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Estate of Payton Montana Casteel v. Wray

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 26, 2018

ESTATE OF PAYTON MONTANA CASTEEL, by and through its administrator, ANNA HUTT; and TIRAN CASTEEL, individually, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
PATRICIA CHERIE WRAY, Defendant-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Page County, James M. Richardson, Judge.

         Parents of teenager who died appeal the jury's verdict of no fault in a tort action based on a vehicle accident.

          Alfredo G. Parrish and Adam C. Witosky of Parrish Kruidenier Dunn Boles Gribble Gentry Brown & Bergmann, LLP, Des Moines, for appellants.

          Janice M. Thomas and Stephanie A. Koltookian of Bradshaw, Fowler, Proctor & Fairgrave, PC, Des Moines, for appellee.

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Mullins and McDonald, JJ.

          MULLINS, JUDGE.

         Plaintiffs, Anna Hutt and Tiran Casteel, appeal the jury's verdict of no fault in a suit against driver Patricia Wray concerning a vehicle collision in which their son, Payton Casteel, died. Plaintiffs contend the jury's verdict was not supported by sufficient evidence and failed to effectuate substantial justice between the parties. Plaintiffs also argue the court erred in overruling their motion in limine to prevent the introduction of evidence relating to Payton's lack of a motorcycle license and his motorcycle's lack of a headlight. Finally, they contend the court erred in granting summary judgment on their claim of damages for pre-death pain and suffering and pre-death loss of function.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         Wray lived off of Lincoln Street in Coin, Iowa. The driveway to Wray's house is east of the intersection of Lincoln and North Sixth Street. She lived next door to Anna Hutt and her sixteen-year-old son, Payton. On May 21, 2014, at approximately 6:25 p.m., Patricia Wray drove her van east on Lincoln Street on her way home from work. Payton was at his house with friends, hanging out in the garage. Payton asked one of his friends to watch him as he rode his dirt bike along Lincoln Street. Payton left his house and headed west on Lincoln. At some point, as Wray drove east on Lincoln she passed by Payton, heading west. After cresting a hill on Lincoln, Payton turned his motorcycle around and headed east, approaching Wray's van. By this time, the friend who had been watching Payton returned to the garage.

         As Wray neared her driveway, she turned on her left turn signal. While turning, Payton hit the van behind the driver's side door. The impact threw Payton from the motorcycle across the front of the van, and he landed on a nearby grassy area, severely injured. Wray did not see Payton before turning but testified she caught a glimpse of something as she turned. No one witnessed the collision. Skid marks in the westbound lane of traffic indicate Payton was in that lane prior to hitting the van.

         After Payton landed in the grass, Wray called for paramedics and Payton's friends approached him to determine his state of injury. Paramedics rendered aid at the scene, and Payton was transported by helicopter to Creighton Medical Center in critical condition. While at the hospital, Payton was unresponsive and on life support. Payton passed away on May 22.

         On May 20, 2016, Payton's estate, through his mother as administrator, and Payton's father, Tiran Casteel, sued Wray claiming she negligently operated her vehicle, and as a result of her negligence Payton was injured, which resulted in his death. Tiran also sued Wray individually for loss of parental consortium. In June 2017, Wray filed a motion for partial summary judgment and asked for the dismissal of certain categories of damages[1] as well as the loss-of-parental-consortium claim. The court granted the motion in part.[2]

         The plaintiffs filed a motion in limine, seeking to exclude, among other things, evidence that Payton was not licensed to operate a motorcycle on the highway and evidence that Payton's motorcycle was not "street legal," as it lacked turn signals and a headlight. The plaintiffs contended these facts had no connection to the collision. Before commencing trial, the court heard from both parties and overruled the plaintiffs' motion on this evidence. After a three-day trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Wray, finding she was not at fault.

         Plaintiffs moved for a new trial on the basis that the jury's verdict of no fault was not supported by sufficient evidence and failed to administer substantial justice. They argued Wray bore some degree of fault as she failed to keep a proper lookout before turning. They also argued the court erred in overruling their motion in limine and allowing evidence of Payton's lack of a motorcycle license and the lack of headlights on his motorcycle. Lastly, they contended the court erred in denying their request of damages for pre-death pain and suffering and pre-death loss of function.

The court denied the motion, concluding:
Plaintiffs' objections to jury instructions were previously made and ruled upon during trial. Questions of negligence and proximate cause are for the trier of fact. In this case, evidence supports the jury's findings that decedent's negligence was the cause of the accident. The jury's decision was supported by sufficient facts.

Plaintiffs appeal.

         II. ...


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