Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Goebel v. Green Line Polymers, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 25, 2019

HOLGER ERNST HEINZ GOEBEL, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
GREEN LINE POLYMERS, INC., Defendant-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County, Bradley J. Harris, Judge.

         Holger Goebel appeals the denial of his motion for a new trial. AFFIRMED.

          Joshua M. Moon, Matthew M. Craft, and Nathan J. Schroeder of Dutton, Braun, Staack & Hellman, P.L.C., Waterloo, for appellant.

          J. Scott Bardole of Andersen & Associates, West Des Moines, for appellee.

          Heard by Tabor, P.J., and Mullins and May, JJ.

          MULLINS, JUDGE.

         Holger Goebel appeals after the district court's denial of his motion for a new trial following a civil jury verdict in favor of Green Line Polymers, Inc. (Green Line). He argues (1) the court abused its discretion in (a) allowing expert opinion testimony from a non-expert witness, (b) allowing said testimony despite its alleged irrelevance, and (c) allowing Goebel to be questioned concerning specific instances of conduct that had little to no bearing on his character for truthfulness; and (2) "a new trial should be granted where cumulative errors in the record reasonably support the request for a new trial" and "contributed to the jury's verdict contrary to the great weight of the evidence."[1]

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         Goebel has been a truck driver for roughly thirty years. He was born in Germany but moved to Canada when he was forty-three years old. In 2012, Goebel began his employment for a trucking business, Wildwood Transport (Wildwood), in Canada. On April 7, 2015, Goebel picked up a load of plastic pipes in Strathmore, Canada. The destination for the load was Green Line in Waterloo, Iowa. The pipes were stacked in five rows on Goebel's trailer by individuals working at the location where Goebel picked up the load, using a forklift with a clamp. The first three rows individually consisted of two separate groupings of four twelve-inch-diameter pipes each, each grouping of four being bound together with metal bands. The fourth row consisted of six sixteen-inch-diameter pipes. The evidence is disputed as to whether the pipes in the fourth row were bound with metal bands, and this was a central factual issue at trial.[2] The fifth row consisted of six sixteen-inch-diameter pipes. The evidence is undisputed that the pipes contained in this row were not bound together with metal bands. Goebel individually secured each of the rows to his trailer with fabric ratchet straps as they were loaded.

         Goebel departed from Strathmore at 6:00 p.m. He arrived at Green Line on April 10 at 8:15 a.m. After weighing in, he parked his truck where directed. The atmosphere at Green Line was noisy. After parking, Goebel got out of his truck and removed his fabric straps from the top row of pipes. Goebel then stood next to his truck. Green Line employees Corey Emery, James Holden, and Joshua Troupe[3] comprised the crew that was involved in the unloading of Goebel's trailer. Emery began unloading the pipes with a forklift with two prongs but no clamp. Emery removed the pipes in the fifth row and transported them to a nearby recycling machine without incident. Goebel then removed the fabric straps that were securing the fourth row of pipes. Goebel then positioned himself on the passenger side of his truck behind the rear axle and began rolling up his straps. According to his testimony, he then observed, "[o]ut of the corner of [his] eye, " the forklift was moving and "came out with the pipes" and a "pipe came off and caught" him on the neck. Goebel then fell backwards and the pipe fell on him. He sustained injuries.

         In November 2016, Goebel filed a civil petition against Green Line alleging negligence. At trial, Holden testified the forklift was nowhere near Goebel's trailer when the pipe fell from it. Instead, he testified the pipe fell from the trailer while Goebel was next to it collecting the straps he had just removed from the trailer. Troupe also testified[4] that Emery was backing the forklift out of the area where the recycling machine was located, which was roughly thirty yards away from Goebel's truck, when he heard the pipe hit the ground. Emery likewise testified he was near the recycling machine, not Goebel's trailer, when the pipe fell. One of Green Line's experts, Dr. Todd Menna, who holds bachelor's, master's, and doctorate degrees in materials science and engineering, testified the pipe fell after the fabric straps were removed because of the way they were stacked and their return to their natural curvature after Goebel removed his fabric straps. Wildwood's safety manager, Doug Bowes, testified[5] that, because the subject row of pipes was not bound together, Goebel should not have allowed them on his trailer and Goebel improperly loaded his trailer by allowing the pipes to be placed thereon.

         Bowes was deposed in February 2018. Thereafter, Goebel filed a motion for pretrial ruling on admissibility of evidence. Goebel requested that Bowes not be allowed to testify concerning Goebel's disciplinary record as a driver, arguing such testimony would be irrelevant or prejudicial. He also requested that Bowes not be allowed to provide expert opinion testimony.[6] Green Line responded that allowing Bowes to testify concerning Goebel's disciplinary record would potentially be admissible for impeachment purposes and Bowes could properly provide expert testimony based on his knowledge and experience in the trucking industry. Following a hearing, the court ruled Goebel's disciplinary record, namely that he had lied to his employer during a prior incident, "shall not be presented to the jury unless or until evidence has been received regarding the reputation of [Goebel] for truthfulness and the court has been alerted to the use of said evidence." However, the court denied Goebel's request that Bowes not be allowed to provide expert testimony, finding "an adequate foundation was laid during the deposition to establish . . . Bowes as an expert."

         During cross-examination at the trial, Goebel was questioned whether any drivers working for his employer had ever been suspended for improperly securing a load. He responded in the negative. Defense counsel requested a conference outside the presence of the jury, during which he requested he be allowed to question Goebel regarding an incident in which he was, in fact, previously suspended for improperly securing a load. Goebel's counsel objected on prejudice and improper-impeachment grounds. The court allowed the line of questioning for purposes of impeachment.

         The jury ultimately returned a verdict finding Green Line was not at fault. Goebel filed a motion for a new trial. In his supporting brief, Goebel argued a new trial was warranted under Iowa Rule of Civil Procedure 1.1004(6) because the verdict was "unsupported by the evidence." He also argued Bowes was not qualified to provide expert testimony and his testimony was irrelevant to the issue of liability between the parties and prejudicial. Finally, Goebel challenged the court's ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.