. Ms. Cannon also succeeded in the court granting motions to limit plaintiffs’ expert witnesses’ testimony regarding causation to rebuttal testimony only. Following two weeks of trial, at the conclusion of plaintiffs’ case in chief, the defense argued plaintiffs failed to present any substantive evidence regarding causation, and presented no expert witness testimony regarding causation, upon which a jury could reasonably find the defendant physician liable for damages. The court agreed and entered a directed verdict in favor of the defendant and dismissed the case. Prior to trial, plaintiffs’ settlement demand was $1.85 million.
Mark Orler recently defended an insured in a jury trial on the sole issue of plaintiff’s damages. The plaintiff offered to settle the matter for $70,000.00 prior to trial. Mr. Orler was successful in limiting the damage award. The jury returned a verdict on August 8, 2013, awarding the plaintiff only $4,400.00, which was significantly under plaintiff's settlement offer, as well as less than the pre-trial offer made by the defense.
Defending the owners of a bed and breakfast in northern Idaho against premises liability and architect/builder malpractice claims, James S. Thomson, II, and Joyce A. Hemmer, obtained favorable decisions on a number of motions that significantly limited the claims the plaintiffs could present at trial and influenced them to settle the case. The husband and wife plaintiffs, who were represented by a Seattle firm, claimed that the wife slipped and injured her foot while exiting a hot tub at the bed and breakfast. She claimed more than $1 million in lost wages and medical expenses, alleging that her foot injury caused her to develop Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, a.k.a. Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, and that she was totally disabled. Steps were provided for the hot tub, but the wife did not use them. She claimed that she did not see the steps, and the basis of the plaintiffs’ lawsuit was that the steps should have been more conspicuous, i.e., if she had seen the steps, then she would have used them and avoided injury. In granting all of the relief requested by the defendants’ motions, the Court ruled that the plaintiffs’ architect expert would not be permitted to testify at trial, ruled that certain testimony of the plaintiffs’ human factors expert would not be permitted at trial, dismissed the plaintiffs’ negligence per se claim that was based upon an alleged violation of the International Building Code, and dismissed the plaintiffs’ professional malpractice claims against one of the owners, who was an architect and had designed and constructed the hot tub area. The Court also limited the plaintiffs’ claim of willful/reckless misconduct, significantly reducing the likelihood that they could recover noneconomic damages above the amount of the statutory cap.
Summary judgment was awarded to a defendant physician in a medical malpractice action involving a patient’s claim that the physician was negligent in performing a bilateral tubal ligation, which resulted in the birth of an unwanted child. The plaintiffs also claimed that the physician had breached an alleged contract with the patient in the alleged failure to perform the ligation procedure. The trial court ruled in the physician’s favor that plaintiffs’ negligence claim was barred by the statute of limitations and that the law does not recognize there to be a contractual relationship between patient and physician. Portia Rauer argued the matter before the trial court; Joyce Hemmer assisted with the briefing.

Portia Rauer successfully represented a physician in defending his credentials before a major health insurance company. The credentialing committee of the health insurance company determined that the physician’s preferred provider contract should be terminated on the grounds that the physician no longer complied with its credentialing requirements. Ms. Rauer argued on the physician’s behalf before the insurance company’s appeal panel, which overturned the prior determination. The physician’s contract was not terminated and he retained his preferred provider status.

Ray Powers recently defended an insured in a jury trial on the sole issue of plaintiff’s damages. The plaintiff alleged past medical expenses, past wage loss, and general damages of $135,000.00. Mr. Powers was successful in limiting the damage award. The jury returned a verdict on July 20, 2011, awarding only the plaintiff’s past medical expenses of $7,046.19, which was significantly under the original offer by the defense.

On July 11, 2011, the Idaho Supreme Court issued its ruling in Nightengale v. Timmel. Steve Tolman represented the defendant emergency medicine physician and was successful in obtaining a defense verdict. On appeal, the plaintiff’s attorney asked for a new trial, arguing that the orthopedic surgeon who subsequently cared for the patient, but not a party to the case, should be compelled to testify regarding certain letters he authored about investigating patient care issues. The plaintiff's attorney had also unsuccessfully attempted to admit the letters into evidence at trial. Ray Powers, representing the orthopedic surgeon at his deposition, objected to any questioning regarding the letters based upon the protection afforded under Idaho Code §39 1392b – the peer review privilege statute. Steve Tolman successfully argued at trial against admissions of the actual letters, again claiming protection under Idaho’s peer review privilege statute. On appeal, Jennifer Brizee, a partner at Powers Tolman Farley, argued that the peer review statutes applied and should be embraced. The Idaho Supreme Court rejected the plaintiff’s appeal and upheld the defense verdict in favor of the physician. In doing so, the Court reiterated prior rulings that in medical malpractice actions, Idaho’s peer review statutes preclude disclosure of peer review information generated in an effort to improve quality of care. Idaho’s peer review statutes have always provided this protection to physicians and hospitals in medical malpractice actions. The Supreme Court’s decision in Timmel reaffirms that protection. Powers Tolman Farley continues to be an advocate for the protections offered physicians by Idaho’s longstanding peer review statutes.
Defending against construction defect claims totaling $3.1 million, Jim Thomson and Joyce Hemmer obtained a binding arbitration decision that the claimant take nothing by way of its claims against the general contractor. After a seven-day hearing, a three-arbitrator panel issued its decision on April 4, 2011, finding the claimant failed to show the contractor’s work was defective or materially breached the contract. Six years after completion of an apartment complex, the claimant alleged defects including faulty construction of a mechanically stabilized earth retaining wall, improper stucco and masonry application, insufficient attic venting, improper window installation, framing deficiencies and inadequate site drainage. Mr. Thomson and Ms. Hemmer presented evidence showing the work complied with the contract and the designers’ instructions. Where details for the manner of construction were lacking in the plans, construction was completed in a workmanlike manner and conformed to local practices. Additionally, many of the alleged defects were the result of design defects, and were not the contractor’s responsibility. Agreeing with Mr. Thomson and Ms. Hemmer’s interpretation of the parties’ AIA contract (AIA Document A201-1997), the arbitrators found the contractor was entitled to rely upon approval of the work by the claimant’s representatives, including the architect and engineers. Even if a condition was not expressly approved, general inspections and certifications without comment or reservation could be considered to determine whether the work met the claimant’s expectations. Also, the contract provided it was the designers’ job to interpret and apply the building code in the plans; the contractor had no duty to ensure the design met code. The panel further found that if the alleged defect was not material and caused no damage or adverse consequence to the object of the contract, there was no breach by the contractor.
On March 22, 2011, Jim Thomson and Mark Orler obtained a favorable decision from the Idaho Supreme Court in Farm Bureau Mut. Ins. Co. of Idaho v. Schrock, No. 45 (filed Mar. 22, 2011). The Schrock decision establishes new law in Idaho on two important issues. First, the Court held that Idaho Code § 49-2417(2) (imputing liability to the owner of a vehicle being operated with the owner’s permission to the extent of the amounts set forth under Idaho Code § 49-117 ($25,000/$50,000) or the limits of the liability insurance maintained by the owner, whichever is greater) does not extend to supplemental liability policies like umbrella policies, but, rather, is limited to primary motor vehicle policies. The Supreme Court also held that an umbrella policy can lawfully exclude household members from coverage. In doing so, the Court declined to extend its decision in Farmers Ins. Group v. Reed, 109 Idaho 849, 712 P.2d 550 (1985) (effectively invalidating household exclusions in automobile policies) to mandate coverage for household members in umbrella policies, reasoning that the Idaho Legislature had not identified a clear policy requiring coverage for all household members in an insured’s umbrella policy.