Articles Posted in Iowa Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the court of appeals declining to give preemptive effect to a no-hazard determination by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and affirmed as modified the judgment of the district court, holding that the Federal Aviation Act allows for local zoning regulation, and the FAA's no-hazard letter did not preempt the local airport zoning regulations as a matter of law. A farmer built a twelve-story grain leg near an airport. The airport commission informed the farmer he needed a variance and refused to grant one. Thereafter, the FAA approved the structure. The local commissioners later brought this action in equity to force the farmer to modify or remove the structure. The district court issued an injunction. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court granted further review and held (1) state and local regulators can impose stricter height restrictions on structures in flight paths notwithstanding an FAA no-hazard determination, and therefore, the no-hazard letter did not preempt the local airport zoning regulations; and (2) the district court properly found that the structure constituted a threat to aviation requiring abatement, but the $200 daily penalty is vacated and the judgment is modified to require the farmer to abate the nuisance within nine months of this opinion. View "Carroll Airport Commission v. Danner" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment for a judgment creditor and dismissed the petition filed by the judgment debtor and his wife to vacate a charging order to execute foreign judgments in Iowa district court against the judgment debtor's membership interests in an Iowa limited liability company (LLC), holding that there was no reason to reverse the judgment of the district court. The judgment debtor and his wife sought to vacate the charging order on the grounds that the creditor could not attach the debtor's interests in the Iowa LLC since the debtor and his wife owned them as a tenancy by the entireties in their domicile of Florida. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of the creditor, holding (1) the district court properly applied Iowa law because membership interests in an LLC are located in the state where the LLC is formed; (2) the district court correctly dismissed the petition to vacate the charging order since Iowa law does not recognize the ownership of property by a married couple as tenants in the entireties; and (3) the foreign judgments were properly registered, and the charging order was properly issued. View "Wells Fargo Equipment Finance Inc. v. Retterath" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed this appeal, holding that Appellant failed to file a timely notice of appeal, which left the Court without subject matter jurisdiction to hear the appeal. This appeal concerned a dispute over workers’ compensation penalty benefits. Appellees filed a motion to dismiss the appeal on the grounds that Appellant failed timely to file his notice of appeal with the district court. The Supreme Court agreed and dismissed the appeal, holding that Appellant’s counsel did not file the notice of appeal with the clerk of court within a reasonable time after the first notice of appeal was served on Appellees. View "Evenson v. Winnebago Industries, Inc." on Justia Law

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At issue was whether property owners’ state-law damage claims against the railroad bridge owners alleging that the design and operation of the railroad bridges resulted in flood damage to other properties were preempted by the Federal Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act (ICCTA), 49 U.S.C. 10501(b). Plaintiffs, property owners in Cedar Rapids, sued the owners of certain railroad bridges across the Cedar River alleging that their efforts to protect the bridges from washing out exacerbated the effects of the 2008 flooding for other property owners. The district court granted Defendants’ motion for judgment on the pleadings, concluding that the ICCTA expressly preempted Plaintiffs’ state law claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the ICCTA did indeed preempt Plaintiffs’ action. View "Griffioen v. Cedar Rapids" on Justia Law

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The equitable tolling doctrines of the discovery rule and equitable estoppel are available with respect to the 300-day filing limitation in the Iowa Civil Rights Act (ICRA). Plaintiff, an applicant for the position of Deputy Workers’ Compensation Commissioner at Iowa Workforce Development (IWD), brought a failure-to-hire claim against the IWD. The district court dismissed the claim, concluding that Plaintiff could not escape the 300-day filing requirement in the ICRA through application of the discovery rule or equitable estoppel. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the discovery rule and equitable estoppel apply to the 300-day filing limitation in the ICRA; but (2) Plaintiff was not entitled to toll the filing limitation through application of either the discovery rule or equitable estoppel. View "Mormann v. Iowa Workforce Development" on Justia Law

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Under certain circumstances, Plaintiff’s counsel may depose defense counsel and obtain counsel’s prelawsuit work product. Plaintiff filed an administrative complaint charging Defendant, his former employer, with race discrimination. Defendant hired an attorney to investigate the claims and defend the company. Defendant filed an administrative position statement wherein it relied upon the investigation of the attorney it had hired to defend it to support its Faragher-Ellerth affirmative defense. In the ensuing civil action, Defendant retained the same attorney and again raised the Faragher-Ellerth affirmative defense. Plaintiff sought to depose Defendant’s attorney and requested the attorney to provide notes from the previous investigation. Defendant moved for a protective order, claiming attorney-client privilege and work-product protection. The district court denied the protective order. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, when an employer raises a Faragher-Ellerth affirmative defense and relies upon an internal investigation to support that defense, the employer waives attorney-client privilege and nonopinion work-product protection over testimony and documents relating to the investigation. View "Fenceroy v. Gelita USA, Inc." on Justia Law

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The district court abused its discretion by awarding attorney fees beyond those caused by violations of Iowa R. Civ. P. 1.413 or necessary to deter similar misconduct and by relying on a letter the sanctioned party’s president sent to the Supreme Court after it denied review in in the first appellate decision in this case. In this quiet-title action, the district court awarded attorney fees and expenses of $145,427 as a sanction for frivolous court filings in violation of Rule 1.413. The appellate court affirmed in part the rulings and remanded the case. On remand, the district court made more specific factual findings. On appeal, the court of appeals affirmed the sanction award. At issue before the Supreme Court was whether the amount awarded was excessive. The Supreme court vacated the decision of the court of appeals and modified the district court’s sanction award, holding that the appropriate sanction was $30,000. View "First American Bank v. Fobian Farms, Inc." on Justia Law

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The district court abused its discretion by awarding attorney fees beyond those caused by violations of Iowa R. Civ. P. 1.413 or necessary to deter similar misconduct and by relying on a letter the sanctioned party’s president sent to the Supreme Court after it denied review in in the first appellate decision in this case. In this quiet-title action, the district court awarded attorney fees and expenses of $145,427 as a sanction for frivolous court filings in violation of Rule 1.413. The appellate court affirmed in part the rulings and remanded the case. On remand, the district court made more specific factual findings. On appeal, the court of appeals affirmed the sanction award. At issue before the Supreme Court was whether the amount awarded was excessive. The Supreme court vacated the decision of the court of appeals and modified the district court’s sanction award, holding that the appropriate sanction was $30,000. View "First American Bank v. Fobian Farms, Inc." on Justia Law

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West Central Cooperative was an agricultural cooperative owned by farmers. Westco Agronomy Co., L.L.C. was a wholly-owned subsidiary of West Central formed in 2005 for the purpose of streamlining delivery of agronomy products, including seed, fertilizer, and chemicals. In 2002, Westco hired Chad Hartzler to work in the agronomy division selling seed and eventually chemicals. He was later promoted to sales director but retained oversight of some of Westco’s largest accounts, including the Wollesens. A dispute arose over the relationships of these parties, resulting in a three-week jury trial and a substantial damages verdict in favor of the customer and against the cooperative. The Iowa Supreme Court limited its consideration of the case to three matters raised in the cooperative’s application for further review: (1) the district court properly denied the cooperative’s motion for new trial based on inconsistent verdicts; (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the cooperative’s pretrial motion to have equitable issues tried first; and (3), with respect to the constitutionality of Iowa Code section 706A.2(5) (2011), the statute unconstitutionally shifts the burden to the defendant. Specifically, any person who provides property or services that end up being used to facilitate “specified unlawful activity” must prove his or her own lack of negligence to avoid liability. However, the Supreme Court found the burden-shifting provision contained in section 706A.2(5)(b)(4) could be severed from the rest of the statute. Accordingly, while the Court otherwise affirmed the district court, it reversed the district court’s dismissal of this claim. View "Westco Agronomy Company, LLC v. Wollesen" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs’ attorney filed two board claim forms with a state appeals board on behalf of Plaintiffs, signing their names and his own. The attorney did not attach any document showing he had power of attorney. The board rejected Plaintiffs’ claims. Plaintiffs then filed their claim in district court. The district court dismissed Plaintiffs’ claims on the ground that their attorney signed the forms on their behalf. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) a claimant presents a claim when the board receives a writing that discloses the amount of damages claimed and generally describes the legal theories asserted against the State; and (2) the district court had jurisdiction to hear Plaintiffs’ claims. View "Segura v. State" on Justia Law