Articles Posted in Iowa Supreme Court

by
The Iowa Department of Corrections (IDOC) may not forfeit earned time an inmate accrued before his refusal of or removal from the Sex Offender Treatment Program (SOTP). For more than a decade, the IDOC policy stopped only the ongoing accrual of earned time for inmates upon a refusal or removal from SOTP without forfeiting previously accrued earned time. This interpretation was upheld by the Supreme Court in Holm v. State, 767 U.W.2d 409 (Iowa 2009). In 2016, the IDOC changed its policy to additionally forfeit all previously accrued earned time upon a refusal or removal from SOTP and applied that change retroactively. The district court concluded that the new IDOC policy interpretation and application to a certain inmate whose release was delayed by more than three years due to the new policy was contrary to Holm and violated the state and federal Ex Post Facto Clauses. The Supreme Court applied stare decisis and the interpretation fixed in Holm and affirmed. View "State v. Iowa District Court for Jones County" on Justia Law

by
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) lacked statutory authority to issue an emergency order that imposed a quarantine on land used as a whitetail deer-hunting preserve. Landowners challenged an emergency order issued by the DNR to order Landowners to quarantine land formerly used as a whitetail deer preserve for five years after the deer harvested on the property tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD). An administrative law judge found that the DNR lacked the statutory authority to issue the emergency order, but the Iowa Natural Resources Commission (NRC) reversed. The district court reversed the NRC, holding that, in issuing the quarantine order, the DNR was acting outside the legislature’s grant of authority. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the DNR lacked the authority to issue the emergency order and that the emergency order did not amount to an impermissible taking under the United States or Iowa Constitutions. View "Brakke v. Iowa Department of Natural Resources" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff, who was paralyzed in an accident during a work accident, filed a petition seeking a determination of permanent total disability (PTD) and also sought partial commutation of benefits in a lump sum. Defendant, the workers’ compensation insurer, disputed whether Plaintiff was PTD and resisted the commutation, although it continued to pay full weekly PTD benefits and explore settlement. The Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner granted Plaintiff’s petition for partial commutation. Plaintiff then sued Defendant for first-party bad faith. On summary judgment, the district court determined that Defendant acted in bad faith. The jury awarded punitive and compensatory damages at a ratio of 88:1. The Supreme Court (1) reversed the judgments for compensatory and punitive damages, holding that, while Defendant knew or should have known it lacked any reasonable basis to dispute Plaintiff’s PTD status, the district court erred in ruling that Defendant was in bad faith as a matter of law for resisting the commutation; and (2) the district court properly denied Plaintiff an award of attorney fees incurred in prosecuting the bad-faith action. View "Thornton v. American Interstate Insurance Co." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs’ attorney filed two board claim forms with a state appeals board on behalf of Plaintiffs, signing their names and his own. The attorney did not attach any document showing he had power of attorney. The board rejected Plaintiffs’ claims. Plaintiffs then filed their claim in district court. The district court dismissed Plaintiffs’ claims on the ground that their attorney signed the forms on their behalf. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) a claimant presents a claim when the board receives a writing that discloses the amount of damages claimed and generally describes the legal theories asserted against the State; and (2) the district court had jurisdiction to hear Plaintiffs’ claims. View "Segura v. State" on Justia Law

by
The Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) condemned a parcel of Landowner’s property to complete the construction of a highway. The compensation commission awarded Landowner $11,100 for the taking. Landowner filed a petition on appeal, arguing that, as a result of the taking, it could no longer use the remaining property for its business and, therefore, that IDOT’s taking left an uneconomical remnant. Landowner argued that the fair market value of the entire property before the condemnation - and thus the damage for the taking - was $200,000. The district court granted summary judgment for IDOT, concluding that Landowner’s petition was untimely. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Landowner’s uneconomical remnant challenge was untimely, and therefore, the district court did not have the authority to consider that claim. View "Johnson Propane, Heating & Cooling, Inc. v. Iowa Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

by
Myria Holdings, Inc. is a Delaware corporation with its primary place of business in Texas. Myria held an ownership interest in two subsidiaries doing business in Iowa. The Iowa Department of Revenue issued a final order concluding that Myria was ineligible to join a consolidated tax return with its subsidiaries because it did not derive taxable income from within Iowa under Iowa Code 422.33(1). The district court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Myria lacked a taxable nexus with the State of Iowa, and therefore, the Department correctly concluded that Myria lacked taxable income from within the State. View "Myria Holdings Inc. v. Iowa Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

by
Rosalva Ochoa was terminated from her employment with JBS Swift & Company for absenteeism. Ochoa filed two workers’ compensation petitions against Swift and its workers’ compensation carrier, alleging a cumulative left groin injury and a cumulative injury to the neck and right shoulder during the course and scope of her employment. A workers’ compensation deputy commissioner ordered Swift to pay Ochoa permanent partial disability benefits and permanent total disability benefits, but the award eliminated what would otherwise amount to overlapping partial disability benefits and total disability benefits. The workers’ compensation commissioner concluded that Ochoa’s permanent partial disability payments should not have terminated as of the date when her permanent total disability payments commenced, which resulted in Ochoa receiving more than six years of overlapping weekly benefits. The district court and court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Iowa workers’ compensation law does not prohibit an employee from collecting both permanent partial disability benefits and permanent total disability benefits at the same time when the employee suffers successive injuries at the same workplace. View "JBS Swift & Co. v. Ochoa" on Justia Law

by
An inmate pled guilty to domestic abuse assault in a plea bargain that dismissed a related sex abuse charge. After the inmate arrived at a facility of the Iowa Department of Corrections (IDOC), the IDOC required the inmate to participate in a Sex Offender Treatment Program (SOTP). For the initial classification mandating SOTP, the IDOC relied on the dismissed sex abuse charge and the victim’s detailed written statement included in a police report. An administrative law judge (ALJ) upheld the determination following an evidentiary hearing based on the inmate’s admission that he assaulted his girlfriend and the victim’s statement. The district court reversed, concluding that the IDOC cannot use unproven charges to require SOTP. The Supreme Court reversed and reinstated the IDOC’s decision, holding (1) the IDOC may rely on the victim’s written statement in a police report for the initial classification requiring SOTP provided that the inmate is afforded due process; (2) the ALJ may uphold the classification based on the inmate’s testimony admitting to a sexual component to the assault along with other evidence; and (3) the inmate in this case was provided with appropriate procedural protections, and there was no other error in these proceedings. View "State v. Iowa District Court for Jones County" on Justia Law

by
The Dyersville City Council voted to rezone the area containing the Field of Dreams movie site from agricultural to commercial in order to facilitate the development of a baseball and softball complex. Community members filed writs of certiorari, arguing (1) since the city council acted in a quasi-judicial function, the city council’s act of passing the ordinances was invalid; and (2) there was sufficient opposition to the rezoning to trigger a unanimous vote of the city council contained in the city code. The district court annulled the writs. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the city council acted in its proper legislative function when it rezoned the subject property, and both ordinances were validly passed; and (2) no procedural or substantive errors affected the city council’s rezoning decisions. View "Residential & Agricultural Advisory Committee, LLC v. Dyersville City Council" on Justia Law

by
Insured filed a complaint challenging Insurer’s termination of workers’ compensation issuance. The insurance commissioner declined to consider the merits of the complaint on the ground that the complaint raised factual issues that could not be resolved by the agency. Insurer filed a petition for judicial review seeking a declaration that the insurance commissioner should have exercised jurisdiction over the dispute. The district court granted the commissioner’s motion to dismiss, concluding that Insurer lacked standing to litigate the issues. The Supreme Court dismissed Insurer’s appeal, holding that, under the circumstances presented and applying established caselaw, the appeal was moot. View "Auto-Owners Insurance Co. v. Iowa Insurance Division" on Justia Law