Articles Posted in Injury Law

by
Dennis Smith, a former employee of Iowa State University (ISU), sued ISU and the State of Iowa (collectively, ISU) after his position at the university was eliminated. Smith ultimately recovered $150,000 on his statutory whistleblower claim - reduced from an initial award of $784,027 - and his other claims were dismissed. The district court awarded Smith $368,607 in attorney fees, which amounted to almost all of Smith’s attorney fees incurred in this litigation and other satellite proceedings. The district court awarded the attorneys fees pursuant to Iowa’s whistleblower statute. ISU appealed, arguing that the attorney-fee award should be reduced for work not performed on the whistleblower claim and to account for an overall lack of success on that claim. The Supreme Court reversed that aspect of the district court’s judgment awarding attorney fees to Smith, holding that, given the time Smith’s counsel devoted to unrelated matters for which attorney fees were not authorized and Smith’s limited success on the statutory whistleblower claim, the district court’s attorney fee ruling was an abuse of discretion. Remanded. View "Smith v. Iowa State Univ. of Science & Tech." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs’ daughter fatally fell over the railing of an apartment balcony. The railing complied with the local housing code when the apartment complex was built but was ten inches shorter than allowed under the current housing code. Three days before the accident, the City of Des Moines Housing Appeal Board (HAB) found the property was in violation but granted a three-month extension to install compliant railings. Plaintiffs filed a premises liability action against Landlord. The jury found Landlord sixty-five percent at fault and Plaintiffs’ daughter thirty-five percent at fault. In posttrial rulings, the district court ordered a new trial, concluding that the doctrine of negligence per se did not apply to a local housing code. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the doctrine of negligence per se applies to the violation of a municipal housing code and is not limited to statewide laws; (2) Landlord’s argument that the old code applied as a matter of law was correctly rejected; (3) the HAB’s extension of time for Landlord to comply with the code simply suspended administrative penalties without excusing tort liability; and (4) the district code erred by instructing the jury on the basis that the new code applied as a matter of law. View "Winger v. CM Holdings, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Injury Law

by
Plaintiff’s ten-year-old child died when Plaintiff’s boyfriend drove the speedboat in which the child was riding between two danger buoys and struck a submerged dredge pipe. Plaintiff settled claims against her boyfriend, the boat manufacturer, and the entities that operated and marked the dredge. Plaintiff also sued the State, alleging that its department of natural resources was liable for the accident. The district court granted summary judgment for the State, concluding that discretionary-function immunity applied, the public-duty doctrine applied, and there was no private cause of action. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Iowa Code chapters 461A and 462A do not create an implied private right to sue; and (2) the public-duty doctrine bars Plaintiff’s common law tort claims against the State. View "Estate of McFarlin v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Injury Law

by
While she was a business guest at the Courtyard by Marriott, Plaintiff slipped and fell on its icy sidewalk, breaking her ankle. After a trial, the jury found Marriott ninety-eight percent at fault and awarded Plaintiff damages. The Supreme Court reversed and ordered a new trial, holding that the district court erred by (1) submitting a negligent-training theory without testimony on the standard of care for training employees on deicing or breach of that standard, and (2) instructing the jury that an icy walkway violated a private safety code governing slip-resistant construction materials. View "Alcala v. Marriott Int’l, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Injury Law

by
In this appeal, the issue this case presented for the Iowa Supreme Court's review was whether an employer’s matching contributions to an employee’s 401k plan should be considered part of weekly earnings for purposes of calculating workers’ compensation weekly benefits. The Court had to also decide whether the district court erred in affirming the workers’ compensation commissioner’s decision on the amount of healing period benefits owed, the extent of permanent disability, and the penalty to be awarded. After review of the specific facts of this case, the Court concluded that an employer’s matching contributions to an employee’s 401k plan were not weekly earnings for purposes of calculating workers’ compensation weekly benefits. The Court also concluded the district court did not err in affirming the decision of the commissioner with respect to the extent of permanent disability. However, the district court erred in affirming the date when healing period benefits commenced, the date when the healing period benefits ended, and the date when permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits commenced. The case was remanded to the district court: (1) to affirm the commissioner’s findings as to the weekly benefit rate and the extent of permanent partial disability; and (2) for a redetermination of the date when healing period benefits commenced, of the date when healing period benefits ended and PPD benefits commenced, and for a recalculation of penalty and interest benefits. View "Evenson v. Winnebago Insudtries, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Paul Gray’s surviving spouse, Brenna, and daughter, O.D.G., filed suit against Dr. Daniel Baldi and several Iowa healthcare providers, alleging that Defendants negligently treated Paul during his struggle with substance abuse. Paul’s estate asserted a claim for wrongful death, Brenna asserted a loss of spousal consortium, and O.D.G., who was born several months after Paul’s death, asserted a loss of parental consortium. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants, concluding that Plaintiffs brought suit after the applicable statutes of limitations expired. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that the district court (1) erred in granting summary judgment on O.D.G.’s parental consortium claim, as a child conceived but not yet born at the time of their parent’s death can bring a parental consortium claim after the child is born; but (2) did not err in granting summary judgment on the wrongful-death and spousal consortiums claims, as, even if the discovery rule can extend the time to file wrongful-death claims under Iowa Code 614.1(9)(a), the wrongful-death and spousal consortium claims were untimely under the circumstances of this case. Remanded. View "Estate of Gray v. Baldi" on Justia Law

Posted in: Injury Law

by
Appellant pleaded guilty to one count of criminal transmission of HIV. Appellant later filed an application for postconviction relief alleging that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by allowing Appellant to plead guilty to a charge for which there was no factual basis. The lower courts denied relief, but the Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case. On remand, the State dismissed the charges against Appellant. Appellant then filed an action under Iowa Code 663A claiming that he was wrongfully imprisoned by the State and was entitled to compensation. The district court granted the State’s motion to dismiss, concluding that Appellant was not entitled to relief because he had pled guilty in a criminal case that provided the basis for the imprisonment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that section 663A.1(1)(b) categorically excludes all persons who plead guilty from Iowa’s wrongful imprisonment statute, and therefore, Appellant was not entitled to pursue a claim for wrongful imprisonment under section 663A. View "Rhoades v. State" on Justia Law

by
Appellant pleaded guilty to one count of criminal transmission of HIV. Appellant later filed an application for postconviction relief alleging that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by allowing Appellant to plead guilty to a charge for which there was no factual basis. The lower courts denied relief, but the Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case. On remand, the State dismissed the charges against Appellant. Appellant then filed an action under Iowa Code 663A claiming that he was wrongfully imprisoned by the State and was entitled to compensation. The district court granted the State’s motion to dismiss, concluding that Appellant was not entitled to relief because he had pled guilty in a criminal case that provided the basis for the imprisonment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that section 663A.1(1)(b) categorically excludes all persons who plead guilty from Iowa’s wrongful imprisonment statute, and therefore, Appellant was not entitled to pursue a claim for wrongful imprisonment under section 663A. View "Rhoades v. State" on Justia Law

by
An SUV was being driven in the wrong direction on a highway when it collided with a semi-tractor-trailer. The SUV was totaled, and the SUV’s driver was killed. Second later, a motorcyclist ran into the SUV that was still in the middle of the highway. The drivers of both the semi and the motorcycle suffered injuries. The drivers jointly filed a petition for declaratory judgment against the insurer of the SUV asking the district court to declare that there had been two accidents for purposes of the insurance policy’s per-accident limit on bodily injury liability. The district court granted summary judgment for the insurer, concluding that the injuries suffered by the plaintiffs arose from one accident. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, under the terms of the SUV driver’s insurance policy, there was only one accident. View "Hughes v. Farmers Auto. Ins. Ass’n" on Justia Law

by
An SUV was being driven in the wrong direction on a highway when it collided with a semi-tractor-trailer. The SUV was totaled, and the SUV’s driver was killed. Second later, a motorcyclist ran into the SUV that was still in the middle of the highway. The drivers of both the semi and the motorcycle suffered injuries. The drivers jointly filed a petition for declaratory judgment against the insurer of the SUV asking the district court to declare that there had been two accidents for purposes of the insurance policy’s per-accident limit on bodily injury liability. The district court granted summary judgment for the insurer, concluding that the injuries suffered by the plaintiffs arose from one accident. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, under the terms of the SUV driver’s insurance policy, there was only one accident. View "Hughes v. Farmers Auto. Ins. Ass’n" on Justia Law