The Law School Authority

Marty v. State of Idaho Case Brief

Summary of Marty v. State of Idaho (1989) Pg. 743, 786 P.2d. 524 (Idaho 1989)

Parties:                         Appellant – Plaintiff – Marty (Landowners)

Appellee – Defendant – State of Idaho


Court:                           Court of Appeals, Idaho (1989)


Facts:                           1. On 6/3/83, local government officials declared area surrounding Mud Lake to be a flood emergency and requested  assistance from the Idaho governor.

2. On 6/6/83, the governor of Idaho declared the Mud Lake area a state of extreme emergency due to the fact that excessive run-off from Spring rains weakened dikes that protected Mud Lake from flooding low-lying farmlands. If the dikes broke, it could endanger many lives.

3. Many government agencies including the Army Corp of Engineers came in to resolve the problem. Their actions resulted in the flooding of the Landowners property.

4. The Landowners filed a suit seeking damages and injunctive relief against the government of Idaho on the theories of trespass and other charges.


Posture:                        TC granted summary judgment request by Idaho in favor of Idaho on the grounds that Idaho statutes trumps actions and decisions based upon theories of the landowners.

Issue:                            Is a government trespass immune from liability for damages to property from the trespass to an individual’s property if the trespass and actions during the trespass was performed for the greater good?


Judgment:                     Ct of Appeals reverses TC’s granting of Idaho’s motion for summary judgment and remands case back to TC to decide whether the immunity Idaho seeks is legitimate by “acting under a declaration by proper authority” and during the period that a state of emergency was enacted by the governor of Idaho.

Holding:                        Court held that Idaho’s State Disaster Preparedness Act trumps common law doctrine of public necessity, and the Act grants Idaho immunity from damages to private property conducive to the Act.


If the government took action during the period that the state of emergency had taken place (30 days starting 6/14/84), then the government can declare immunity.


Relevant Rule:               In cases of public necessity, a government can be immune from damages to a landowner’s property during trespass if the government’s actions were performed for the greater good (imminent public disaster). (Restatement of Second Torts §196).

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