from the Iowa District Court for Muscatine County, Stuart P.
plaintiff in a negligence action appeals the denial of her
motion for mistrial and the partial denial of her motion for
Benjamin P. Long and Pressley Henningsen of RSH Legal, P.C.,
Cedar Rapids, for appellant.
Patrick L. Woodward and Ryan F. Gerdes of McDonald, Woodward
& Carlson, P.C., Davenport, for appellee.
by Mullins, P.J., and Potterfield and Tabor, JJ.
suffering serious injuries in a collision between the
motorcycle on which she was a passenger and a farm tractor,
Marsha Whitlow sued both drivers. Following trial, the jury
returned an incomplete verdict form-finding the tractor
driver, Ron McConnaha, was not at fault but failing to
address the fault of the motorcycle driver, Timothy Newton.
The district court discharged the jury before noticing the
moved for a mistrial or, alternatively, a new trial. The
district court granted a new trial only as to defendant
Newton. The court concluded the verdict form was "not
incomplete" as to defendant McConnaha. Whitlow appeals,
contending the nature of comparative fault requires
simultaneous consideration and determination of the liability
of all potential tortfeasors. McConnaha defends the district
court's ruling, first alleging Whitlow failed to preserve
her claim by not objecting to the verdict forms and then
arguing the jury "fully and completely considered the
evidence" as to his liability.
Whitlow is challenging the incomplete jury verdict rather
than the directions on the form, we reject McConnaha's
error-preservation argument. And because Whitlow is entitled
to a complete retrial where the jury compares the fault of
both drivers, we reverse the district court's ruling in
part, and remand for a new trial allowing Whitlow to litigate
her cause against both McConnaha and Newton.
Facts and Prior Proceedings
2015, McConnaha was pulling a hay rake behind his tractor
while traveling southbound on Muscatine Road.
Newton-Whitlow's fiancé-was driving his motorcycle
in the same direction on the two-lane highway. As McConnaha
turned left into a farm lane, Newton tried to pass on the
left. The motorcycle struck the tractor, and
Whitlow-who was riding behind Newton-was seriously
filed a negligence action against McConnaha. McConnaha filed a
third-party action against Newton, alleging his negligence as
the motorcycle driver. Whitlow then amended her petition
alleging negligence against Newton as well.
court held a six-day jury trial in late February and early
March 2018. Following the presentation of evidence, counsel
for the parties addressed the final jury instructions with
the district court and submitted the case, along with a
four-page special-verdict form, to the jury.
relevant part, the verdict form read:
We, the Jury, find the following verdict on the questions
submitted to us:
QUESTION NO. 1: Was Ronald McConnaha at
Answer "yes" or "no."
[If your answer is no, do not answer any further
questions and sign the verdict form. If your answer is yes,
answer Question No. 2.]
QUESTION NO. 2: Was the fault of Ronald
McConnaha a cause of any item of damage to the plaintiff?
Answer "yes" or "no."