from the Iowa District Court for Benton County, Lars G.
claimant appeals the district court rulings dismissing her
claims of legal malpractice.
C. Riley of Tom Riley Law Firm, P.L.C., Cedar Rapids, for
Gregory M. Lederer and Shannon M. Powers of Lederer Weston
Craig PLC, Cedar Rapids, for appellee.
by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Tabor and Bower, JJ.
Schwab appeals the district court's grant of summary
judgment in her legal malpractice action against her
dissolution attorney, Jennifer Zahradnik. Schwab claims
Zahradnik provided negligent legal representation by failing
to preserve her rights to her ex-spouse's potential
medical-malpractice claim, her right to file a
loss-of-consortium claim, and a right to reimbursement for
insurance premiums paid during the dissolution. We find
Schwab had no right to her ex-spouse's post-dissolution
personal-injury settlement. We also find any claims she might
have had accrued at the time of the dissolution decree and
have expired under the statute of limitations. We affirm the
district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of
Background Facts & Proceedings
September 2008, Schwab filed a petition to dissolve her
marriage with Dennis Musel. Zahradnik represented Schwab in
the proceedings. Prior to completion of the dissolution
proceedings, Musel sustained injuries during surgery which
led to Musel's partial paralysis. On June 16, 2009,
Musel's attorney sent a letter to Zahradnik indicating
Musel was contemplating a medical malpractice action and
would reimburse Schwab for insurance premiums paid during the
dissolution but would not agree to Schwab receiving any of
the settlement proceeds.
and Musel submitted a stipulated dissolution decree, which
was approved by the court on July 8, 2009. Schwab knew of
Musel's potential medical-malpractice claim at the time
the decree was entered, though Musel had told her he was not
intending to bring a claim. The dissolution decree did not
preserve any claim Schwab might assert to Musel's
potential malpractice action, preserve her own potential
loss-of-consortium claim, or preserve a right to
reimbursement for the insurance premiums.
filed his medical-malpractice claim in March 2012 and settled
in November 2013. Schwab learned of the settlement through an
article in the newspaper and then requested her dissolution
file from Zahradnik.
January 5, 2017, Schwab filed a legal malpractice petition
against Zahradnik. Schwab made three negligent representation
claims against Zahradnik: failure to preserve Schwab's
right to make a claim against Musel's medical-malpractice
action and failure to preserve a loss-of-consortium claim;
failure to preserve Schwab's right to reimbursement of
insurance premiums; and failure to inform Schwab of
Musel's intent to file a claim and her related rights.
Schwab also brought a breach-of-contract claim against
Zahradnik, alleging Zahradnik had failed to inform Schwab of
Musel's potential medical-malpractice claim and failed to
preserve her rights in the dissolution decree.
Zahradnik's answer included two affirmative defenses:
Schwab's legal-malpractice claim was time-barred by the
statute of limitations and Schwab was a proximate cause of
her own damages.
February 2018, Zahradnik filed a motion for summary judgment
based on the statute-of-limitations defense; Schwab resisted.
The district court denied summary judgment on March 30. On
April 20, the court amended its ruling and granted Zahradnik
summary judgment as to any allegations concerning loss of
consortium, finding Schwab held such rights independent of
Musel's medical-malpractice claim and any loss of
consortium occurred during Schwab and Musel's marriage.
Because her loss-of-consortium claim accrued during the
marriage and was lost with the decree in 2009, it was time
barred by the statute of limitations. The remaining
negligence and contract claims on Zahradnik's failure to
preserve Schwab's right to make a claim against
Musel's medical-malpractice recovery and her right to
reimbursement of insurance premiums remained set for trial.
April 23, in a pretrial colloquy, Schwab indicated she was
not pursuing the legal malpractice as a breach-of-contract
claim. The court revisited the summary judgment
motion and granted summary judgment in favor of Zahradnik on
the negligence claim. Schwab filed an Iowa Rule of Civil