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Taylor v. CC Recycling, L.L.C.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

November 8, 2017

ARRAHMEEN TAYLOR, Plaintiff-Appellant/Cross-Appellee,
CC RECYCLING, L.L.C., Defendant-Appellee/Cross-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Paul D. Miller, Judge.

         Arrahmeen Taylor appeals and CC Recycling, L.L.C. cross-appeals a district court ruling following a civil jury trial. AFFIRMED IN PART, REVERSED IN PART, AND REMANDED ON APPEAL; REVERSED AND REMANDED ON CROSS APPEAL.

          Larry J. Thorson of Ackley, Kopecky & Kingery, L.L.P., Cedar Rapids, and Richard A. Pundt of Pundt Law Office, Cedar Rapids, for appellant.

          Bradley J. Kaspar and Matthew G. Novak of Pickens, Barnes & Abernathy, Cedar Rapids, for appellee.

          Heard by Danilson, C.J., Mullins, J., and Blane, S.J. [*]

          MULLINS, Judge

         Arrahmeen Taylor appeals a district court ruling following a civil jury trial denying his motion for a new trial and shifting the costs of the action to him under Iowa Code chapter 677 (2016). Taylor argues (1) the district court abused its discretion in denying his motion for a new trial because the jury's overall award on his claim was inadequate and defense counsel engaged in misconduct during the proceedings[1] and (2) his failure to accept the defendant's offer to confess judgment did not justify shifting the costs of trial to him because the defendant did not give him proper notice of an offer to confess judgment.

         CC Recycling, L.L.C. ("CC") cross-appeals the same ruling, which also denied its motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict with regard to the jury's award of past medical expenses. Specifically, CC argues Taylor failed to meet his burden to prove the reasonable value of his past medical expenses.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         CC is in the business of recycling scrap metal and salvaging automobile parts. In November 2012, Taylor and Elmer Mims transported various pieces of scrap metal to CC using a pickup truck. One of these items was a large, metal pole weighing approximately five hundred pounds. After arriving at CC and weighing the items contained in the truck, one of CC's employee's, Pierre Baugh, attempted to manually unload the pipe from the bed of the truck, but Taylor and Mims advised him it would be too heavy to move on his own. Mims backed away from the truck as a safety precaution when he noticed Baugh start to tremble while he was trying to lift the pole. Taylor laughed at Baugh and began to walk away from the truck while Baugh continued his efforts, but as Taylor was walking away, Baugh lost control of the pole, and the pole ultimately came into contact with Taylor's head. Taylor was knocked unconscious, and his head was bloodied. There was machinery nearby that Baugh could have used to remove the pole from the truck.

         On the day of this occurrence, Taylor and Mims did not wear hard hats while in the scrapyard, they were not offered hard hats by CC, and they were unaware of any requirement that they wear one while in the scrapyard. According to CC's facility manager, however, CC employed a policy that the wearing of hard hats was required by all persons in the scrapyard and, if Taylor had come to the office on the day in question, which he did not, he would have been offered a hard hat. Baugh testified to his understanding that such policy only applied to employees.

         Mims took Taylor home, after which Taylor's fiancé took him to the hospital. There, Taylor was advised he suffered a nonserious head injury and was directed to not work the following day. Prior to this incident, Taylor suffered from "cluster migraines" since he was nineteen years-of-age, [2] which he would get "every day, but [allegedly] not as bad as [he] got them" after being hit in the head with the pole. Prior to the incident at CC, Taylor frequently visited the emergency room for treatment in relation to his migraines. During three separate visits to the emergency room in 2011, Taylor reported to medical staff that he suffered from multiple migraines per day and the pain level of such migraines was "ten out of ten." On one visit, he advised medical staff he experienced five migraines per day, and during a separate visit, he reported he experienced six per day. At a visit to the hospital in February 2013, after the incident, he reported to medical personnel that he experienced "a headache 4-5 times a day."

         Taylor presented to a neurologist for an evaluation in December 2015. Taylor reported to the neurologist that he "had prior headaches dating back to age 19-but since the accident, the headaches . . . remarkably increased up to five times a day." Upon examination, this neurologist concluded Taylor suffered from "cluster migraines" which he believed "were definitely aggravated by the injury." Ultimately, the neurologist opined Taylor's migraines amounted to a five percent impairment of the whole person before the injury and a twenty percent impairment of the same after the injury. The neurologist did not review any of Taylor's medical records prior to his injury in November 2012 but instead relied on what Taylor told him about his history with migraines.

         Taylor filed a negligence suit against CC in September 2014. Following a trial, a jury returned a verdict in favor of Taylor. The jury unanimously awarded Taylor $4904.52 in past medical expenses, $500.00 in past loss of body function, and $500.00 in past pain and suffering, for a total award of $5904.52.[3] However, the jury assigned Taylor with forty-five percent of the fault, and his overall award was accordingly reduced to $3247.49.

         CC filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and motion to tax costs. In relation to the motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, CC requested the court to set aside the award for past medical expenses, generally arguing Taylor had yet to pay any of the medical bills associated with the injury and there was no testimony as to the reasonableness of such expenses.[4]See Pexa v. Auto Owners Ins. Co., 686 N.W.2d 150, 156 (Iowa 2004). With regard to the motion to tax costs, CC requested the court assess the court costs ...

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