Bailey v. Batchelder, 96-1316

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Citation576 N.W.2d 334
Docket NumberNo. 96-1316,96-1316
PartiesChristine BAILEY, Appellant, v. Michael BATCHELDER, Appellee, Michael BATCHELDER, Third-Party Plaintiff, v. Meril BAILEY, Third-Party Defendant.
Decision Date25 March 1998

Page 334

576 N.W.2d 334
Christine BAILEY, Appellant,
Michael BATCHELDER, Appellee,
Michael BATCHELDER, Third-Party Plaintiff,
Meril BAILEY, Third-Party Defendant.
No. 96-1316.
Supreme Court of Iowa.
March 25, 1998.

Page 335

Sara Riley Brown of Tom Riley Law Firm, P.C., Cedar Rapids, for appellant.

Kevin Collins and William H. Courter of Shuttleworth & Ingersoll, P.C., Cedar Rapids, for appellee.

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LAVORATO, Justice.

In this negligence action, the plaintiff alleges she was injured when a co-employee's car collided with a car in which the plaintiff was a passenger. The collision happened in a parking lot adjacent to their place of employment while both were arriving early for work. The employer provided the parking lot for its employees. The principal issue on appeal is whether the plaintiff's exclusive remedy was under the Workers' Compensation Act. We agree with the district court's summary judgment ruling that it was and affirm the court's dismissal of the plaintiff's action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

I. Facts.

The following facts gleaned from depositions and pleadings are essentially undisputed. Christine and Meril Bailey are married. Both are employed at Amana Refrigeration in Main Amana, Iowa.

On February 9, 1994, Christine suffered injuries in an automobile collision that happened in the parking lot owned by their employer. Meril was driving and Christine was a passenger. Michael Batchelder, a co-employee, was driving the other vehicle involved in the collision.

Batchelder and the Baileys were scheduled to begin work at 3:30 p.m. The Baileys arrived at the parking lot at 2:40 p.m. The Baileys arrived early to retrieve a videotape from Christine's father's vehicle and to find a convenient parking space close to the entrance of the employer's plant. The collision happened shortly thereafter. Like the Baileys, Batchelder was also searching for a parking space.

II. Proceedings.

Later, Christine sued Batchelder, alleging ordinary negligence. Batchelder answered and asserted a cross-claim against Meril.

Following the filing of these pleadings, Batchelder filed a motion for summary judgment. Batchelder alleged the following facts which he claimed entitled him to a judgment as a matter of law:

5. The accident occurred in the Amana Refrigeration parking lot while all three employees were attempting to find parking spots and begin working at 3:30 p.m.

6. All three parties were in the "zone of employment" at the time of the accident, and co-employees are not liable to each other for negligent conduct causing injury unless such conduct constituted "gross negligence."

7. The plaintiff has not pled and there is no genuine issue of material fact regarding whether Mr. Batchelder's conduct constituted gross negligence.

8. Defendant/third-party [plaintiff], Michael Batchelder, is entitled to the protection of the Iowa Workers' Compensation statute 85.20.

9. No genuine issues of material fact exist regarding the plaintiff's negligence claim against defendant Michael Batchelder, and, therefore, Michael Batchelder is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

These allegations effectively interposed the Workers' Compensation Act as Christine's sole remedy, obviously alerting the district court to a lack of subject matter jurisdiction issue.

In resisting the motion for summary judgment, Christine contended that the exclusivity of the Workers' Compensation Act was an affirmative defense that Batchelder had to plead pursuant to Iowa Rule of Civil Procedure 101. The district court noted that if the facts showed an employer/employee relationship, it had no subject matter jurisdiction because of the exclusivity of the Workers' Compensation Act. Subject matter jurisdiction, the court pointed out, could be raised at any time. Thus, a failure to plead exclusivity was, according to the court, "not germane to the court's consideration of the [exclusivity] issue."

The court concluded that employee injuries sustained in parking lots provided by the employer are an exception to the "going and coming" rule and are therefore exclusively covered under the Workers' Compensation Act. Applying the rule to the facts of this

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case, the court further concluded the Workers' Compensation Act governed Christine's claim and the Act was her exclusive remedy. For this reason, the court found itself without subject matter jurisdiction and accordingly sustained the motion for summary judgment.

Christine appeals from this ruling. She again contends Batchelder's failure to plead exclusivity of the Workers' Compensation Act barred that "defense." In addition, she contends this court has adopted no exception to the "going and coming rule," which would apply to the facts here.

III. Scope of Review.

We review district court summary judgment rulings for correction of errors at law. Hagen v. Texaco Ref. & Mktg. Inc., 526 N.W.2d 531, 534 (Iowa 1995). We summarized the principles governing the review of grants of summary judgment in Knapp v. Simmons, 345 N.W.2d 118, 121 (Iowa 1984):

Summary judgment is proper when there is no genuine issue of [material] fact and the moving party is entitled to the judgment as a matter of law. The burden of showing the nonexistence of a material fact is upon the moving party. While an adverse party generally cannot rest upon his pleadings when the moving party has supported his motion, summary judgment is still not proper if reasonable minds could draw different inferences and conclusions from the undisputed facts. In this respect, summary judgment is functionally akin to a directed verdict; every legitimate inference that reasonably can be deduced from the evidence should be afforded the nonmoving party, and a fact question is generated if reasonable minds could differ on how the issues should be resolved.

(Citations omitted.)

IV. Exclusivity and Subject Matter Jurisdiction.

The injured employee's right to workers' compensation is the employee's exclusive remedy against the employer. Iowa Code §§ 85.3(1), 85.20 (1993); Glenn v. Farmland Foods, Inc., 344 N.W.2d 240, 242 (Iowa 1984). Christine does not dispute this. Nor does she dispute that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over claims arising under chapter 85. Rather, she contends exclusivity of the Workers' Compensation Act is an affirmative defense, which Batchelder was required to plead pursuant to Iowa Rule of Civil Procedure 101.

Rule 101 requires that "any defense ... which admits the facts of the adverse pleading[s] but seeks to avoid their legal effect, must be specifically pleaded." Because Batchelder did not plead exclusivity, Christine insists such failure bars the "defense."

Christine believes Batchelder had a duty to raise the exclusivity issue because the statute of limitations had run on her workers' compensation claim by the time Batchelder filed his motion for summary judgment. This is especially true, Christine argues, when Batchelder acknowledges this court has never addressed the issue of injuries caused by a co-employee occurring in parking lots as the co-employees report to work.

We think the Act's exclusivity goes to the heart of the district court's jurisdiction. Jurisdiction is the inherent power of the court to decide a case. State v. Bosworth, 145 W.Va. 753, 117 S.E.2d 610, 619 (1960). Jurisdiction is of two sorts--jurisdiction of the subject matter and jurisdiction of the person. Id. Here we are dealing with subject matter jurisdiction.

Subject matter jurisdiction is the authority of a court to hear and determine cases of the general class to which the proceedings belong, not merely the particular case then occupying the court's attention. Christie v. Rolscreen Co., 448 N.W.2d 447, 450 (Iowa 1989). Because an injured employee's exclusive remedy falls under chapter 85, our district courts do not have authority to hear workers' compensation cases. Such cases are not of the general class of cases the district court has authority to hear.

In addition, lack of subject matter jurisdiction may be raised at any time:

Every court has inherent power to determine whether it has jurisdiction over the subject matter of the proceedings before it. It makes no difference how the question

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comes to its attention. Once raised, the question must be disposed of, no matter in what manner or form or stage presented. The court on its own motion will examine grounds of its jurisdiction before proceeding further.

Tigges v. City of Ames, 356 N.W.2d 503, 510 (Iowa 1984) (quoting Walles v. International Bhd. of Elec. Workers, 252 N.W.2d 701, 710 (Iowa 1977)); see also Iowa R. Civ. P. 104(a) (1997) ("[T]he court shall dismiss the action at any time it finds, by suggestion of the parties or otherwise, that the court lacks jurisdiction of the subject matter.") (substance of this portion of Iowa R. Civ. P. 104(a) is now included in Iowa R. Civ. P. 88(a), (d) (1998)). Unlike jurisdiction of the person, the parties cannot waive or vest subject matter jurisdiction. In re Estate of Dull, 303 N.W.2d 402, 406 (Iowa 1981).

Thus, contrary to Christine's arguments, the Act's exclusivity is not an affirmative defense which a party must assert. This is so because the Act's exclusivity means the district court has no subject matter jurisdiction over a workers' compensation case. Once a court discovers it does not have subject matter jurisdiction, it has no choice but to dismiss the case, no matter where in the stage of the proceedings this jurisdictional defect comes to light. The district court correctly considered the lack-of-subject-matter-jurisdiction issue even though Batchelder did not raise the exclusivity issue in his pleadings.

V. Parking Lot Injuries as an Exception to the "Going and Coming" Rule.

A. "Arising out of and in the course of employment." Iowa Code section 85.3(1) provides:

Every employer, not...

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