Civil Rights Claims under the Fair Housing Act Are Within The Scope of A Policy Exclusion for Claims Arising Out of “Land Use Regulation”

Case:
County of Boise v. Idaho Counties Risk Management Program, Docket No. 37861
Court:
Idaho Supreme Court
Date Issued:   
November 30, 2011
Justices:
Opinion Author:  J. Jones, Justice
Concurring in Opinion:  Burdick, Chief Justice; Eismann, Justice; W. Jones, Justice; and Horton, Justice
Issue:
Are civil rights claims under the Fair Housing Act within the scope of a policy exclusion for claims arising out of “land use regulation”?
Summary of Ruling:
The County of Boise filed suit against Idaho Counties Risk Management Program (“ICRMP”), seeking a declaratory ruling that ICRMP had a duty to defend it in a federal court case asserted by Alamar Ranch LLC.  In the federal case, Alamar asserted that the County of Boise violated the Fair Housing Act when the county’s Zoning and Planning Commission denied Alamar’s request for a Conditional Use Permit and when, on appeal, the Boise County Board of Commissioners reversed the denial but imposed conditions on Alamar’s use of the property.  The district court granted summary judgment to ICRMP, holding that it had no duty to defend the County in the federal case.  The County appealed. 

The parties agreed that the ICRMP had a duty to defend if the County was “sued for a covered claim” and that, unless an exclusion applied, Alamar’s claims were covered by the Errors and Omissions Insuring Agreement.  Therefore, the Court turned to the issue of whether an exclusion applied.

ICRMP cited the policy’s exclusion of “any claim of liability arising out of or in any way connected with . . . land use regulation or planning and zoning activities or proceedings, however characterized, whether such liability accrues directly against you or by virtue of any agreement entered into by or on your behalf . . .”

The County argued that this exclusion could not be read so broadly as to exclude civil rights claims, such as those asserted by Alamar.  In response, ICRMP pointed to the broad language of the exclusion.  The Court agreed with ICRMP because “Alamar’s complaint could not more obviously allege ‘liability arising out of or . . . connected with . . . land use regulation or planning or zoning.’” 

Therefore, ICRMP did not have a duty to defend the County in the federal case, and the Court affirmed the judgment of the district court.
Link to Opinion:   
County of Boise     
Link to Court:
http://www.isc.idaho.gov
Arguing Attorneys:
For Appellant:
Brassey, Wetherell & Crawford, LLP
Robert T. Wetherell Argued.
For Respondents:
Anderson, Julian & Hull
Phillip J. Collaer Argued.
Summary Author:
Wendy Gerwick Couture

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