Category Archives: Iowa Case Law

Juror Collapses in Med Mal Trial – Defendant Doctor saves her. What happens next?

This is one of the most common war stories you hear in the medical malpractice world – someone in the courtroom collapses during a medical malpractice trial, and the defendant doctor runs in to render aid and save the day.

Everyone claims to know someone this has happened to. It’s the Eddie Murphy in the elevator of lawyer stories.

Here’s one time it actually happened. 

Bottom line is that the District Court allowed everyone involved to compose themselves over the lunch hour, polled the jury, and when the jury said they could still be fair and impartial, refused the Plaintiff’s request for a mistrial. The Court of Appeals reversed.

I tend to agree with the Court of Appeals. The bigger key is that if this happens to you, there are some citations in the opinion with other cases – so remember that if you need a quick brief on the issue.

(Howard Zimmerle is a personal injury and medical malpractice lawyer in Rock Island, Illinois, practicing in Iowa and Illinois. He can be reached at 309-794-1660 or at hzimmerle [at] mjwlaw.com).

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Filed under Iowa Case Law, Juries, Medical Malpractice, Trial Practice

Surprising Iowa Court of Appeals Ruling on Vehicle Damage

I assume the law on vehicle damage is pretty much the same in every state, right? The general rule is that the plaintiff gets the reasonable cost to repair the vehicle or the value of the vehicle, whichever one is lower.

In trial, the proof should go as follows: Plaintiff proves the value of the repair. Defendant either accepts the value, presents evidence that the real value of the repair is lower or that the value of the repair exceeds the value of the vehicle. If the defendant doesn’t do that, and liability is clear, the plaintiff should win.

Emphasis on “should.” In Iowa, this apparently isn’t the case. The case of Phipps v. Boone County requires the plaintiff to prove both:

A. The reasonable value of repairs, and

B. The value of the vehicle immediately prior to the collision.

Even if there is no objection.

I disagree with this… but Iowa lawyers need to be aware of this when handling property damage in car accident cases.

(Howard Zimmerle is a personal injury lawyer who handles auto accident cases in Iowa and Illinois. He can be reached at 309-794-1660 or hzimmerle [at] mjwlaw.com)

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Filed under Iowa Case Law, Trial Practice

Iowa Jury Verdicts Now Partially Available for Free (But are of Limited Value)

What’s my case worth?

Any good lawyer knows that the answer to that question requires a lot of knowledge – knowledge not just about the facts of the case at hand but about which facts may drive the value of the case and why.

One valuable piece of the puzzle is to see what juries have done in the past with similar cases. Even that has its limitations. Obviously not all juries are the same. Different states, different counties, different judges, attorneys, juries, etc would lead to different results in most cases. The key when looking at jury verdicts is to look at trends and patterns.

The Iowa Bar Association now has a free searchable database of Iowa jury verdicts. It’s incomplete (missing some cases), and it doesn’t give you much information about the facts of most cases, but it’s something. Any weapons in your arsenal that can help you value cases (and convince insurance adjusters, attorneys or even your own clients) that the value you put in your demand is correct sure can’t hurt.

(Howard Zimmerle is a plaintiff’s trial lawyer practicing in Iowa and Illinois. You can reach him at (309) 794-1660 or hzimmerle [at] mjwlaw.com).

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Filed under Iowa Case Law, Negotiations, Settlements, Trial Practice, Uncategorized

Iowa Supreme Court Holds Parent’s “Permission Slip” Style Injury Waiver Void

We all know the drill. Before a child goes on a field trip or something, the parent has to sign a permission slip.

The permission slip will typically waive liability for what could happen – in other words, Johnny goes on a field trip with his school, gets hurt, Johnny’s mom can’t sue the school even if they were at fault.

Not anymore. The Iowa Supreme Court (battered and bruised as they are) ruled that preinjury waivers signed on behalf of a minor are void as against public policy. That’s a pretty big decision. You can read it here.

Oh, and for those who might blame the three justices who were thrown out – one of those three dissented from the opinion.

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New Iowa “Scope of Liability”/ Proximate Cause Jury Instructions!

As most practicing Iowa lawyers should know, the Iowa Supreme Court did away with the old doctrine of Proximate Cause last year (with some clarification in the Royal Indemnity case earlier this month) and replacing it with “Scope of Liability.”

The big headache for judges and trial lawyers is what the new jury instructions will look like.

Well, you’re in luck. I’m on the Iowa Jury Instructions Committee, and we approved two new jury instructions to replace the old proximate cause instruction – one on “factual cause” (ie did defendant’s conduct cause plaintiff’s damages) and another one on “scope of liability” (to be used only in rare cases – this is usually a question for the court)

Both instructions, after the jump.

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Filed under Iowa Case Law, Juries, Law Practice Management, Legal News, Trial Practice

Traps for Iowa Lawyers

There are tons of traps for lawyers – little deadlines or rules that could easily be missed and screw up a case. Good lawyers know what they are and how to avoid them. Here’s one:

Iowa Rule of Civil Procedure 1.906 states that the clerk shall set a trial-setting conference in all cases within 90 days of filing. This conference is to be set within 150 days of filing. No problem, right?

Well what happens if you don’t get a trial setting notice? Clerks are great, hardworking, and do their jobs well, but things slip through the cracks occasionally.

The rule states that the parties are responsible for having a trial setting conference within 150 days. It doesn’t provide for a remedy if this doesn’t happen, but I wouldn’t want to find out.

(Howard Zimmerle is a trial lawyer practicing in Davenport and the surrounding areas).

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Filed under Iowa Case Law, Traps, Trial Practice

New Iowa Cases – Three Interesting Ones

Hi folks… I’m swamped with actual work now, so too busy to blog much. Priorities and such, you know?

I did want to bring to your attention three new Iowa Appellate cases that may be of interest.

1. A UIM carrier can contract around the 10 year statute of limitations. Think you potentially have a UIM claim? Better check your policy, ASAP!

2. In Iowa Dram Shop Cases, the statute of limitations begins to run when notice is sent to the bar/tavern, not when the accident or injury happens. This is huge.

3. An interesting discussion of the “F word”. Apparently it’s not as f-ing shocking as it was in the 1880s (partially due to Rod Blagojevich… just read the opinion).

Read, enjoy, and comment if you want. Back to the salt mines for me.

(Howard Zimmerle is an accident and injury lawyer in the Illinois and Iowa Quad Cities)

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Filed under Iowa Case Law, Legal News