Justia Iowa Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals modifying a dissolution decree to award a payee spouse seven years of transitional spousal support, holding that, under the circumstances, the court of appeals erred in modifying the decree to award transitional spousal support.Rachael and David Sokol married in 2002 and had two children. In 2019, Rachael petitioned for dissolution of the marriage. As to spousal support, the district court ordered Rachael to pay David $3,000 per month in rehabilitative spousal support for four years. After the district court entered its decree David appealed, arguing, as relevant to this appeal, that the length of the marriage warranted traditional, rather than rehabilitative, spousal support. As to spousal support, the court of appeals modified David's award from rehabilitative support at $3,000 per month for four years to transitional support at $5,000 per month for seven years. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals' modification of the district court's spousal award and reinstated the original award, holding that the modification of the decree was inconsistent with caselaw regarding both the category and duration of spousal support. View "In re Sokol" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the district court's ruling granting Defendant's motion to suppress statements she made during a custodial interview, holding that some deception by law enforcement in this case did not exceed what the legal system tolerates.Defendant's husband died of strangulation after being zip-tied in a chair in his residence. Defendant claimed that her husband had tied himself up. During an interview at the police station, police officers told Defendant falsely that doctors were still working to save her husband's life. An hour and half into the interview the officers corrected their deception. The officers also made various reassurances and suggestions to the woman. The trial court granted Defendant's motion to suppress. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the officers' lie about whether her husband had been pronounced dead did not affect Defendant's essentially knowing and voluntary waiver of her Miranda rights; and (2) the officers' expressions of sympathy did not amount either to express or implied promises of leniency that would create a fair risk of a false confession. View "State v. Park" on Justia Law

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In this dispute - between a revocable trust and a man who had provided the settlor with services during the settlor's lifetime - over the sale of certain trust property, the Supreme Court held that the net proceeds from the sale of the property should be divided equally between the man and the trust.Helen Schardein, the settlor, purchased a lakeside lot and put it in joint tenancy with Dan Sickels. Schardein arranged that the property be deeded to herself and Sickels as joint tenants with right of survivorship. Schardein's nephew assisted her in creating a revocable trust, into which she transferred all her property, including her interest in the lot. After Schardein died, the lakeside lot was sold. The nephew filed a petition for partition of the lot, naming Sickels as a defendant. The district court ruled that the transfer of Schardein's interest into the trust had severed the joint tenancy and that the trust was entitled to 100 percent of the net sale proceeds. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) Schardein's transfer of her interest into the trust severed the joint tenancy; and (2) the net proceeds from the sale should be divided equally between Sickels and the trust, after giving the trust credit for expenses it paid during the course of the joint tenancy. View "Grout v. Sickels" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates
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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment for an agricultural supplier in its foreclosure action to recover the amount of its unpaid bills from the sale proceeds of the two dairy farms it furnished with feed, holding that the supplier was entitled to summary judgment for the most part.The farms at issue were related but separate legal entities. The supplier did not receive payment for the feed, and later the farms closed down and all the remaining cows and milk were sold. The supplier brought a foreclosure action under the agricultural supplier's lien statute. The trial court granted summary judgment for the supplier, thus rejecting the arguments of a finical institution that had a larger unpaid loan balance and a previously perfected blanket lien as to both farms. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the supplier was entitled to summary judgment on the financial institution's affirmative defenses; and (2) the financial institution was entitled to summary judgment as to the milk proceeds generated by a third dairy farm. View "Quality Plus Feeds, Inc. v. Compeer Financial, FLCA" on Justia Law

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In this appeal of a restitution order that was cross-filed in a felony case and a dismissed misdemeanor case the Supreme Court declined to grant review in the dismissed misdemeanor case, granted felony review in the felony case, and held that the restitution order in this case was not illegal.In this case arising from a vehicle collision, the State charged Defendant with a simple misdemeanor. The State also charged Defendant with a felony. Defendant plead guilty to serious injury by vehicle. The court sentenced Defendant to prison but suspended his sentenced and ordered probation. The court further ordered Defendant to pay the victim restitution. Although the court dismissed a misdemeanor case, the court ordered Defendant to pay victim restitution with that case. The court ordered Defendant to pay restitution in the amount of $34,513 and cross-filed the order in both the felony case and dismissed misdemeanor case. The Supreme Court held (1) in the misdemeanor case, Defendant had no right of appeal; and (2) in the felony case, the restitution award was supported by substantial evidence. View "State v. Patterson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court granting summary judgment for Defendants in this medical malpractice action, holding that a plaintiff who files a noncompliant certificate of merit and then voluntarily dismisses the case need not rely on the certificate filed in the first case when bringing a second action.Plaintiffs timely filed a certificate of merit affidavit in their medical malpractice action but voluntarily dismissed the case when Defendants challenged the qualifications of the expert witness that signed the affidavit. Thereafter, Plaintiffs refiled their case, providing a certificate of merit affidavit signed by a different expert witness. Defendants moved for summary judgment on the basis that the certificate of merit in the first case was deficient. The district court granted the motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case, holding that Defendants were not entitled to dismissal of their case with prejudice. View "Kirlin v. Monaster" on Justia Law

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In this medical malpractice case the Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court vacating Plaintiff's prior voluntary dismissal of her action without prejudice and dismissing the case with prejudice, holding that the district court lacked jurisdiction to rule on Defendant's motion to dismiss.Plaintiff filed a medical negligence suit against Defendant. When Plaintiff failed to file a certificate of merit affidavit Defendant moved to dismiss her petition with prejudice. That same day, Plaintiff voluntarily dismissed her petition under Iowa R. Civ. P. 1.943. The district court subsequently granted Defendant's motion to dismiss, dismissing Plaintiff's claims with prejudice. On appeal, Plaintiff argued that her voluntary dismissal terminated the case. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that Plaintiff's voluntary dismissal was self-executing and ended the case, and therefore, the district court lacked jurisdiction to rule on Defendant's motion to dismiss. View "Ronnfeldt v. Shelby County Chris A. Myrtue Memorial Hospital" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court dismissing with prejudice Plaintiff's petition asserting claims arising under the Iowa Municipal Tort Claims Act (IMTCA), holding that the district court erred in dismissing the case with prejudice after Plaintiff had already voluntarily dismissed his case without prejudice.Iowa Code 670.4A sets forth a qualified immunity defense to and heightened pleading requirements for claims arising under the IMTCA. Plaintiff sued the City of Waterloo and one of its police officers, alleging that the officer shot him without justification. Defendants moved to dismiss the petition pursuant to section 670.4A. The day before a scheduled hearing on the motion Plaintiff dismissed his petition without prejudice. The district court granted Defendants' motion to set aside the dismissal with prejudice based on Plaintiff's alleged failure to meet the statutory pleading requirement. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that nothing in the language of section 670.4A required dismissal with prejudice. View "Alvarez-Victoriano v. City of Waterloo" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court concluding that Defendant was not entitled to a new trial after the Supreme Court remanded the case with instructions for the district court to hold a hearing under Iowa R. Evid. 5.412, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion.After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of assault with intent to commit sexual abuse toward K.S. and other crimes and sentenced to a term of imprisonment. On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court erred by failing to conduct a rule 5.412 hearing before deciding whether to exclude evidence that K.S. had previously made false allegations of sexual abuse. The Supreme Court reversed and conditionally remanded with directions for the district court to conduct an in camera rule 5.412 hearing. On remand, the district court held a hearing and declined to grant a new trial. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion by concluding that Defendant had failed to prove that K.S. had made prior false claims of sexual abuse. View "State v. Trane" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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In this case stemming from a commercial lease dispute between Landlord and Tenant the Supreme Court held that both parties breached the lease agreement but that only the tenant's breach was material.At issue in this case was which party was first to materially breach the lease agreement at issue and whether the other's material breach discharged either party's obligations to perform under the agreement. The district court ruled for Landlord on breach of contract claims and awarded her damages. On reconsideration, the district court determined that Landlord materially breached the lease and reduced her damages. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) both Tenant and Landlord breached the commercial lease; (2) Tenant's breach was material, and Landlord's breach was not; and (3) Tenant's material breach suspended Landlord's duty to perform during a cure period, and once that period ended, Landlord's duty to perform was discharged. View "Dolly Investments, LLC v. MMG Sioux City, LLC" on Justia Law