Justia Iowa Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Mercy Medical Center and dismissing Plaintiffs' suit for the negligent credentialing of Dr. David Segal, holding that the district court erred in dismissing this suit.In its judgment dismissing this suit, the district court concluded that Plaintiffs' negligent credentialing claim was cognizable in Iowa. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that assuming, without deciding, the tort of negligent credentialing is cognizable in the state of Iowa, the district court (1) erred in concluding that Mercy had no duty to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances; and (2) erred in ruling that evidence of prior malpractice suits against Dr. Segal and that expert opinion regarding breach of the standard of care based, in part, on prior lawsuits was inadmissible under Iowa R. Evid. 5.403. View "Rieder v. Segal" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of a strip club and dismissing this common law wrongful-death-negligence action, holding that Defendants owed no continuing legal duty to the decedent in this case.Daulton Holly was ejected from the strip club by the club's security guard and offered a cab ride home. Holly refused the offer and left the establishment on foot. Thirty minutes later, Holly was struck and killed by a drunk driver about one-half mile away from the strip club. Holly's parents and estate brought this action against the strip club. The district court granted a "no-duty" summary judgment against the plaintiffs. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the strip club owed no continuing legal duty to Holly after he refused the offer of the cab ride and chose to walk away. View "Morris v. Legends Fieldhouse Bar & Grill, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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In this defamation action, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court's order granting Defendant's motion for summary judgment, holding that the district court did not err in concluding that the statement at issue was a constitutionally protected opinion.Plaintiff, a manager of an apartment building, sued Defendant for defamation in connection with a social media post in which Defendant called Plaintiff a slumlord. In his complaint, Plaintiff argued that Defendant asserted a false statement of fact in alleging that he was an actual unscrupulous landlord of a slum area. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendant. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that any reasonable reader of Defendant's social media post would understand that the use of the term "slumlord" was only rhetorical hyperbole; and (2) therefore, there was insufficient evidence that anyone thought Defendant asserted a factual statement about Plaintiff as a landlord. View "Bauer v. Brinkman" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the district court granting summary judgment dismissing Kristina Lewis's negligence claims against Howard L. Allen Investments, Inc. (Allen Investments), holding that Allen Investments did not owe a duty to protect Lewis from the harm she suffered.Allen Investments sold a house under a contract of sale that required the buyers to make monthly payments for ten years. Five years into the payment period the buyers leased the house to Lewis and her fiancé. The house subsequently caught fire, causing Lewis to suffer serious injuries. Lewis brought this negligence action against the buyers and Allen Investments. The district court granted summary judgment for Allen Investments, concluding that the company, as a contract seller, owed no duty to Lewis. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Allen Investments was not the landlord of the property under Iowa's Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, Iowa Code chapter 562A; and (2) Allen Investments owed no duty of care to Lewis to maintain the property. View "Lewis v. Howard L. Allen Investments, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court dismissing this lawsuit brought by an injured pedestrian against a city over a defective city sidewalk, holding that the trial court erred in dismissing the case for failure to state a claim based on the public duty doctrine.Plaintiffs sued the City of Urbandale claiming that the City had failed properly to maintain, repair, and warn about a dangerous and uneven sidewalk, causing her injuries. The district court granted the City's motion to dismiss, concluding that the public-duty doctrine barred Plaintiffs' claims. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the pleading was sufficient to avoid application of the public-duty doctrine for motion-to-dismiss purposes. View "Fulps v. City of Urbandale" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court determining that Jason Carter was civilly liable for the death of his mother, Shirley Carter, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion.Jason was civilly accused by his father and brother of intentionally shooting his mother. After a jury determined that Jason was civilly liable the State charged Jason with first degree murder. As a result of discovery from that criminal proceeding, Jason was acquitted murder. Jason later filed a second petition to vacate the judgment based on newly discovered evidence. The district court dismissed the petition. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not abuse its discretion in denying Jason’s motion for continuance, judgment notwithstanding the verdict, first petition to vacate the judgment, and motion for recusal; (2) properly denied Jason's motion to quash a subpoena to the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigations; and (3) lacked jurisdiction to hear this second petition to vacate the judgment because it was untimely. View "Carter v. Carter" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the ruling of the district court ordering a new trial on damages in this action against a golf course for owner liability under Iowa Code 321.493 and common law premises liability, holding that the district court erred by ordering a new trial.Plaintiff was ejected from a golf cart and severely injured when the cart struck a bridge. Plaintiff settled his claims against the driver and signed a release expressly reserving his claims against the owner. Plaintiff then sued the golf course for owner liability and premises liability. A jury found the golf course not negligent for premises liability and the driver one hundred percent at fault for damages. Plaintiff moved for a new trial because the evidence showed the past medical expenses were many times the amount awarded. The trial court granted Plaintiff's motion for a new trial on damages against the owner. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Plaintiff's release of the driver extinguished the vicarious liability claims against the golf course as the golf cart owner under section 321.493 for the damages caused by the driver's negligent driving. View "Jones v. Glenwood Golf Corp." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court in favor of Defendants in this personal injury case, holding that the Federal Railroad Safety Act preempted Plaintiff's excessive speed claims and that summary judgment was properly granted on his lookout and braking claims.The driver of a road grader was seriously injured when a train struck the grader while it crossed the railroad tracks. The driver sued the railroad and the train crew alleging failure to break, excessive speed, failure to keep a proper lookout, and failure to properly sound the horn. The district court granted summary judgment to Defendants on all but the horn claims. After a trial, a jury returned verdicts for Defendants on the horn claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the driver's excessive speed claims were preempted by federal law; and (2) summary judgment was properly granted on the lookout and braking claims based on lack of causation. View "Wermerskirchen v. Canadian National Railroad" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court provided answers to certified questions of law in a federal case brought against the State and a Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officer who shot and killed Plaintiff's son during an armed standoff, concluding that the legislature intended the Iowa Tort Claims Act (Act) to serve as the gateway for all tort litigation against the State.The federal court dismissed all claims against the State and the DNR officer in his official capacity, finding as a matter of law that the officer was acting within the scope of his employment when he shot and killed Plaintiff's son. The federal court dismissed Plaintiff's negligence claims for failure to exhaust administrative remedies under the Act but declined to dismiss Plaintiff's claims against the DNR officer in his individual capacity. The Supreme Court answered the federal court's certified questions of law by holding (1) the Act applies to Plaintiff's state constitutional tort causes of action; (2) the available remedy under the Act for excessive force by a law enforcement officer is adequate; (3) Plaintiff's claims under the Iowa Constitution are subject to the administrative exhaustion requirement in Iowa Code 669.5(1); and (4) plaintiffs are required to bring their Iowa constitutional claims in the appropriate Iowa district court under Iowa Code 669.4. View "Wagner v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the district court dismissing an employee's gross negligence claim against a coemployee, holding that settlement documents submitted to and approved by the workers' compensation commissioner extinguished the employee's gross negligence claim.Plaintiff, an employee of Lutheran Services in Iowa (LSI) was attacked by one of LSI's clients, causing injuries. Plaintiff filed a workers' compensation claim against LSI and its workers' compensation carrier. The parties settled, and the two settlement documents were approved by the Iowa Workers' Compensation Commissioner. Plaintiff subsequently filed a petition in district court seeking to recover damages from Defendant, Plaintiff's supervisor when he worked at LSI, on a theory of gross negligence. Defendant moved to dismiss the action, relying on release language in the settlement documents. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendant on both contract and statutory grounds. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that a settlement with the commissioner did not release a common law claim of gross negligence against a coemployee. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals' judgment and affirmed the district court's summary judgment, holding that the district court properly ruled that, as a matter of contract, the language in the terms of settlement extinguished Plaintiff's gross negligence claim. View "Terry v. Dorothy" on Justia Law