In interpreting the discretionary function exception to governmental liability contained in Idaho Code § 6-904(1), the rule is that a governmental entity and its employees are immune from liability for planning activities or policy formation. In applying this rule, the determination of the applicability of the discretionary function exception is a two-step process. First, one must examine the nature and quality of the challenged actions. Routine, everyday matters not requiring evaluation of broad policy factors will more likely than not be "operational." Decisions and actions which involve a consideration of the financial, political, economic and social effects of a given plan or policy will generally be "planning" and fall within the discretionary function exception. Second, the policies underlying the discretionary function exception must be considered.
Appellant landowners sought review from the District Court of the Seventh Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Jefferson County, which entered a judgment in favor of appellees, various governmental agencies, canal companies, and water users, in an action seeking damages and injunctive relief after the landowners' properties flooded.
Were the governmental agencies and flood control district immunized from liability to the landowners under I.C. § 42-1717 and I.C. § 6-904(1), respectively?
On appeal, the court affirmed the judgment, except as to the claim for inverse condemnation, on which the lower court's summary judgment order was reversed and remanded. The court held that Idaho Code § 42-1717 provided the governmental agencies with immunity because the damages had been caused by measures taken to control and regulate a dam or to protect against failure of any dam during an emergency. The flood control district had immunity under Idaho Code § 6-904 because any negligence that contributed to the flooding constituted planning and was discretionary. The landowners were entitled to pursue a claim for inverse condemnation as it related to the doctrine of public necessity. The canal companies and the water users did not breach a duty owed to the landowners to prevent the flooding. The lower court did not abuse its discretion in denying the landowners' request for an injunction because there was no breach of any duty in authorizing the watermaster to divert excess water away from a lake.