from the Iowa District Court for Woodbury County, Duane E.
Rodriguez appeals from an adverse judgment in her
personal-injury suit against Cynthia Spenner.
D. Tiefenthaler of Tiefenthaler Law Office, PC, Sioux City,
Patrick L. Sealey and Jacob V. Kline of Heidman Law Firm,
PLLC, Sioux City, for appellee.
Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Vogel and Tabor, JJ.
DANILSON, CHIEF JUDGE.
Rodriguez's vehicle was struck from behind by Cynthia
Spenner's vehicle at an intersection. Rodriguez filed
this personal-injury action claiming Spenner was negligent
and caused Rodriguez injuries. Rodriguez appeals from an
adverse judgment, claiming the district court erred in
instructing the jury and in denying her motion for new trial.
review challenges to jury instructions for the correction of
errors at law. Sleeth v. Louvar, 659 N.W.2d 210, 213
(Iowa 2003). Our review of a district court's ruling on a
motion for new trial depends upon the grounds raised in the
motion. Bryant v. Parr, 872 N.W.2d 366, 375 (Iowa
2015). If the motion for new trial was based upon a
discretionary ground, we review the court's ruling for an
abuse of discretion. Clinton Physical Therapy Servs.,
P.C. v. John Deere Health Care, Inc., 714 N.W.2d 603,
609 (Iowa 2006).
Instructions. Rodriguez objected to the trial court
giving a proposed jury instruction on pre-existing
conditions. In the alternative, Rodriguez proposed
this modified instruction:
If you find Plaintiff [Rodriguez] had a pre-existing
condition before this collision and this condition was
aggravated or made active by this collision causing further
suffering and/or disability then she is entitled to recover
damages caused by the aggravation. She is not entitled to
recover for any physical ailment or disability which existed
before this incident or for any injuries or damages which she
now has which were not caused by the defendant's actions.
if you determine that any pre-existing condition was
asymptomatic before the collision, then you should refer to
[proposed] Instruction No. 18 [Previous Infirm Condition
trial court overruled Rodriguez's objection to
Instruction No. 25 and denied the request for the modified
address whether there is sufficient evidence of a preexisting
condition to warrant the instruction. "When we weigh the
sufficiency of the evidence to support a requested
instruction, we review the evidence in the light most
favorable to the party seeking the instruction."
Weyerhaeuser Co. v. Thermogas Co., 620 N.W.2d 819,
824 (Iowa 2000).
the evidence in the light most favorable to Spenner, who
sought the instruction, the jury could have found the
following. On May 22, 2013, Rodriguez (in front) and Spenner
(behind Rodriguez) were stopped at a traffic light. The two
vehicles began to move forward, Rodriguez stopped her
vehicle, and Spenner's right front bumper came in contact
with Rodriguez's left rear bumper. At the time the
vehicles came in contact, Spenner had not applied the gas
pedal and was traveling less than five miles per hour.
Rodriguez was wearing her seatbelt, airbags did not deploy,
and no part of her body came into contact with any part of
her car. Neither vehicle showed visible damage, and neither
vehicle was repaired after the incident. Rodriguez alleged
the incident caused damage to her neck and left shoulder and
ultimately resulted in the necessity for two surgeries.
medical records, however, indicate she suffered migraines
dating back to 1986, neck pain dating back to 1987, shoulder
pain dating back to 1998, and hand pain and numbness dating
back to 2002. Spenner's counsel elicited testimony that
while Rodriguez did not seek regular medical treatment for
these conditions from 2009 to 2013, she did have multiple
musculoskeletal problems which required visits to a doctor,
including an issue with tingling and numbness in her hand.
There was also evidence that Rodriguez avoided medical
treatment due to financial concerns. Rodriguez's medical
records include two magnetic resonance imagings (MRIs) read
by different radiologists. The radiologist from the 2009 MRI
described the findings as indicating "moderate bilateral
neuroforaminal stenosis" ("the narrowing of the
holes where the nerves come out"). The radiologist from
the 2013 MRI described "the disk protrusion causes
moderate to severe left foraminal stenosis." Dr. Johnson
stated the only difference between the two MRI studies
"might be if you really ...