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

by Rox Laird | February 11, 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.]

Hawkins v. Grinnell Regional Medical Center, et al.

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

Defendants-appellants Grinnell Regional Medical Center, David Ness, and Debra Nowachek appeal a $4.5 million jury verdict in favor of Gregg Hawkins in his employment lawsuit alleging illegal age and disability discrimination. The appellants raise five questions on appeal:

“Did the district court err in refusing to instruct the jury that it must find for the Hospital if the evidence showed it would have made the ‘same decision’ regardless of Hawkins’s age, cancer status, and engaging in protected activity?”

“Did the district court err in instructing the jury it could award emotional-distress damages for any ‘wrongful conduct’ during Hawkins’s employment, (even outside the applicable statute of limitations), not just emotional distress caused by the termination?”

“Is a $4.28 million award for emotional distress, to a plaintiff who did not seek or receive medical treatment for any symptoms of emotional distress, excessive under Iowa law?”

“Did the district court abuse its discretion in admitting evidence of hearsay notes from Hawkins’s friends and family, gruesome photos of cancer treatment taken when Hawkins was on medical leave, and the CEO’s salary?”

“Did Plaintiff’s counsel’s misconduct in closing argument, by violating the ‘golden rule’ and asking the jury to punish Defendants, inflame the jury with passion and unfair prejudice?”

[Disclosure: Nyemaster Goode attorneys Mary E. Funk, Randall D. Armentrout, Debra Hulett, and David Bower represent the appellants in this appeal.]

Mumm v. Jennie Edmundson Memorial Hospital, et al.

Scheduled for oral argument Feb. 12, 1:30 p.m.

Mandi Mumm seeks further review of a decision by the Iowa Court of Appeals upholding a Pottawattamie County District Court ruling denying Mumm’s motion for a new trial after a jury found in defendants’ favor in her medical-malpractice suit against Jennie Edmundson Memorial Hospital, Emergency Physicians of Western Iowa, and Paul C. Mileris M.D. Mumm argues the District Court wrongly dismissed her motion for a new trial, which she sought because the jury was confused about the allocation of fault in jury instructions. The three-member Court of Appeals panel issued a per curiam decision upholding the District Court, but Court of Appeals Judge Richard Doyle dissented, saying the jury was entitled to know the effect of the application of comparative fault in its decision. “With no guidance, the jury was left to blindly flop around on its own in those murky waters of comparative fault,” Doyle wrote. “I therefore believe Mumm is entitled to a new trial.”

In the interest of L.T., A.T., and D.T., minor children

Will be submitted without oral argument Feb. 12.

A mother seeks further review of an Iowa Court of Appeals ruling upholding a Linn County Associate Juvenile judge’s order terminating her parental rights to her three children. The mother does not dispute the termination of her parental rights but challenges the juvenile court’s failure to give her additional time to seek reunification with her children.

De Dios v. Indemnity Insurance Company of North America and Broadspire Services

Scheduled for oral argument Feb. 13, 9 a.m.

This case presents a question certified to the Iowa Supreme Court by U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett, who is hearing Samuel De Dios’ suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa. De Dios claims defendants acted in bad faith in denying his workers’ compensation claims. Before ruling on the case, Judge Bennett has certified this question to the Court: “In what circumstances, if any, can an injured employee hold a third-party claims administrator liable for the tort of bad faith for failure to pay workers’ compensation benefits?”

[Disclosure: The Iowa Defense Counsel Association and the American Insurance Association submitted an amicus curiae brief in support of defendants-appellees, which was written by Nyemaster Goode attorney Keith P. Duffy.]

Wells Fargo Equipment Finance v. Retterath

Scheduled for oral argument Feb. 13, 9:30 a.m.

The petitioner-appellants, Florida citizens Jason and Analia Retterath, appeal a Chickasaw County District Court ruling on summary judgment dismissing their petition to vacate a District Court order granting respondent-appellee Wells Fargo Equipment Finance’s judgment against their financial interest in an Iowa company to satisfy a debt owed to Wells Fargo. The Retteraths assert, among other things, that their membership interest in the Iowa company is jointly owned, whereas Wells Fargo seeks to collect a debt from Jason, not Analia.

Two questions are raised in this appeal as stated by the appellants: “What State’s law should apply to a creditor’s attempt to levy on Florida citizens’ membership units in an Iowa limited liability company; and whether the ‘unity of time,’ as required for ownership in tenancy by the entireties under Florida law, and ownership as joint tenants with rights of survivorship under Iowa law, is satisfied when a husband conveys membership units owned by him personally to the husband and his wife.”



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