UPDATES & ANALYSIS

12.12

Iowa Supreme Court set to begin three days of oral arguments Dec. 16.

by Rox Laird | December 12, 2019

The Iowa Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in 13 appeals Dec. 16, 17 and 18, and another four cases will be submitted without oral argument. The Court scheduled the unusually large number of arguments over three days to hear five cases that were postponed from the November calendar following the Nov. 15 death of Chief Justice Mark Cady.

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

T.H.E. Insurance Co. v. Estate of Stephen Paul Booher; Gladys F. Booher, administrator; Gladys F. Booher individually

Set for oral argument Dec. 16, 9 a.m.

The Estate of Stephen Paul Booher, et al., appeal a Polk County District Court ruling on summary judgment that T.H.E. Insurance had neither the duty to defend nor to indemnify an Adventureland employee in a negligence claim by the Boohers in an action now pending in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa. The Boohers allege that plaintiff/appellant Gladys Booher’s husband died as a result of negligent acts of an Adventureland ride operator who prematurely started a ride, which pulled decedent into the ride and caused his death from a head injury. [Disclosure: Nyemaster Goode attorneys John F. Lorentzen and Thomas C. Goodhue represent T.H.E. Insurance in this appeal.]

Julie Pfaltzgraff v. Iowa Department of Human Services

Set for oral argument Dec. 16, 9 a.m.

The Department of Human Services seeks further review of a June 19 decision of the Iowa Court of Appeals, divided 2-1, reversing a Polk County District Court in part because the notice by DHS regarding the recoupment of Child Care Assistance Program payments was constitutionally deficient.

Terri Endress v. Iowa Department of Human Services

Will be submitted to the Court without oral argument Dec. 16.

The Department of Human Services seeks further review of a June 19 decision of the Iowa Court of Appeals, divided 2-1, affirming in part and reversing in part a Polk County District Court decision. The appeals court held that the department violated Endress’ right to procedural due process by seeking to recoup Child Care Assistance Program payments without providing adequate notice.

Standard Water Control Systems v. Jones

Set for oral argument Dec. 16, 1:30 p.m.

Standard Water Control Systems appeals a Feb. 6 decision of the Iowa Court of Appeals holding that a homestead may not be sold to recover attorney fees in a lien foreclosure action for the home owner’s failure to pay for work done on the home. The appeals court also held that the Polk County District Court erred in ruling that defendant-appellants Michael and Cori Jones waived their homestead rights.

Homeland Energy Solutions v. Steven J. Retterath, Jason Retterath and Annie Retterath, et. al

Set for oral argument Dec. 16, 1:30 p.m.

Steven Retterath appeals a Polk County District Court judgment in favor of Homeland Energy Solutions regarding the ratification of a Membership Unit Repurchase Agreement (MURA). Steven Retterath argues that the district court erred in granting summary judgment to Homeland Energy Systems. Jason and Annie Retterath also appeal, arguing that the District Court erred in determining a member vote was not required to ratify the MURA.

State v. Leedom

Set for oral argument Dec. 17, 9 a.m.

Richard W. Leedom appeals his conviction by a Poweshiek County jury for second degree sexual abuse and indecent conduct with a child. Leedom raises a number of issues in arguing for a new trial, including that the trial judge wrongly denied his motion for an in-camera review of confidential mental-health providers’ records that could aid his defense. Leedom argues he should be allowed to confront his accuser with evidence that she falsely claimed under oath to have reported sexual abuse to a state-licensed therapist.

Roland v. Annett Holdings

Set for oral argument Dec. 17, 9 a.m.

Annett Holdings seeks further review of a July 24 Iowa Court of Appeals decision affirming a Polk County District Court ruling certifying a class action by Anthony Roland on behalf of himself and similarly situated truck drivers. Roland alleges the trucking company violated his rights under Iowa’s Workers’ Compensation Act by requiring him to temporarily relocate to Des Moines for modified duties following a work-related injury. Annett Holdings argues the District Court erred in finding a common question existed across the class of truck drivers and that the class should be certified for the “fair and efficient adjudication of the controversy.”

State v. Veverka

Set for oral argument Dec. 17, 9 a.m.

The State of Iowa argues that the Jasper County District Court erred in excluding a recorded forensic interview with a child disclosing sexual abuse from Dewayne Veverka’s trial on charges of third-degree sexual abuse. The State argues the trial court incorrectly applied the Iowa Supreme Court’s 1994 decision in State v. Rojas in ruling that the recording of the interview did not pass the “trustworthiness,” “necessity,” or “interests of justice” prongs of the analysis required by Rojas.

Gumm v. Easter Seal Society of Iowa, et al.

Set for oral argument Dec. 17, 1:30 p.m.

Easter Seal Society of Iowa, American Compensation Insurance Co., and SFM Insurance Co. seek further review a May 15 decision of the Iowa Court of Appeals, which, in a divided 2-1 decision, reversed a Polk County District Court ruling denying Anita Gumm’s claim that she sustained a cumulative workplace injury to an ankle broken in a previous workplace accident after she returned to work. The majority held that Gumm should be able to recover under a cumulative-injury claim subsequent to the original injury, citing the Iowa Supreme Court’s 2002 decision in Floyd v. Quaker Oats. The dissent argued the majority wrongly extended Floyd in Gumm’s case and the lower court should have been affirmed.

Petro v. Palmer College of Chiropractic

Set for oral argument Dec.17, 1:30 p.m.

Darren Petro appeals the Scott County District Court’s dismissal on summary judgment of his claims of age and disability discrimination and retaliation under the Davenport Civil Rights Ordinance. The trial court held that the Iowa Civil Rights Act does not authorize a local civil rights commission to confer jurisdiction on a state court for alleged violations of a local civil rights ordinance. Petro argues that it is a valid exercise of municipal power for a local civil rights commission to allow a complainant to bring suit in district court under a local ordinance.

An amicus curiae brief was filed in this case by the League of Iowa Human Rights Agencies in support of the appellant.

State v. Kuhse

Will be submitted to the Court without oral argument Dec. 17.

The State seeks further review of a June 19 Iowa Court of Appeals ruling reversing Ken Lorenze Kuhse’s conviction by a Linn County jury for domestic abuse assault causing bodily injury and remanding for a new trial. The appeals court held that Kuhse’s trial counsel was ineffective for not objecting when the jury instruction for assault failed to inform the jury it could not convict unless the State disproved his justification defense. The State had argued in a brief filed with the Court of Appeals that Kuhse’s trial counsel had no duty to seek the additional language in the jury instructions, and that there was no “reasonable likelihood of a different result had the instructions read as he wished.”

State v. Majors

Set for oral argument Dec. 18, 9 a.m.

Jarrod Dale Majors appeals his sentence by the Taylor County District Court on charges of attempted murder and burglary. Majors argues the trial court abused its discretion in imposing a mandatory minimum prison sentence for a juvenile without properly considering five sentencing factors outlined in State v. Lyle (2014), and subsequently clarified in State v. Roby (2017), allowing mandatory minimum sentences for juvenile offenders only after a “complete and careful consideration of the relevant mitigating factors of youth.”

Thornton v. American Interstate Insurance

Set for oral argument Dec. 18, 9 a.m.

American Interstate Insurance appeals the Pottawattamie County District Court’s denial of motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and a new trial following a jury award of $382,000 in compensatory damages and $6.7 million in punitive damages on Toby Thornton’s claims that American Interstate acted in bad faith in handling Thornton’s workers’ compensation claim.

Campuzano v. Polk County District Court

Will be submitted to the Court without oral argument Dec. 18

Jesus Lozano-Campuzano appeals his 50-year prison sentence by the Polk County District Court after pleading guilty to possession with intent to deliver methamphetamine. Lozano-Campuzano argues the trial court failed to apply a 2016 amendment by the Iowa Legislature that cut mandatory minimum prison sentences, such as his, by 50 percent, which was enacted after he was sentenced. The State argues Lozano-Campuzano is not eligible for the sentence reduction under the 2016 amendment because his sentence was increased by a related firearms charge.

Thongvanh v. State

Set for oral argument Dec. 18, 1:30 p.m.

Khamfeung Thongvahn seeks further review of a March 6 ruling by the Iowa Court of Appeals affirming the Webster County District Court’s dismissal of Thongvahn’s application for post-conviction relief of his 1984 conviction for first-degree murder. Thongvahn argued that the Iowa Supreme Court’s 2017 decision in State v. Plain, regarding racial disparity of jury pools, should be applied retroactively to his assertion that the exclusion of Asians from the jury pool prevented his jury from being representative of the community. The appeals court upheld the District Court’s holding that Plain did not apply retroactively.

Susie v. Family Health Care of Siouxland and Sarah Harty

Set for oral argument Dec. 18, 1:30 p.m.

Family Health Care of Siouxland and Sarah Harty seek further review of a Nov. 7, 2018,  decision of the Iowa Court of Appeals, which split 2 to 1 in reversing and remanding a Woodbury County District Court ruling on summary judgment dismissing Sharon and Larry Susie’s medical malpractice lawsuit. The majority held that the Susies’ presented adequate expert testimony on a relationship between the defendants’ actions and plaintiff’s injuries. The dissent would have affirmed the lower court, saying the plaintiffs failed to establish a prima facie case of medical malpractice.

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