Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Iowa Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court of Iowa was asked to consider whether the Iowa Constitution supports a legislative privilege that protects legislators from compelled production of documents related to legislation. The court concluded that the Iowa Constitution does indeed contain a legislative privilege that protects legislators from compelled document production, particularly in relation to communications with third parties about the legislative process. The case arose from subpoenas served on several Iowa legislators by the League of Latin American Citizens of Iowa (LULAC). LULAC sought discovery of communications related to recent legislative changes to voting procedures. The legislators objected to the subpoenas, arguing they were protected from compelled document production by a legislative privilege under the Iowa Constitution. The court ruled that the privilege extends to communications with third parties where the communications relate directly to the legislative process of considering and enacting legislation. However, the court did not decide whether this legislative privilege was absolute or qualified, as it concluded that the requested documents were not relevant to LULAC's claims and were therefore protected by the legislative privilege, regardless of its extent. The court reversed the district court's judgment granting in part LULAC's motion to compel and remanded with instructions to quash the subpoenas. View "Smith v. Iowa District Court for Polk County" on Justia Law

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In a workers' compensation case, an employee was injured and sought compensation from her employer and its insurance carrier. The employee failed to provide her expert witness's evidence in a timely manner, serving them only two weeks before the arbitration hearing began. The employer and its insurance carrier objected, arguing that this late submission of evidence was unfairly prejudicial. The deputy workers’ compensation commissioner agreed with the employer and excluded the evidence. This decision was affirmed by the commissioner, but was later reversed on judicial review by the district court. The court of appeals affirmed the district court’s ruling. However, the Supreme Court of Iowa held that the commissioner’s decision to exclude untimely evidence was entitled to deference. The court found that the commissioner did not abuse his discretion by excluding the untimely evidence since the employee had disregarded multiple deadlines and submitted the reports only about two weeks before the hearing. Moreover, the reports were not from the employee’s treating physicians and the vocational report reached a conclusion that no other expert in the case shared. Therefore, the supreme court vacated the court of appeals decision, reversed the district court decision, and remanded the case back to the district court to enter a judgment affirming the commissioner's decision to exclude the untimely evidence. View "Hagen v. Serta/National Bedding Co., LLC" on Justia Law

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In the case before the Supreme Court of Iowa, the plaintiff, Renee Hummel, brought a medical malpractice suit against the defendants, Adam B. Smith, Adam Smith, M.D., P.C., and Tri-State Specialists, L.L.P. The defendants requested an interlocutory review of a lower court order that denied their motion to strike and for summary judgment. The issue at the heart of the defendants' motion was that the expert who signed the plaintiff's certificate of merit did not have an active license to practice medicine.The Supreme Court of Iowa reversed the lower court's decision and remanded the case. The court determined that an expert who signs a plaintiff's certificate of merit in a medical malpractice case must have an active license to practice medicine. Therefore, the lower court erred in denying the defendants' motion to strike and for summary judgment on the basis that the plaintiff's certificate of merit was signed by an expert without an active medical license. View "Hummel v. Smith" on Justia Law

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In this case, Scott Olson, an employee of BNSF Railway Company, sued the company under the Federal Employers' Liability Act, seeking damages for injuries he sustained in a workplace accident. A jury found in favor of Olson and awarded him significant damages. The railway company appealed, alleging three specific instances of error by the district court. The Supreme Court of Iowa vacated the decision of the court of appeals, which had granted a new trial, and affirmed the district court's judgment. The court held that the railway company did not properly preserve its challenge to the verdict form for appeal, as the company had failed to object to the form until after the jury returned its verdict. The court also ruled that the district court did not err by allowing Olson to present new negligence claims during the trial that were not alleged in the pleadings or identified during discovery, as the company was clearly on notice that Olson alleged that the company failed to reasonably train all employees as one of the specific allegations of negligence at trial. Lastly, the court found that the company was not prejudiced by Olson's counsel's alleged misconduct during his rebuttal closing argument. View "Olson v. BNSF Railway Company" on Justia Law

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In the Supreme Court of Iowa, the appellants, the estate and family of Deanna Dee Fahrmann, had filed a wrongful-death action against ABCM Corporation and two of its employees, alleging nursing home malpractice. The appellants failed to serve a certificate of merit affidavit, required under Iowa Code section 147.140, signed by a qualified expert within sixty days of the defendants’ response to the claim. Instead, they served initial disclosures, signed only by their counsel, that named their expert within the statutory sixty-day deadline. After the deadline, the defendants moved to dismiss the case for noncompliance, and the appellants served a certificate signed by their expert and argued that they substantially complied with the statute. The district court dismissed the case based on the mandatory language of the statute.On appeal, the Supreme Court of Iowa affirmed the lower court's decision to dismiss the case. The court held that the plaintiffs' initial disclosure, signed only by their counsel, did not comply with or substantially comply with the certificate of merit requirement under section 147.140 of the Iowa Code. The law unambiguously required the plaintiffs to timely serve a certificate of merit affidavit signed under oath by a qualified expert stating the expert’s familiarity with the applicable standard of care and its breach by the defendants unless the parties extend the deadline by agreement or the plaintiffs show good cause to move for an extension within the sixty-day deadline. The plaintiffs' untimely service of a certificate signed by their expert did not constitute substantial compliance with the statute. Therefore, dismissal was mandatory under the plain language of the statute. View "The Estate of Deanna Dee Fahrmann v. ABCM Corporation" on Justia Law

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The case involves an Iowa attorney, Marc Harding, who hired an Indiana-based doctor, Rick Sasso, to provide expert witness services in a potential medical malpractice suit in Iowa. After things did not go as planned, Harding sued Sasso in Iowa to recover a portion of the $10,000 retainer he had paid, plus additional damages. Sasso moved to dismiss the suit, arguing that the Iowa court did not have personal jurisdiction over him. The district court denied the motion, and Sasso appealed. The court of appeals reversed the district court's decision and ordered the case to be dismissed, but the Supreme Court of Iowa granted Harding's application for further review.The Supreme Court of Iowa held that the Iowa court could exercise personal jurisdiction over Sasso. The court found that Sasso had sufficient minimum contacts with Iowa to support the exercise of personal jurisdiction over him with respect to the contract dispute. Sasso had entered into a contractual relationship with Harding, who is an Iowa lawyer, and agreed to evaluate a medical malpractice claim involving Iowa residents and to provide expert testimony at any trial in the medical malpractice case, which would have been venued in Iowa. The court also found that the exercise of jurisdiction would not be unreasonable or offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. Therefore, the Supreme Court of Iowa vacated the decision of the court of appeals, affirmed the district court's order denying Sasso's motion to dismiss, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Harding v. Sasso" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court denying three plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment in this suit brought to challenge the City of Des Moines' use of the state's income offset program to collect automated traffic citation penalties and granting summary judgment in favor of the City, holding that the district court erred in granting summary judgment as to a preemption claim and a claim for unjust enrichment.Specifically, the Supreme Court held that the district court properly dismissed Plaintiffs' claims that, among other things, the City's use of the income offset program amounted to an unconstitutional taking and that their right to procedural due process was violated. As to Plaintiffs' contention that the City's use of the program was preempted by state law, however, the district court reversed in part, holding that the district court erred in dismissing one plaintiff's preemption claim with respect to his requests for declaratory and injunctive relief and in dismissing two plaintiffs' claim for unjust enrichment. The Court remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Livingood v. City of Des Moines" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Exile Brewing Company's attempt to intervene in the underlying probate matter and striking Exile's motion to vacate, dismiss, and close two estates seeking to pursue certain claims, holding that the probate court did not err in denying the request to intervene and close the estates.During the 1950s and '60s, Ruth Bisignano owned and operated a popular bar in Des Moines. In 2012, Exile named one of its craft beers "Ruthie" and used Ruth's image. Ruthie died in 1993, and her estate was closed that year. Her husband Frank Bisignano died three years later, and his estate was closed in 1999. In 2020, Plaintiff successfully filed petitions to reopen both estates. Subsequently, as administrator of Frank's estate, Plaintiff sued Exile alleging common law appropriation and other claims. Exile filed a motion to vacate, dismiss, and close both estates, arguing that the probate court lacked statutory jurisdiction to reopen the estates. The probate court denied the motion, concluding that Exile had no right to intervene in the probate proceedings. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the probate court correctly determined that Exile was an interloper with no ability to challenge the estates' reopening. View "In re Estate of Bisignano" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the district court refusing to quash subpoenas that required production of documents and testimony for use in a Louisiana products liability lawsuit, holding that the subpoenas imposed undue burdens on Dethmers Manufacturing Company, an Iowa firm.The plaintiff in the products liability used Iowa's interstate discovery procedures to serve subpoenas on Dethmers, who was not a party to the Louisiana suit. The subpoenas required Dethmers to produce twenty-two categories of documents and testimony that were "extraordinarily broad." After Dethmers unsuccessfully moved to quash the subpoenas Dethmers brought this appeal. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for entry of an order quashing the subpoenas, holding that the subpoenas were overly burdensome on their face and should be quashed. View "In re Subpoena Issued to Dethmers Manufacturing Co. v. Mittapalli" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the district court concluding that Plaintiff's filed petition did not relate back to her previously rejected filing, holding that the district court did not err in granting Defendants' motion to dismiss.Plaintiff filed this personal injury suit against Defendants one day after the two-year statute of limitations set forth in Iowa Code 614.1(2). Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the petition on the grounds that Plaintiffs' claims were time-barred. In response, Plaintiff argued that her untimely petition related back to the date she attempted to file her petition but the clerk of court rejected it due to Plaintiff's failure to include personal identification information with the proposed filing. The district court dismissed the action, concluding that the filed petition did not relate back to the rejected filing. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff's filing did not relate back to her attempted filing. View "Carlson v. Second Succession, LLC" on Justia Law