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Holst v. Michael Stapleton And Mansur Trucking, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

October 24, 2018

WENDY HOLST, Plaintiff-Appellant/Cross-Appellee,
v.
MICHAEL STAPLETON and MANSUR TRUCKING, INC., a Wisconsin Corporation, Defendants-Appellees/Cross-Appellants.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, John D. Telleen, Judge.

         Plaintiff appeals the district court's decision granting defendants' motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict on the issue of future damages. Defendants cross-appeal the court's denial of the motion as to certain past medical expenses.

          Robert T. Rosenstiel and JohnPatrick Brown of Winstein, Kavensky & Cunningham, LLC, Rock Island, Illinois, for appellant.

          Zachary J. Hermsen and Bernard L. Spaeth Jr. of Whitfield & Eddy, PLC, Des Moines, for appellees.

          Heard by Tabor, P.J., and Mullins and Bower, JJ.

          BOWER, JUDGE.

         Wendy Holst appeals the district court's decision granting defendants' motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict on the issue of future damages. Michael Stapleton and Mansur Trucking, Inc., cross-appeal the court's denial of the motion as to certain past medical expenses. We find Holst did not present sufficient medical evidence to support a claim for future pain and suffering or future loss of function or sufficient evidence to come within the exception to this requirement, and we affirm the court's grant of judgment notwithstanding the verdict on this ground. On the cross-appeal, we conclude the district court did not err in finding there was substantial evidence of causation, so the issue of past medical expenses was properly submitted to the jury and the court did not err in denying defendants' motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict on this ground. We affirm the appeal and cross-appeal.

         I. Background Facts & Proceedings

         On January 13, 2015, Holst was driving on the on-ramp to the Centennial Bridge going from Davenport, Iowa, to Rock Island, Illinois, when she was rear-ended by a hit-and-run driver, which caused some scratches to her car. She testified she did not feel injured from the accident. Holst called 911 and stated she was told to remain where she was until police officers arrived. She parked her car as far to the right side of the road as she could and turned on her flashers.

         While Holst was waiting for police officers to arrive, Stapleton, driving a tractor-trailer owned by Mansur Trucking, drove onto the on-ramp. Stapleton attempted to drive around Holst's vehicle but struck it. Holst testified the collision caused "a big jolt." There was damage to the rear driver's side of Holst's vehicle. Holst stated she did not feel any injuries immediately after the collision but by the next day she had pain and stiffness.

         Holst saw Ben Kolner, a physician's assistant, on January 16 and was evaluated for pain in her neck, back, hip, and shoulder. She was "tearful and upset" during the evaluation. Kolner told Holst she could "take a little more" of her pre-existing prescriptions for Xanax and Tramadol, gave her a prescription for a muscle relaxant, and told her she could see a chiropractor if she wanted.

         Holst had previously been treated for neck and back problems and had a history of anxiety. In 2004, she was in a car accident and sought treatment for back pain, neck pain, neck stiffness, arm and shoulder pain, and headaches. In 2006, Holst was rear-ended, causing neck pain, back pain, back stiffness, and head pain. In 2008, Holst began taking medication for anxiety and depression. In 2012, she fell off a ladder, causing back pain. Holst received treatment for back and neck pain from 2006 through November 2014.

         After the accident in January 2015, Holst continued to receive treatment for hip, back, and neck pain. She had an MRI in May 2015; Dr. Timothy Millea found "age-appropriate degenerative changes" in her spine. Dr. Millea diagnosed Holst with bursitis in her right hip. On June 8, 2015, Holst told her primary care physician, Dr. Jennifer Aanestad, the pain in her right hip had not resolved and this was different than her back pain prior to the accident. Holst had physical therapy for her hip from June to August. Holst periodically received an injection for hip pain from Dr. Maruti Kari of the QCB Pain Clinic.

         On December 17, 2015, Holst filed a petition against Stapleton and Mansur Trucking, claiming their negligence caused her damages. The case proceeded to a trial on May 1, 2017. Holst presented the deposition testimony of Dr. Aanestad, as follows:

Q. Based on your education, training, experience, treatment of Ms. Holst and examination of her on [February 2, 2015, ] and the history that she gave you, did you formulate a diagnosis at that time?

A. I did.

Q. What was it?

A. Cervical strain, low-back pain, anxiety.

Q. And do you have an opinion, within a reasonable degree of medical certainty, whether those conditions were caused or aggravated by the motor vehicle collision?

A. Yes. I think they were aggravated by the motor vehicle collision, yes.

Dr. Aanestad examined Holst on June 8, 2015, and diagnosed her with chronic right hip pain. In the deposition she testified:
Q. Do you have an opinion, within a reasonable degree of medical certainty, whether her hip pain as of that day [June 8, 2015] was caused or aggravated by the motor vehicle collision with the semi?

A. I have to say she had not complained of hip pain prior, so I would have to assume yes, because that had been an issue since.

         When asked if she was "currently treating [Holst] for any conditions that were aggravated by the collision with the semi," Dr. Aanestad stated, "I do," then discussed Holst's anxiety, which she stated was "worsened after the accident," and ...


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