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Brosnan v. Woodman

Court of Appeals of Iowa

August 7, 2019

KRISTIN R. BROSNAN, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
STAN WOODMAN and MYRA WOODMAN d/b/a ARAGON TAP, Defendants-Appellees.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Dubuque County, Monica L. Zrinyi Wittig, Judge.

         A patron injured in a fall from a barstool appeals the grant of summary judgment for the tavern owners on her negligence action.

          Joey T. Hoover of Hoover Law Firm P.L.L.C., Epworth, for appellant.

          Martha L. Shaff and Brandon W. Lobberecht of Betty, Neuman & McMahon, P.L.C., Davenport, for appellees.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Tabor, JJ.

          TABOR, JUDGE.

         Kristin Brosnan appeals the district court's grant of summary judgment in her negligence action against Aragon Tap and Stan and Myra Woodman.[1]Because the court properly relied on video evidence in determining the record revealed no genuine issue of material fact, we affirm.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         In late July 2014, Brosnan went to Aragon Tap for drinks with a friend. She gravitated to her "usual place" near the kitchen-choosing to sit on a barstool with a back.[2] While there, she drank Bud Light and shots of cinnamon schnapps. She stepped outside a few times to smoke cigarettes but always returned to the same seat. She recalls being at the bar for about an hour and a half before her fall. In an interrogatory, Brosnan alleges, while seated, she leaned back to stretch her legs. As she did so, she claims the seat back reclined though it was "not supposed to recline." In her words, "[N]ext thing here I am falling backwards." She reported hitting the back of her head on the floor. Other patrons surrounded her and one of the regulars called for medical assistance. Brosnan sustained serious injuries to her neck[3] and could no longer work.

         Aragon Tap does not dispute Brosnan sustained injuries while in the bar. But the owners supplied security-video footage of the bar's interior at the time of her fall that contradicts part of her story. The video exhibit shows a person matching Brosnan's description sitting on the stool she identified as hers. That person doubles over and then falls forward toward the bar. The nearly two hours of footage shows no person falling backward from a stool. And Brosnan agrees she was the only person who fell in Aragon Tap on July 30, 2014.

         Despite those documented facts, Brosnan still denies she was the person depicted falling in the video. But she could not explain the video evidence, which the district court found uncontroverted.[4] In fact, Aragon Tap submitted an affidavit from David Herrig, a security expert, who stated it was impossible to alter or partially delete any part of the security video without deleting all of the footage. He also swore the exhibit was "a true and accurate copy of the video footage recorded by the Aragon Tap's security cameras on July 30, 2014."

         Brosnan alternatively claims, even if the video does portray her falling forward, the direction she fell is irrelevant to her negligence claim. To show Aragon Tap's negligent maintenance of the stool, Brosnan offered a "barstool evaluation report" by Jason Sanders. Sanders's written report found the stool had been improperly repaired in the past. Sanders opined the stool's age and dilapidated condition signaled "a very high risk of failure." But Sanders did not report having viewed the surveillance video. And when Aragon Tap called Sanders for a deposition, he did not appear.

         Brosnan sued Aragon Tap, alleging the bar was negligent in maintaining its bar stools. According to Brosnan, because of Aragon Tap's negligence, she fell backward and sustained her injuries. Aragon Tap sought summary judgment, citing the video evidence to bolster its position Brosnan could not prove she was injured after falling backward on a negligently-maintained barstool.

         The district court acknowledged Aragon Tap's barstools "were as ancient as the Egyptian Pyramids." But the court also relied on the video to determine Brosnan fell forward-so a barstool with a defective back could not have caused her injuries. The district court granted summary ...


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