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Barrett v. Swank

Court of Appeal of Iowa

December 18, 2013

DARREN BARRETT, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
AMANDA SWANK and AEROPOSTALE, INC., Defendants-Appellees.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Michael D. Huppert, Judge.

Darren Barrett appeals the district court order denying his motion for new trial, motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, and request for a sudden emergency instruction.

Pete Leehey of Pete Leehey Law Firm, P.C., Cedar Rapids, for appellant.

Jeffrey M. Margolin of Hopkins & Huebner, P.C., Des Moines, for appellees.

Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Mullins and Bower, JJ.

BOWER, J.

Darren Barrett appeals the district court order denying his motion for new trial, motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, and request for a sudden emergency instruction. We determine a reasonable jury could find the defendant, Amanda Swank, was not negligent in operating a motor vehicle. We also reject the claim that Swank was negligent as a matter of law because there was evidence indicating she stopped her vehicle at a stop sign and stopped again before entering the path of Barrett's motorcycle as required by Iowa Code section 321.322 (2011). We additionally find the district court properly rejected the requested sudden emergency instruction because the incident was foreseeable. We affirm.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings

Darren Barrett was injured on May 26, 2011, while riding his motorcycle on 68th Street in West Des Moines, Iowa, when he crossed the frontage road into the Jordan Creek Mall parking lot. At the same time, Amanda Swank was exiting the parking lot through the frontage road. Swank stopped at a stop sign[1] and waited for another vehicle, which she believed had the right-of-way. After looking left and right, Swank began to drive through the intersection.[2] Seeing Barrett on his way through the intersection, [3] Swank stopped her vehicle. Barrett swerved, briefly regained control, and then set the motorcycle down on its side after losing control. He suffered physical injuries as a result of the incident.

Barrett brought an action against Swank and her employer, Aeropostale, [4]alleging negligence for failing to keep a proper lookout and failing to yield the right-of-way. Trial on the matter was held on January 28 and 29, 2013. At the close of evidence, Barrett requested a sudden emergency instruction, which was denied by the district court. Following a jury verdict finding Swank not at fault, Barrett filed a combined motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and for new trial. Both were denied.

II. Standard of Review

We review the district court's denial of a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict for errors at law. Mitchell v. Cedar Rapids Cmty. Sch. Dist., 832 N.W.2d 689, 694 (2013). Evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Wolbers v. The Finley Hosp., 673 N.W.2d 728, 734 (Iowa 2003). The motion is to be overruled so long as there is substantial evidence on each element of the claim. Id. "[I]f reasonable minds could reach different conclusions based upon the evidence presented, the issue is properly submitted to the jury." Id.

Our review of a motion for new trial depends upon the grounds raised in the motion. Pavone v. Kirke, 801 N.W.2d 477, 496 (Iowa 2011). Barrett's request for new trial was based upon the sufficiency of the evidence, which presents a question of law. See In re Estate of Hagedorn v. Peterson, 690 N.W.2d 84, 87 (Iowa 2004). Our review is for errors at law. Id.

Challenges to jury instructions are reviewed for errors at law; however, the trial court's refusal to give a requested instruction is reviewed for an abuse of discretion. State v. Frei, 831 N.W.2d 70, 74 (Iowa 2013). Error in refusing to give a requested ...


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