from the Iowa District Court for Webster County, Kurt J.
Green appeals from the district court's denial of the
motion for new trial and apportionment of court costs.
L. Schnurr III of Schnurr Law Firm, PC, Fort Dodge, for
Scott Bardole of Andersen & Associates, West Des Moines,
by Danilson, C.J., and Doyle and Mullins, JJ.
DANILSON, CHIEF JUDGE.
Green appeals from the district court's denial of the
motion for new trial and apportionment of court costs. Green
maintains a new trial should be granted because post-verdict
evidence establishes jury confusion as to damages. Green
contends she is entitled to a new trial on the basis the
verdict is inadequate as to damages and is not supported by
sufficient evidence and does not render substantial justice
as to damages and the allocation of fault. Green also asserts
the trial court abused its discretion in apportioning costs
equally between both parties. Upon careful review of the
evidence, we find the trial court did not err or abuse its
discretion in denying the motion for new trial. We also find
the court acted within its discretion in assessing costs
equally between the parties. We therefore affirm.
Background Facts & Proceedings.
April 30, 2012, Green was working as a sorter at a recycling
center in Fort Dodge when an employee of the City of Fort
Dodge (the City) drove a truck carrying a dumpster into the
recycling center to dump a load of paper. Green was working
in the paper pile, and the employee backed up the truck to
the pile near the area where Green was sorting. Green was
approximately eight feet from the passenger side front wheel
of the truck. Green did not move away from the truck. The
employee pulled forward at idle speed and raised the dumpster
to dump its contents. The employee hit the brakes to shake
loose the remaining paper from the dumpster, causing the
dumpster door to swing loose and strike Green in the right
back shoulder, knocking her to the ground.
was taken to the hospital and reported headaches and pain in
her upper back and shoulder. A CT scan revealed Green
did not have bleeding in her brain. Green reported she did
not remember anything between being struck by the dumpster
door and when she was in the ambulance. Green was diagnosed
with a Grade 3 concussion-a minor head injury.
the date of the injury and the date of trial commencing July
12, 2016, Green saw approximately nine doctors to address
continuing pain in her shoulder, upper back, and neck;
ongoing migraines, which Green maintains began as a result of
her injury; and anxiety. Green was released to return to work
at the recycling center in August 2012. Green was given a
different position requiring less physical activity but was
fired in February 2013 because she could not keep up with the
responsibilities of her job.
filed suit against the City on April 25, 2014, alleging the
city employee's negligence caused Green's injuries.
Green sought damages for past and future medical expenses,
loss of earnings, loss of earning capacity, past and future
physical and mental pain and suffering, and past and future
loss of use. The jury trial was held July 12 through 14,
2016. On July 18, the jury rendered its sealed verdict
finding both Green and the City fifty percent at fault. The
jury awarded Green $25, 000 for past medical expenses, $10,
000 for past pain and suffering, $1000 for past loss of use,
and $5000 for loss of earnings, totaling $41, 000. The jury
did not award damages for future medical expenses, future
pain and suffering, future loss of use, or loss of earning
the rendering of the verdict, the following
[T]he court attendant told me that we had a verdict. Got the
verdict form, called counsel, ran through the verdict forms.
I ... ran through the answers that there were. And they
appeared to be consistent and so I was ready to discharge the
We went in to tell the jury that they were discharged. And as
I have been instructed to do in my continuing education
classes, I conduct sort of a debriefing for the jury. And we
are instructed not to ask them how they've reached their
verdict. And there is sort of a standard response that I
give, which is whatever verdict you have reached is the right
I believe maybe it was the third time that they broached that
issue that someone said ....
Someone said that they wanted to give the plaintiff $41, 000.
And I didn't say anything. One of the jurors then looked
at me and said, well, that is the amount that the plaintiff
will receive, right, something to that effect. And I said no.
Well-And I was asked why. I said because you have assessed
50/50 on the negligence issue so the plaintiff will actually
receive $20, 000. The next reaction was uniform shock by the
jury. That is not what we want to have happen. How do we
change that. I told them that there wasn't anything that
they could do about it because I was back in the jury room
and they were no longer deliberating. My presence
contaminated their deliberation.
They asked me what would happen. And I said, well, I
don't know, but I suppose it's possible that the
matter could be mistried and retried. And there was uniform
shock about that. We don't want that to happen. Isn't
there someone we can call. Can't we talk to someone. I
said, well, the attorneys will contact you and you can talk
to the attorneys about what happened. . . .
On and on we went. And finally they said isn't there
something we can do tonight. I said, well, you can write ...
a letter to the attorneys, to the Court, and that I will file
that letter. I will give that to the attorneys, and we'll
go from there. I suggested to them that they all sign the
letter if they all agreed to it.
jurors filled out a second verdict form to express their
desire that Green ultimately receive $41, 000. The second
verdict form still allocated fifty percent fault to both
Green and the City, but awarded $50, 000 for past medical
expenses, $20, 000 for past pain and suffering, $2, 000 for
past loss of use, and $10, 000 for loss of earnings. At the
bottom of the form, the jury wrote, "The wording of
question 6 was misinterpreted by the jury. We intended to
award Alevia Green the $41, 000. Please see above where we
have reconfigured our totals."
State the amount of damages sustained by Alevia Green caused
by the fault of the City of Fort Dodge as to each of the
following items of damage. Do not take into consideration any
reduction of damages due to Alevia Green's fault. If
Alevia Green has failed to prove any item of damage, or has
failed to prove that any item of damage was caused by the
fault of the City of Fort Dodge enter "0" for that
28, Green filed a motion for new trial, arguing a new trial
was warranted because the damages awarded were inadequate,
inconsistent, and appeared to have been influenced by
confusion; and the verdict was not supported by sufficient
evidence. The trial court set a hearing for August 8, 2016,
stating "[a]s a result of the confusion in the verdict,
the court must determine whether to accept the verdict or
declare a mistrial." The City resisted the motion for
new trial, but suggested at the August 8 hearing on posttrial
motions the trial court could enter an additur to award Green
the full $41, 000 to correct the confusion surrounding the
damages award. The City stated it would not object to an
additur. However, Green's attorney seemingly stated Green
would not agree to an additur and maintained a new trial was
appropriate under the circumstances. In an August 11 order, the
trial court ultimately held:
The court finds that the verdict is supported by the evidence
given the discretion in setting non-economic damages. . . .
The heart of the matter is the jury's professed
misinterpretation of the language in Question No.  telling
them "not to take into consideration any reduction of
damages due to Alevia Green's fault." In reality,
the jury followed the instruction correctly in rendering its
verdict. The problem has arisen when the jury was misinformed
how the court would apply the attribution of negligence to
The plaintiff argues that the jury's desire to award a
given amount and to work backward to a result entitles her to
a mistrial because it constitutes jury misconduct and the
equivalent of a quotient verdict. The argument would be
persuasive if the jury had indeed done that. But it did not.
The jury wants the court to do such a computation post trial
and the jury has requested that the parties permit the court
to enter such a verdict. However, the verdict, as it was
rendered, was appropriate and correctly computed.
trial court upheld the jury's verdict awarding Green $20,
500 in total damages and assessing costs equally between the
parties. Green now appeals. Green contends a new
trial is warranted because passion or prejudice caused the
jury to award inadequate damages under Iowa Rule of Civil
Procedure 1.1004(4), sufficient evidence does not support the
verdict as to damages and the allocation of fault pursuant to
Iowa Rule of Civil Procedure 1.1004(6), and the verdict fails
to effect substantial justice. Green also asserts the trial
court erred in assessing costs to be divided equally between
Standard of Review.
review the denial of a motion for new trial based on the
grounds asserted in the motion." Fry v.
Blauvelt, 818 N.W.2d 123, 128 (Iowa 2012) (citation
omitted). Because sufficiency of the evidence presents a
legal question, we review a challenge to the trial
court's denial of a motion for new trial under rule
1.1004(6) for the correction of errors at law. Id.
We review the district court's denial of a motion for new
trial based on the claim the jury awarded inadequate damages
under rule 1.1004(4) for an abuse of discretion. See
addition to the grounds for granting a new trial set out in
rule 1.1004(6) [and (4)], the trial court has inherent power
to set aside a verdict when the court concludes, 'the
verdict fails to administer substantial justice.' We
review the court's ruling on a motion for new trial based
on this ground for an abuse of discretion." Estate
of Hagedom ex rel. Hagedom v. Peterson, 690 N.W.2d 84,
87-88 (Iowa 2004) (citations omitted).
reviewing the motion for new trial, '[w]e view the
evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict and need
only consider the evidence favorable to plaintiff whether it
is contradicted or not.'" Estate of Pearson ex
rel. Latta v. Interstate Power & Light Co., 700
N.W.2d 333, 345 (Iowa 2005) (citation omitted).
review the trial court's apportionment of costs for an
abuse of discretion. Long v. Jensen,522 N.W.2d 621,
624 (Iowa ...