UPDATES & ANALYSIS

5.01

Iowa Supreme Court grants further review in four Court of Appeals decisions

by Rox Laird | May 1, 2020

The Iowa Supreme Court has granted further review of four rulings of the Iowa Court of Appeals. Following are brief summaries of those cases. Go to On Brief’s Cases in the Pipeline page to read the parties’ briefs and appellants’ applications for further review.

Denver Sunset Nursing Home v. City of Denver, Iowa

Question: Is a utility customer due a $1 million refund for 29 years of overcharges?

The City of Denver urges the Supreme Court to reverse an Oct. 23, 2019, decision of the Iowa Court of Appeals reversing a Bremer County District Court ruling that the city did not owe Denver Sunset Nursing Home a full refund for electric utility overcharges over 29 years totaling $996,194.03. The city of Denver argues the Court of Appeals wrongly held that Denver Sunset is entitled to the full refund based on state statute. The city argues Denver Sunset is entitled to a refund going back only five years, or $47,000, based on terms of a city ordinance. An amicus curiae brief was filed by the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities in support of the City of Denver.

State v. Wright

Question: Does a police search of a suspect’s trash violate the Fourth Amendment?

Nicholas Wright seeks reversal of a Feb. 5 Iowa Court of Appeals decision affirming a Cerro Gordo District Court ruling that a Clear Lake police officer did not violate the Fourth Amendment by searching a suspect’s trash bags removed from his garbage cans next to the alley behind his home. Wright argues the Court of Appeals incorrectly concluded that he had no expectation of privacy, based on a 1988 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, in dismissing his motion to suppress evidence of illegal drug possession derived from his garbage. Wright, citing a more recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, argues that his garbage bags and trash cans are personal “effects” under the Fourth Amendment’s protection of “persons, houses, papers and effects” from unreasonable searches and seizures.

Terry v. Dorothy

Question: Does settlement of a workers’ compensation claim bar a claim against a coworker?

Megan Dorothy seeks reversal of a Feb. 5 ruling of the Iowa Court of Appeals reversing a Story County District Court holding that Brian Terry’s compromise settlement on his workers’ compensation claim was a final discharge of all claims, including against other employees, and thus barred his subsequent suit against a coworker alleging gross negligence that caused his workplace injury. The appeals court, with one dissent, held that the settlement was limited to workers’ compensation claims under Iowa Code Chapter 85, whereas Terry’s subsequent gross negligence claim was based on common law outside of Chapter 85.

No Boundry LLC v. Hoosman

Question: Did a disabled defendant make a good faith attempt to set aside a default judgment?

Cornell Hoosman asks the Iowa Supreme Court to reverse a Jan. 9 ruling by the Iowa Court of Appeals affirming a Black Hawk County District Court decision denying Hoosman’s motion to set aside a default judgment against him in an action following transfer of deed to his home for nonpayment of $220 in property taxes. Hoosman argues the Court of Appeals erred in finding that he did not show good cause, based on his disability, to set aside the default judgment.

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