Iowa Supreme Court says insurance liability must be shared in a tragic shooting death

By: Rox Laird on March 12th, 2019

A couple of teenage boys are out for some dirt-bike and ATV riding at rural retreat when one of the boys is fatally injured in a tragic shooting accident. The farmhouse on the retreat where the shooting occurred is insured by a homeowners’ policy and by a separate commercial general liability policy.

Is the issuer of the commercial policy on the hook for a share of a $900,000 settlement paid to the victim’s family?

Yes, says the Iowa Supreme Court, in Metropolitan Property and Casualty Insurance Co. v. Auto-Owners Mutual Insurance Co., handed down March 8.


The Iowa Supreme Court grapples with alleged jury confusion with instructions in a comparative fault case, but declines to order a new trial

By: Rox Laird on March 6th, 2019

Jurors in a Pottawattamie County medical malpractice trial submitted a question to the court during jury deliberations about the meaning of instructions given to them by the trial judge for apportioning fault to a settled party, but the judge did not commit a prejudicial error by failing to clarify his instructions, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled unanimously March 1.

The appellant, a 33-year-old resident of a halfway house following her release from prison, sued the halfway house and an emergency room doctor for failing to immediately diagnose her symptoms of a stroke, resulting in her partial paralysis.

The woman settled with the halfway house prior to the malpractice trial, which was then narrowed to the question of the emergency room doctor’s liability. Based on Iowa’s comparative fault statute, the judge in the verdict form asked the jurors to decide if there was any fault by either the doctor or the halfway house and, if so, what percentage to allocate to either one.


Iowa Supreme Court will hear arguments in eight cases March 5 and 6

By: Rox Laird on March 1st, 2019

The Iowa Supreme Court entered the home stretch of its 2018-19 term March 1, with four months remaining before the administrative term begins in July.

The Court has disposed of 38 of the 90 cases submitted thus far this term. The Court has scheduled five more days to hear arguments in March and April.

The Court will hear arguments in eight cases March 5 and 6, and two cases will be submitted without oral argument. Following are summaries of those cases.

Following are summaries of the March oral arguments. Go to On Brief’s Cases in the Pipeline page to read the briefs filed with the Court in these cases.

State v. Baker

Scheduled for oral argument March 5, 9 a.m.

Justin Andre Baker seeks further review of a decision by the Iowa Court of Appeals affirming his conviction and sentences by the Black Hawk County District Court for possession of marijuana with intent to deliver. Baker argues the police seizure of his vehicle was not supported by articulable reasonable suspicion and challenges the legality of a search warrant based on evidence from that seizure. The Court of Appeals upheld the District Court’s denial of Baker’s motion to suppress in an opinion written by Chief Judge Gayle Nelson Vogel and joined by Judge Patrick Carr. Judge Mary Tabor dissented, saying the lower court should have granted Baker’s suppression motion.


Christopher McDonald elevated to the Iowa Supreme Court by Governor Reynolds

By: Rox Laird on February 21st, 2019

The Iowa Supreme Court will have a full complement of seven justices when Christopher McDonald is sworn in. McDonald, 44, was appointed by Gov. Kim Reynolds this week, replacing Justice Daryl Hecht, who retired last year as he battles melanoma.

Reynolds’ second appointee, after naming Susan Christensen last August, brings to the Court the perspective of a Vietnamese-American, a practicing lawyer, and a trial and appellate judge.

McDonald has served on the Iowa Court of Appeals since 2013. He is a graduate of Grand View University and the University of Iowa Law School. He clerked for Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge David Hansen, and practiced law at the Des Moines law firms of Faegre Baker Daniels and Belin McCormick. He was senior counsel for litigation at Aviva before being appointed to the Fifth Judicial District Court by former Gov. Terry Branstad.


Iowa Supreme Court set to hear oral arguments in five cases Feb. 12 and 13

By: Rox Laird on February 11th, 2019

The Iowa Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in five cases Feb. 12 and 13, and four other cases will be submitted to the Court without oral argument. Go to On Brief’s Cases in the Pipeline page to read the briefs in these cases.

Ames 2304 v. City of Ames, Zoning Board of Adjustment

Scheduled for oral argument Feb. 12, 9 a.m.

The City of Ames and the Ames Zoning Board of Adjustment seek further review of a decision by the Iowa Court of Appeals reversing and remanding a Story County District Court ruling upholding a decision of the Zoning Board of Adjustment denying Ames 2304’s application for a permit for an interior remodeling that would convert a 4-unit apartment building with four bedrooms into four units with a total of seven bedrooms. The zoning board held that increasing the number of bedrooms in the nonconforming apartment building would violate the City’s zoning ordinance by increasing its “intensity.” The Court of Appeals reversed the District Court, holding that the only definition of the term “intensity” in the zoning ordinance is in a section that refers only to commercial and industrial property, not residential.

[Disclosure: Nyemaster Goode attorney Debra Hulett is the attorney for Ames 2304 in this case.]


Iowa Supreme Court will hear arguments in a police-shooting case in an evening session Feb. 5

By: Rox Laird on February 4th, 2019

The Iowa Supreme Court will hear oral argument Feb. 5 in an interlocutory appeal in a civil suit brought by a Cedar Rapids man who was shot by a Cedar Rapids police officer during a 2016 traffic stop, which left him paralyzed from the neck down.

Oral argument in Mitchell v. City of Cedar Rapids, will be held in an evening session beginning at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Supreme Court Chambers at the Judicial Branch Building as part of the Court’s effort to make oral arguments accessible to the general public. The argument also will be livestreamed on the Judicial Branch website (www.iowacourts.gov).

Plaintiff-appellee Jerime Mitchell sued the City of Cedar Rapids and Police Officer Lucas Jones claiming, among other things, negligence and assault and battery. The city and Jones sought an order from the court protecting certain documents produced during discovery – including “peace officers’ investigative reports” – from public disclosure.


Iowa Supreme Court set to hear oral arguments in eight cases Jan. 23 and 24

By: Rox Laird on January 22nd, 2019

The Iowa Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in eight cases Jan. 23 and 24. Four other cases will be submitted to the Court without oral argument.

Among the cases set for argument is an appeal by two transgender women challenging a decision by the Iowa Department of Human Services denying Medicaid coverage for sex-reassignment surgeries. A woman accused of murder wants to cite a “Battered Woman Syndrome” defense, and four cases before the Court raise the issue of offenders’ “reasonable ability” to pay court costs, court-appointed attorney fees and restitution.

Following are summaries of the January oral arguments. Go to On Brief’s Cases in the Pipeline page to read the briefs filed with the Court in these cases.

State v. Albright

Scheduled for oral argument Jan. 23, 9 a.m.

Charles Raymond Albright appeals his conviction in Franklin County District Court for first-degree kidnapping and the beating of his live-in girlfriend, arguing that the standard for proving kidnapping in the first degree was not met by the State. Albright also challenges the District Court’s order that he pay restitution for the cost of court-appointed legal assistance without considering his “reasonable ability” to pay those costs prior to entering judgment.


The Iowa Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in eight cases Dec. 11 and 12

By: Rox Laird on December 7th, 2018

The Iowa Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in eight cases Dec. 11 and 12. Four other cases will be submitted to the Court without oral argument.

Among the cases set for argument are two appeals brought by state and local government employee unions arguing that amendments made by the Iowa General Assembly in 2017 to Iowa’s public-employee bargaining law violate the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution.

Following are summaries of the December cases. Go to On Brief’s Cases in the Pipeline page to read the briefs filed with the Court in these cases.


U.S. Supreme Court denies Iowan’s appeal challenging Fourth Amendment exception

By: Rox Laird on December 4th, 2018

The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear an appeal from an Iowa man who argued that his drunk-driving conviction was the product of an unconstitutional search and seizure.

The Court on Monday issued a list of cases considered at the justices’ Nov. 30 conference, and no new cases were accepted for review.


Iowa Supreme Court: Truncated phone hearing on parental rights violated jailed mother’s constitutional rights

By: Rox Laird on December 3rd, 2018

A parent who is incarcerated and unable to attend a termination of parental rights hearing in person has a due process right to participate by telephone in the entire hearing, not just to give testimony, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled Nov. 30.

The ruling contains explicit new requirements for juvenile court judges to follow in such cases, including taking the initiative to work with prison officials if necessary to assure that the parent is able to participation in the full hearing by telephone, and delaying the hearing in the event the parent is unable to participate by phone until a transcript of prior testimony is prepared for the parent to review.

The Court said, “the role of a juvenile judge to seek cooperation in managing the hearing becomes part of due process. Judges are leaders and must at times exercise leadership to achieve justice. This leadership means juvenile judges may need to confer with prison officials prior to termination hearings to explain the importance of the court procedures and he need for their cooperation to help assure procedural justice. It also can be found by creating an understanding of justice for others to see and respond. Justice, in the end, is not just for courts to give people. It is for all, and for all to give.”


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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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