Iowa Supreme Court set to hear arguments in four cases next week

By: Rox Laird on December 8th, 2017

The Iowa Supreme Court will hear arguments in four cases on Tuesday and Wednesday, Dec. 12 and 13, in appeals that ask the Court to settle a dispute over a baby born of a surrogate mother, an asbestos liability suit brought by the estate of a lung-cancer victim, and a question of whether the State can withdraw tax credits awarded to a film project four years after approving them. Three other cases will be submitted to the court without oral argument.

Following are summaries of three of the cases set for argument:

P.M. and C.M. v. T.B. and D.B.

Scheduled for oral argument 1:30 p.m. Dec. 13.

The appellees in this case, identified as P.M. and C.M., are a couple who entered into a contract with the appellant, T.B., to carry to term anonymously donated ova fertilized by P.M.’s sperm. T.B. gave birth to twins 13 weeks prematurely, and one twin died eight days later. T.B did not inform the Ms of the births and, after bonding with the surviving infant for two months, she changed her mind about giving up the child.

The Ms sued to enforce the “gestational surrogacy” contract and to terminate T.B.’s parental rights, arguing that P.M. is the biological father as confirmed by genetic test results that ruled out T.B. as a biological parent. The Linn County District Court ruled in their favor.

In her appeal, T.B. argues that she is legally the mother of the child – as a matter of biological and scientific fact – that the contract with the Ms is unenforceable absent an Iowa statute recognizing such gestational surrogacy contracts. She further argues that enforcing the contract would violate her constitutional rights of due process and equal protection and those of the child.

Shari Kinseth and Ricky Kinseth v. Weil-McLain

Scheduled for argument 9 a.m. Dec. 12.

Larry Kinseth died in 2009 of lung cancer related to asbestos exposure from a long career of installing insulated boilers. A Wright County jury awarded the estate a $6.5 verdict, including $2.5 million in punitive damages. In this appeal, Indiana-based boiler manufacturer Weil-McLain asks the Court to reverse the District Court’s judgment, bar punitive damages and remand for a new trial.

The defendant-appellants argue the trial court erred by not submitting a question to the jury regarding fault shared by three other companies, that punitive damages are precluded by Iowa law in this case and that the jury was tainted by inadmissible evidence, including an earlier citation by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration against Weil-McLain, and the plaintiff’s asbestos exposure that occurred after the statute of limitations expired.

The Kinseth estate argues that the lower court properly ruled that fault could not be shared with third parties absent evidence that the decedent could be compensated for exposure harm by other parties. It argues that all challenged evidence was admissible, and that punitive damages are supported in this case by the trial record and by Iowa law because McLain’s practices were not consistent with other manufacturers.

Iowa Department of Economic Development v. Ghost Player LLC and CH Investors LLC

Scheduled to be submitted to the Court without oral argument at 1:30 p.m. Dec. 12. 

Ghost Players sued the State of Iowa after the Iowa Department of Economic Development revoked tax credits awarded four years earlier for a movie, “Field of Dreams Ghost Players,” on grounds that the movie producers inflated the value of state tax credits by submitting phony evidence of in-kind contributions that were not, in fact, made to the project.

Ghost Players argues that the Polk County District Court got it right when it ruled that the agency lacked authority to revoke the tax credits. Ghost Players argues that the State cannot unilaterally vacate a final agency action four years after the fact on the basis of information that was available from the beginning.

The Department of Economic Development, in urging the Supreme Court to reverse the lower court, argues that it did not vacate a final agency action but issued a new one based on new evidence that the tax-credits applicant fabricated information about the scope of the film’s financial support.

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On Brief is devoted to appellate litigation, with a focus on the Iowa Supreme Court, the Iowa Court of Appeals, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.
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