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Employers Mutual Casualty Co. v. Smith

Court of Appeals of Iowa

July 3, 2019

EMPLOYERS MUTUAL CASUALTY COMPANY, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
JOHN H. SMITH, Defendant-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Marlita A. Greve, Judge.

         Employers Mutual Casualty Company appeals from the ruling granting John H. Smith summary judgment in its breach-of-contract action.

          Stephanie L. Hinz and Matthew G. Novak of Pickens, Barnes & Abernathy, Cedar Rapids, for appellant.

          William J. Bribriesco of Bribriesco Law Firm, P.L.L.C., Bettendorf, for appellee.

          Heard by Vogel, C.J., Vaitheswaran, J., and Mahan, S.J., [*] but decided by Vaitheswaran, P.J., Mahan, S.J., and Vogel, S.J.

          MAHAN, SENIOR JUDGE.

         Employers Mutual Casualty Company (EMC) appeals from the ruling granting John H. Smith summary judgment in its breach-of-contract action. Because the district court erred in applying defensive issue preclusion, we reverse and remand for further proceedings.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         The following facts are undisputed.

         Smith suffered a work-related injury.

         On February 19, 2013, Central Petroleum employee Smith was injured while performing work when a motorist, Sandra Boyer, struck and pinned him between the front of her vehicle and the rear of his work vehicle. Smith received workers' compensation payments from his employer's workers' compensation insurer, EMC, subject to its right of subrogation under Iowa Code section 85.22 (2013).

         On April 14, 2014, the legal assistant for Smith's attorney wrote to counsel for EMC:

Ms. Denman,
As you know, we represent Mr. John Smith for injuries received on or about February 19, 2013.
The tortfeasor's [Boyer's] insurance carrier has offered to pay the $100, 000 policy limits. According to your last correspondence dated March 26, 2014, your work comp lien totals $107, 924.21. Mr. Bush [Smith's counsel] is requesting the following:
1.Mr. Bush's normal practice and procedure is to request you take a reduction of 1/3 of the lien amount making the total lien $71, 949.48. Please let me know If you are agreeable to this arrangement?
2. Mr. Smith has a $1, 000, 000.00 underinsurance policy. With that being said, we are asking that at this time Mr. Smith pay 1/3 of the lien now ($23, 983.16) out of the $100, 000 and pay the remaining 2/3 ($47, 966.32) out of the underinsurance settlement ...

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