Iowa Procedure: Donnell v. American Family Mutual Insurance Co., Iowa App., No. a-13-0672 (March 12, 2014)

Issue: Whether a one-year limitations provision provided in an insurance contract conforms with and is enforceable under Iowa law.

Facts: Sixteen months after lighting struck and damaged his home Appellant filed suit to recover insurance benefits from his insurer, the Appellee. The policy required that suit be instituted within one year from the date of loss. It also contained a conformity provision, wherein the insurer agreed that, if any terms of the policy were contrary to State law, it would reform the policy to conform to State law. Appellant argued that the one-year limitations provision was contrary to Iowa’s ten-year statute of limitations for instituting actions based upon written contracts and, therefore, the policy had to be reformed to comply therewith.

Holding: While Iowa has a ten-year statute of limitations for written contracts it also has a more specific one-year statute of limitations for fire insurance contracts. As such, Appellant’s insurance policy was not contrary to Iowa law and the one-year limitations period contained within the policy was enforceable.

For a complete copy of the Court’s opinion, click here

Strict Liability: Burt v. Miller, Iowa App., Case No. 12-1934 (Mar. 26, 2014)

Issue: Whether Iowa Code section 351.28 imposes strict liability upon the owner of a dog for all damages caused by the dog, regardless of the contributory negligence of others and regardless of the owner’s knowledge of the dog’s vicious propensities.

Facts: While visiting his father at Appellant’s home, Salem Baker, an eleven-year old boy, was bit and seriously injured by a pit bull. Appellant admitted that he owned the pit bull, but argued it was an error to assess all damages against him because Salem’s father was caring for Salem and the dog when the incident occurred. Appellant further argued that strict liability should not be imposed because he did not know the dog had vicious propensities.

Holding: Iowa Code section 351.28 imposes strict liability upon the owner of a dog for all damages caused by the dog. The only defenses to strict liability imposed by this rule are set forth in Iowa Code section 351.28; it does not provide exceptions for the contributory negligence of a dog’s care giver or the owner’s knowledge of the dog’s vicious propensities.

For a complete copy of the Court’s opinion, click here

Iowa Procedure: Travelers Property Casualty Co of America, et. al., v. Flexsteel Industries, Inc., Iowa App., Case No. 12-2014 (Mar. 26, 2014).

Issue: This case presented two issues: (1) whether a company is entitled to a dismissal or stay of a declaratory judgment action filed in Iowa that seeks a determination as to whether that company’s insurer must defend an Indiana lawsuit, and (2) whether Iowa’s law on pollution exclusions applies when the insured causes damage in Indiana.

Facts: Flexsteel Industries, Inc., a company headquartered in Dubuque, Iowa, was sued in Indiana by individuals who claimed they were exposed to chemicals released from two of Flexsteel’s Indiana plants. Flexsteel carried primary and excess liability insurance issued by a number of insurance companies, including Travelers Property Casualty Company of America. Travelers filed a declaratory judgment action in Iowa, seeking a declaration that the pollution exclusion in its policy eliminated coverage, including any duty to defend or indemnify Flexsteel in connection with the Indiana lawsuit. Flexsteel filed a motion requesting a dismissal or stay of the Iowa proceedings and further argued that Indiana law should be utilized to interpret the policy, in which case the pollution exclusion would not bar coverage.

Holding: Based upon the multiple factors considered when evaluating a motion to dismiss or stay a proceeding, it was not an abuse of discretion for the Iowa District Court to deny Flexsteel’s motion to dismiss or stay the Iowa lawsuit. It was, however, an error for the Iowa District Court to apply Iowa’s law when interpreting the policy’s pollution exclusion because the “principal location of the risk” was in Indiana, where a majority of the Flexsteel’s manufacturing facilities are located. Thus, Travelers had a duty to defend the Indiana lawsuit.

For a complete copy of the Court’s opinion, click here

Release Agreements: Kafton v. Merchant, Iowa App., Case No. 13-1000 (Mar. 26, 2014).

Issue:  Whether a general release without any express reservation of rights constitutes a complete accord and satisfaction of all claims arising from the same incident.

For a complete summary of the factual background of the case and the court’s holding, click here