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Basquin v. City of Fairbank

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 12, 2014

TIMOTHY MICHAEL BASQUIN, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
CITY OF FAIRBANK, IOWA, Defendant-Appellee

Editorial Note:

This decision is published in table format in the North Western Reporter.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Buchanan County, Joel A. Dalrymple, Judge. The plaintiff appeals from the district court order granting summary judgment in favor of the defendant.

Thomas P. Frerichs of Frerichs Law Office, P.C., Waterloo, for appellant.

Wilford H. Stone and Amy L. Reasner of Lynch Dallas, P.C., Cedar Rapids, for appellee.

Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., Mullins, J., and Eisenhauer, S.J.[*]

OPINION

EISENHAUER, S.J.

Timothy Basquin appeals from the district court order granting summary judgment in favor of the City of Fairbank. He argues he generated a fact question on the issue of whether the City willfully or maliciously failed to warn against a dangerous condition on its property. We review the district court's grant of summary judgment for the correction of errors at law. Jones v. Univ. of Iowa, 836 N.W.2d 127, 139 (Iowa 2013).

Summary judgment should be granted only where there is no genuine issue of material fact in dispute and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id. In reviewing a grant of summary judgment, we view the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Id. at 140. We draw all legitimate inferences the evidence bears in order to establish the existence of a fact question. Id.

In light of the foregoing requirements, we find the evidence establishes that on January 31, 2010, Basquin was operating a snowmobile near a pedestrian bridge owned by the City. The bridge was tethered with a slack, unmarked cable, which was not visible to Basquin. When the snowmobile's skis hit the tethering cable, the cable smashed through the snowmobile's windshield and Basquin was seriously injured.

Basquin filed an action against the City, alleging it willfully or maliciously failed to guard or warn the public of a dangerous condition. After a hearing, the district court granted the City's motion for summary judgment. The court found the City owed Basquin no duty. It held Basquin failed to present sufficient evidence by which a reasonable person could find the City acted in a manner amounting to a willful or malicious failure to guard or warn against a dangerous condition as required under Iowa Code section 321G.22 (2009).

Basquin contends the district court applied an improper standard of law. He first complains the district court erred in weighing the evidence concerning the condition of the cable because it found " the coloring and condition of the said sheathing is a factual question in dispute and thus is given no weight in the ruling set forth below." He argues the court should have viewed the evidence in the light most favorable to him and found the sheathing's coloring and condition increased the risk of danger. While we agree a fact finder could reasonably conclude the tethering cable presented a dangerous condition, we also agree with the trial court's conclusion this fact is not dispositive in resolving the question of whether the City willfully or maliciously failed to warn or guard against this dangerous condition.

Basquin also complains the district court erred in viewing the evidence regarding the purpose and necessity of the tethering cable. In this regard, the district court found as follows:

Whether the city and its representative were correct in their understanding of the necessity and purpose of the cables (which is factually in dispute), the Court finds as fact that the relevant individuals employed by or associated with the City of Fairbank understood the cables were present to stabilize the footbridge if the river floods and to stop vandals from trying to rock or flip the footbridge. Other than the plaintiff's expert, no engineer or expert has ever told the relevant individuals pertaining to the City of Fairbank that the tethering cables to the footbridge serve no purpose. The City of Fairbank had never been notified by any state or federal official that the footbridge and its tethering cables were deficient in any way, ...

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