Justia Iowa Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
Dornath v. Employment Appeal Bd.
The Supreme Court reversed the decisions of the district court and employment appeal board affirming the decision of the department of workforce development denying Appellant's claim for unemployment benefits, holding that Appellant's claims on appeal were unavailing.Appellant, an apprentice electrician, attended a week-long training as part of his apprenticeship curriculum, and his employer didn't pay him for that week. Appellant filed a claim for unemployment benefits under Iowa Code 96.4(3), arguing that he met the statute's criteria that he be able to work, available for work, and actively seeking work. The department of workforce development denied the claim, and the employment appeal board and district court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the board's decision that Appellant had not established his eligibility for benefits was not an erroneous interpretation of the law, unsupported by substantial evidence in the record, or an abuse of the board's discretion. View "Dornath v. Employment Appeal Bd." on Justia Law
City of Ames v. Iowa Public Employment Relations Bd.
The Supreme Court held that the Iowa Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) and the district court misinterpreted Iowa Code 20.32 by extending broader bargaining rights to nontransit employees in the same bargaining unit as public transit employees, holding that the plain meaning of the statute protects only transit employees, not nontransit employees in the same bargaining unit.The City of Ames sought guidance as to whether section 20.32 requires broader bargaining rights for nontransit employees in the same bargaining unit. PERB concluded that broader bargaining rights must be extended under the statute to nontransit employees in a bargaining unit consisting of at least thirty percent transit employees, and the district court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the City was not required to provide broader bargaining rights to nontransit employees, regardless of the percentage of transit employees in the bargaining unit. View "City of Ames v. Iowa Public Employment Relations Bd." on Justia Law
McNeal v. Wapello County
The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the court of appeals reversing the order of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Wapello County in this property dispute, holding that the district court correctly concluded that the parties' agreement allowed the County to remove a group of vehicles on Landowners' property.Landowners were operating a vehicle repair and salvage business on residential property in Wapello County when the County notified Landowners of its' intent to clean up the alleged nuisance. The parties entered into a settlement agreement, under which Landowners agreed to allow the County to enter the property to remove any remaining "derelict vehicles" to the "satisfaction of the County" at the expiration of ninety days. At the conclusion of the ninety-day period, the County had the vehicles remaining on the property removed. Landowners brought this lawsuit, alleging breach of the agreement. The district court granted summary judgment for the County. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) an objective standard applied to the County's determination of its satisfaction under the agreement; and (2) the removal of the vehicles did not breach that objective standard. View "McNeal v. Wapello County" on Justia Law
Carreras v. Iowa Department of Transportation, Motor Vehicle Division
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the decision of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) to rescind Petitioner's license under Iowa Code 322.3(12), holding that there was substantial evidence to revoke the motor vehicle dealer license.Petitioner, who owned and operated a vehicle dealership, pleaded guilty to one count of structuring transactions to avoid mandatory reporting requirements in violation of 31 U.S.C. 5324(a)(1) and (3) and was sentenced to a term of probation. The DOT then revoked Petitioner's Motor Vehicle Dealer License for a period of five years because of the structuring conviction. The district court upheld the revocation, stayed enforcement of the license revocation until the completion of the appeal, and tolled the entirety of the five-year revocation period. The court of appeals upheld the license revocation but determined that the district court lacked the authority to toll the five-year license revocation period. The Supreme Court held (1) there was substantial evidence to revoke the motor vehicle dealer license; and (2) the revocation period shall be extended by the length of the stay. View "Carreras v. Iowa Department of Transportation, Motor Vehicle Division" on Justia Law
Lennette v. State of Iowa
A father going through a contentious divorce was accused by his young daughter of sexual abuse. A Department of Human Services social worker observed the forensic interview, believed it was credible, obtained additional information primarily from the mother, and obtained an ex parte court order requiring the father to leave the family home. An ensuing adversary proceeding determined that the allegation was unfounded and that the mother had “wanted [the father] out of the house.” The DHS finding was set aside and, eventually, the father obtained physical care of the children. In the father's subsequent suit, the district court granted the defendants summary judgment.The Iowa Supreme Court affirmed. The claim of intentional interference with the parent-child relationship fails because that claim applies to extralegal actions— such as absconding with a child—not to judicially-approved acts. The claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress fails because the conduct here did not reach the level of an “outrage” necessary to sustain such a claim. The unreasonable search and seizure claim cannot succeed because there was no showing that the DHS social worker falsified the affidavit she submitted to the court or that the removal order would not have been granted without her questioned statements. The substantive due process claim fails because DHS’s conduct does not “shock the conscience.” A procedural due process claim cannot prevail because the father was provided with adequate process, which ultimately cleared his name. View "Lennette v. State of Iowa" on Justia Law
American Home Assurance v. Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Co.
Pursuant to an arbitration award, American Home paid workers’ compensation benefits to an employee injured in 2008. American did not file a notice before the arbitration that, pursuant to Iowa Code 85.21, it was paying the claim subject to a potential coverage issue. By 2013, American paid all the benefits owed under the arbitration award. In 2016, the employee sought to reopen the case. American then filed a section 85.21 notice seeking reimbursement of benefits paid to the employee, claiming that on the date of injury Liberty Mutual was providing the employer with workers’ compensation coverage.The workers’ compensation commissioner concluded that in order to be entitled to reimbursement, American was required to file section 85.21 notice before the arbitration proceeding and could not, years later, seek to be reimbursed. The district court reversed, reasoning that section 85.21 gave the commissioner broad power to order reimbursement, not time-limited in the statute. The court of appeals, agreeing with the commissioner, reversed. The Iowa Supreme Court agreed. The commissioner may require that insurance carriers obtain a section 85.21 reimbursement order before an evidentiary hearing in order to seek indemnity or contribution from another carrier. The procedural question is not controlled by the substantive provisions of section 85.21. The commissioner has simply established a rule of procedure for handling section 85.21 claims. View "American Home Assurance v. Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Tripp v. Scott Emergency Communication Center
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court affirming the decision of the workers' compensation commissioner denying Petitioner's petition for benefits for trauma-induced mental injuries she suffered on the job while working as emergency dispatcher, holding that because Petitioner established that her PTSD resulted from a manifest happening of a sudden traumatic nature from an unexpected cause or unusual strain, Petitioner was entitled workers' compensation benefits.Petitioner, a sixteen-year veteran of the county emergency dispatch system, sought benefits for the PTSD she suffered after taking a 911 call from a woman screaming over and over at a high pitch, "Help me, my baby is dead." The workers' compensation commissioner and district court denied benefits, concluding that the mother's call wasn't an "unexpected cause or unusual strain." The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Petitioner was entitled to benefits because she established that her PTSD resulted from a manifest happening of a sudden traumatic nature from an unexpected cause or unusual strain. View "Tripp v. Scott Emergency Communication Center" on Justia Law
Sioux City Truck Sales, Inc. v. Iowa Department of Transportation
The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the district court affirming the decisions of the administrative law judge (ALJ) and the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) that good cause existed to permit a franchiser to create dueling franchises in a geographic area under Iowa Code 322A.4, holding that the district court did not err in its judgment.At issue was whether, in considering if the establishment of an additional franchisee in a geographic area is in the public interest, the DOT must consider the investment and impacts across the entire geographic area of the existing franchisee. The ALJ and DOT concluded that the twenty-three county area where the additional franchisee would compete with the existing franchisee was the relevant geographic area to consider when determining the presence of good cause under section 322A.4. The court of appeals reversed, arguing that the relevant geographic area to consider was the entire seventy-one county area in which the existing franchise conducted business. The Supreme Court vacated the decision below and affirmed the trial court, holding that the proper focus was the area in which the existing franchisee and the proposed new franchise would be in direct competition. View "Sioux City Truck Sales, Inc. v. Iowa Department of Transportation" on Justia Law
Chavez v. MS Technology LLC
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court affirming the conclusion of the workers' compensation commissioner that Claimant's rotator cuff injury was a scheduled shoulder injury rather than an unscheduled whole body injury under Iowa Code 85.34(2), holding that there was no error.Claimant sustained a work-related injury that was diagnosed as a "full thickness rotator cuff tear that has retracted to the level of the glenoid, severe AC arthrosis, tendonitis and tearing of the biceps tendon." In seeking permanent partial disability benefits, Claimant argued that her injury qualified as an unscheduled injury to the body as a whole, entitling her to industrial disability benefits. The commissioner concluded that Claimant's rotator cuff injury was a scheduled injury to the shoulder, and the district court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court properly determined (1) Claimant's rotator cuff injury was a scheduled shoulder injury under Iowa Code 85.34(2)(n); and (2) substantial evidence supported the commissioner's finding that Claimant failed to prove her biceps tear resulted in a permanent disability to her arm under section 85.34(2)(m). View "Chavez v. MS Technology LLC" on Justia Law
Hills & Dales Child Development Center v. Iowa Department of Education
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court affirming the declaratory order of the Iowa Department of Education interpreting a number of statutes and answering five questions posed by the Keystone Area Education Agency, holding that there was no error or abuse its discretion.The questions at issue concerned whether public agencies are required to release or excuse students to receive behavioral analysis therapy (ABA therapy) and, if so, under what circumstances. The Department's declaratory order determined, among other things, that the decision whether to excuse an absence for ABA therapy is generally up to the school district and that a public agency that does excuse attendance for therapy may violate federal law under some circumstances. The district court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Department had the authority to issue the declaratory order; and (2) the Department's declaratory order was supported by substantial evidence. View "Hills & Dales Child Development Center v. Iowa Department of Education" on Justia Law