RALPH G. HEMESATH, Plaintiff-Appellant,
COUNTY LINE BAR AND GRILL and SEAN McDERMOTT, Defendants-Appellees.
from the Iowa District Court for Dubuque County, Michael J.
Hemesath appeals the district court order granting summary
judgment for the defendants on his negligence claim.
E. Jones and Vincent S. Geis of Shuttleworth & Ingersoll,
Cedar Rapids, for appellant.
M. Craig and Emily A. Kolbe of Ahlers & Cooney, P.C., Des
Moines, for appellees.
Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Doyle and May, JJ.
lunching at the County Line Bar and Grill in July 2015, Ralph
Hemesath leaned back on his barstool. While leaning back, one
of the legs of the barstool broke and Hemesath fell to the
ground. He sued the bar and its owner, Sean McDermott, for
damages, claiming they were "negligent in their
ownership and operation and/or operation of the
premises." Defendants moved for summary judgment. After
an unreported hearing the district court granted
defendants' motion for summary judgment and dismissed the
lawsuit. Hemesath appeals.
review the district court's grant of summary judgment for
correction of errors at law. See Banwart v. 50th Street
Sports, L.L.C., 910 N.W.2d 540, 544 (Iowa 2019). In
doing so, we review the entire record before the district
court at the time of summary judgment and view the evidence
in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See
Iowa State Educ. Ass'n v. State, 928 N.W.2d 11, 15
(Iowa 2019). "[I]f the pleadings, depositions, answers
to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to
any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a
judgment as a matter of law," the court must render
summary judgment. Iowa R. Civ. P. 1.981(3). A fact is
material if it affects the outcome of the case, and a genuine
issue exists when reasonable minds could disagree. See
Banwart, 910 N.W.2d at 544.
sole question on appeal is whether, on the record before us,
a reasonable person could find the defendants acted
negligently. A person is negligent by failing to exercise
reasonable care under the circumstances. See
Hoyt v. Gutterz Bowl & Lounge, L.L.C., 829
N.W.2d 772, 777 (Iowa 2013). On appeal, Hemesath alleges that
the defendants (1) failed to use reasonable care to discover
the condition of the barstool or (2) were aware of a defect
in the barstool and failed to take reasonable care to protect
him from it.
regularly inspected and maintained the stools and saw nothing
wrong with them. It was also undisputed that none of the
stools in the bar had ever collapsed. In granting the
defendants' motion for summary judgment, the district
court found the record insufficient to support a finding of
This is not a case in which res ipsa loquitur has been pled;
it is incumbent on [Hemesath] to establish that there are
sufficient material facts in dispute that would allow a
reasonable factfinder, viewing the evidence in a light most
favorable to [Hemesath], to determine that Defendants were
negligent. [Hemesath] may not simply rest on his pleadings to
satisfy this obligation. That is all [Hemesath] has done
here, and it is insufficient. There is no evidence in the
record of anything McDermott or County Line Bar and Grill did
or failed to do that would support a finding of negligence by
a reasonable factfinder.
agree. Hemesath's negligence claim hinges on "[his]
opinion that the barstool broke because of [an] overweight
man's overuse of the barstool." In other words, the
occasional use of the stool by a heavy-set patron weakened
the stool's leg over time. This is pure
speculation-insufficient to generate a genuine issue of fact.
See Banwart, 910 N.W.2d at 545. The record only
shows that Hemesath leaned back "a couple of
inches" while sitting on a barstool, it "snapped
and went right out from under [him]," and he observed a
broken barstool leg after the fall. Hemesath presents no
evidence that the heavy-set patron exceeded the weight limit
of the stool, or that the patron's use of the stool
weakened it, or that the stool was visibly weak or defective.
The summary judgment record does not provide any basis to
determine why Hemesath fell-whether the barstool was
defective or whether it slipped out from beneath Hemesath
when he leaned back.
evidence of a defective barstool, Hemesath cannot show the
defendants knew of a defect or failed to use reasonable care
to discover it. The record does not allow a reasonable person
to find the defendants acted negligently. ...