Articles Posted in Iowa Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court interpreting the 2017 amendments to Iowa Code chapter 20, the Public Employment Relations Act, limiting the mandatory subjects of collective bargaining and the matters an arbitrator may consider if the dispute enters binding arbitration, holding that the Iowa Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) and the district court correctly interpreted the amendments. A union sought a declaratory order from PERB and then judicial review of the declaratory order seeking to clarify certain provisions in the amendments. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court affirming PERB's decision, holding (1) "base wages" under Iowa Code 20.9(1) means the floor level of pay for each job before upward adjustments such as for job shift or longevity; and (2) the term "past collective bargaining agreement" in the context of Iowa Code 20.22(10)(b)(1) allows an arbitrator to consider the existing collective bargaining agreement but not ones that came before. View "United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America v. Iowa Public Employment Relations Board" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment dismissing this action filed by a public employee union seeking to enforce a collective bargaining agreement entered into with the Iowa Board of Regents, holding that the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) acted within its statutory authority in promulgating Iowa Admin. Code R. 621-6.5(3), which has the force of law, and that the district court correctly applied rule 621-6.5(3) to hold the parties had no enforceable collective bargaining agreement (CBA) without the Board's vote to ratify it. The Board moved for summary judgment on the union's action to enforce the CBA, relying on rule 621-6.5, which requires the Board to meet to vote to accept a tentative voluntary agreement ratified by the union before the contract becomes effective. The union argued that the agency rule was invalid because it imposed a ratification requirement not included in Iowa Code 20.17(4). The district court upheld the validity of the agency rule and dismissed the union's enforcement action. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) rule 621-6.5(3) is valid; and (2) therefore, no enforceable agreement was reached without the requisite vote by the Board to approve the CBA. View "Service Employees International Union, Local 199 v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court answered a certified question of Iowa law by holding that, under Iowa law, a common law cause of action for bad faith failure to pay workers' compensation benefits is not available against a third-party claims administrator of a worker's compensation insurance carrier. Plaintiff, who suffered a work-related injury, filed a claim for benefits with the workers compensation commissioner. Plaintiff was denied benefits. Plaintiff later filed a bad faith action against his employer's workers' compensation carrier and its third-party administrator. The action was removed to the federal district court, and the court certified the following question to the Supreme 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?” The Supreme Court held that a third-party administrator cannot be sued for bad faith as if it were an insurer. View "De Dios v. Indemnity Insurance Co. of North America" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the court of appeals declining to give preemptive effect to a no-hazard determination by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and affirmed as modified the judgment of the district court, holding that the Federal Aviation Act allows for local zoning regulation, and the FAA's no-hazard letter did not preempt the local airport zoning regulations as a matter of law. A farmer built a twelve-story grain leg near an airport. The airport commission informed the farmer he needed a variance and refused to grant one. Thereafter, the FAA approved the structure. The local commissioners later brought this action in equity to force the farmer to modify or remove the structure. The district court issued an injunction. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court granted further review and held (1) state and local regulators can impose stricter height restrictions on structures in flight paths notwithstanding an FAA no-hazard determination, and therefore, the no-hazard letter did not preempt the local airport zoning regulations; and (2) the district court properly found that the structure constituted a threat to aviation requiring abatement, but the $200 daily penalty is vacated and the judgment is modified to require the farmer to abate the nuisance within nine months of this opinion. View "Carroll Airport Commission v. Danner" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's judgment granting summary judgment and dismissing Plaintiffs' claims challenging the decisions of a county board of supervisors approving a wind energy ordinance and a specific wind energy project, holding that Plaintiffs' claims were matters for the board of supervisors, and not the courts, to resolve. The board unanimously passed and approved a "wind energy conversion systems ordinance" and then granted conditional approval for the wind energy project at issue in this case. Plaintiffs then filed a petition for declaratory and injunctive relief and for a writ of certiorari against the board seeking a declaration that the ordinance was arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable, void and unenforceable and a writ determining that the approval of the project should be set aside as illegal, arbitrary and capricious, unreasonable and void. The district court granted summary judgment for the defendants. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the board did not act illegally, arbitrarily, or capriciously. View "Mathis v. Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors" on Justia Law

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In this case concerning an Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) legal standard for when a series of wind turbines constitute an "electric power generating plant or combination of plants at a single site" within the meaning of Iowa Code 476A.1(5), the Supreme Court affirmed the district court's judgment upholding the IUB's declaratory order declining to require a certificate of public convenience, use, and necessity for a large 170-turbine wind project, holding that the IUB did not err in interpreting Iowa Code 476A.1(5). Since 1997, the IUB has ruled that for wind energy purposes all turbines connected to a single gathering line shall be considered a "single site" or "facility" within the meaning of section 476A.1(5) and that turbines connected to separate gathering lines shall be treated as different sites or facilities. Landowners in Palo Alto County in this case argued that the IUB should have exercised jurisdiction over the turbine wind project at issue in this case because, under the common gathering line standard, it did not exceed the minimum power output requirements. The district court upheld the IUB's position declining to require a certificate for the facility. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the phrase "single site" is ambiguous and that the IUB's interpretation of section 476A.1(5) is not erroneous. View "Mathis v. Iowa Utilities Board" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court concluding that challenged portions of Iowa Administrative Code rule 441-78.1(4) violate the Iowa Civil Rights Act (ICRA) and determining that the Iowa Department of Human Services’ (DHS) denial of Medicaid coverage for gender-affirming surgeries was reversible, holding that the rule violates the ICRA’s prohibition against gender-identity discrimination. At issue was the language of rule 441-78.1(4) pertaining to the exclusion of Iowa Medicaid coverage of surgical procedures related to “gender identity disorders” violated the ICRA or the Iowa Constitution’s equal protection clause. The district court concluded that the challenged portions of the rule violated both the ICRA and the Constitution and that the DHS’s denial of Medicaid coverage for gender-affirming surgeries would result in a disproportionate negative impact on private rights and that the decision was unreasonable, arbitrary, and capricious. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) rule 441-78.1(4)’s exclusion of Medicaid coverage for gender-affirming surgery violates the ICRA as amended by the legislature in 2007; and (2) under the doctrine of constitutional avoidance the Court did not address the constitutional claim. View "Good v. Iowa Department of Human Services" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the decision of the district court annulling a writ of certiorari challenging the decision of the City of Ames’s Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) denying Ames 2304, LLC’s permit for an interior model of a nonconforming use residential structure, holding that the ZBA erred in denying Ames 2304’s interior remodeling permit because the remodel would not increase the number of dwelling units in the structure. The proposed remodel in this case would increase the number of bedrooms while maintaining the same number of apartment dwelling units. The ZBA determined that the local zoning ordinance prohibited this increase in the number of bedrooms because it would increase the intensity of the nonconforming use. The Supreme Court held that the ZBA erred in denying the interior remodeling permit because the zoning ordinance defined an “increase in intensity” as an increase in the number of dwelling units, and the remodel would not increase the number of dwelling units in the structure. View "Ames 2304, LLC v. City of Ames, Zoning Board of Adjustment" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the judgment of the district court in this challenge to the decision of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) denying a dentist’s requests for a state fair hearing, holding, among other things, that the district court erred in finding that Iowa Code 249A.4(11) requires DHS to afford the dentist a state fair hearing but correctly found that the administrative rules require DHS to give the dentist a state fair hearing. After a managed care organization (MCO) denied reimbursement of claims submitted by Plaintiff, a dentist who contracted with the MCO as a provider, Plaintiff sought review. DHS concluded that the issue of the MCO’s denials of reimbursement was not appealable to DHS. The district court concluded that Plaintiff was entitled to a state fair hearing and that Plaintiff could seek reimbursement from his indigent patients for claims not covered or reimbursed by the MCO. The Supreme Court remanded the case, holding (1) Plaintiff was entitled to a state fair hearing; (2) Plaintiff may bill patents for services not covered or reimbursed by the MCO, but only to the extent as set forth in this opinion; and (3) the district court erred in awarding Plaintiff attorney fees. View "Colwell v. Iowa Department of Human Services" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court affirming the decision of the workers’ compensation commissioner declining to award benefits to a fast-food employee who suffered serious head injuries when he fell backwards directly to a tile floor after having a seizure while handling a customer order, holding that there is no blanket rule rendering certain categories of workplace idiopathic falls noncompensable. The commissioner reasoned that idiopathic falls from a standing or walking position to a level floor do not arise out of employment under the workers’ compensation law. The district court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) whether injuries suffered in an idiopathic fall directly to the floor at a workplace arises out of employment is a factual matter, not a legal one, and the factual question to be determined is whether a condition employment increased the risk of injury; and (2) the commissioner in this case incorrectly treated a factual issue as a legal matter. View "Bluml v. Dee Jay's Inc." on Justia Law