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Bell v. 3E

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 11, 2019

STEVEN J. BELL, JR., Petitioner-Appellee,
v.
3E, a/k/a ELECTRICAL & ENGINEERING CO., and TRAVELERS INDEMNITY CO. OF CT., Respondents-Appellants.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Jeanie K. Vaudt, Judge.

         Respondents appeal the district court's decision denying their motion to dismiss petitioner's petition for judicial review on the ground he failed to timely serve notice of the petition. REVERSED AND REMANDED.

          James M. Ballard of Ballard Law Firm, PLLC, Waukee, for appellants.

          Mark S. Soldat of Soldat & Parrish-Sam, PLC, West Des Moines, for appellee.

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., Greer, J., and Carr, S.J. [*]

          CARR, SENIOR JUDGE.

         3E, also known as Electrical & Engineering Company, and Travelers Indemnity Company (together referred to as respondents) appeal the district court's decision denying their motion to dismiss Steven Bell Jr.'s petition for judicial review on the ground Bell failed to timely serve notice of the petition. We determine the district court erred by denying the motion to dismiss, as Bell did not substantially comply with the requirements for service of notice found in Iowa Code section 17A.19(2) (2018). We reverse the decision of the district court and remand for an order dismissing the petition for judicial review.

         I. Background Facts & Proceedings

         On May 22, 2018, Bell filed a petition for judicial review of a decision of the workers' compensation commissioner. The petition stated it was served electronically by means of the Electronic Document Management System (EDMS) to the attorney for respondents, James Ballard of the Ballard Law Firm, P.L.L.C.

         On its own initiative, the district court issued an order on August 22, stating there was no evidence in the record to show Bell served the respondents notice as required by Iowa Rule of Civil Procedure 1.302(5). The court ordered Bell to file a return of service or other document showing service on the respondents within fourteen days. In the alternative, the court informed Bell he could file a motion for good cause to timely serve notice and request an extension of time. The court informed Bell it would dismiss the case if he failed to comply with these requirements.

         On August 27, Bell moved to extend the time for service of the judicial review petition. He attached an affidavit from his attorney's legal assistant, who stated she was unaware of the need to mail a copy of the judicial review petition in addition to electronically serving notice. Bell also attached a copy of a certified mail receipt showing he sent notice to the Ballard Law Firm on August 24. The respondents resisted the motion and requested dismissal. The district court granted the motion to extend time, stating, "The court does not condone the delay in service present here. However, under this record the delay in service will not prejudice 3E."

         During oral argument on the merits of Bell's petition for judicial review, the respondents again moved to dismiss the petition based on Bell's failure to serve timely notice. Bell resisted. The district court denied motion, and the respondents now appeal.

         II. Service of Notice

         The respondents claim the district court should have granted their motion to dismiss on the ground Bell's petition for judicial review did not substantially comply with the service requirements found in section 17A.19(2). The respondents assert the court was without jurisdiction to consider Bell's petition for judicial review because he did not timely mail notice of the petition. This case involves the district court's ruling on a motion to ...


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