Hasselman v. Hasselman, No. 97-1637.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtTERNUS, Justice.
Citation596 N.W.2d 541
PartiesDennis HASSELMAN, Appellant, v. Homer HASSELMAN and Doug Hasselman, Individually and d/b/a D & H Farms Partnership, Appellees.
Decision Date08 July 1999
Docket NumberNo. 97-1637.

596 N.W.2d 541

Dennis HASSELMAN, Appellant,
v.
Homer HASSELMAN and Doug Hasselman, Individually and d/b/a D & H Farms Partnership, Appellees

No. 97-1637.

Supreme Court of Iowa.

July 8, 1999.


596 N.W.2d 542
James Q. Blomgren of Pothoven, Blomgren & Stravers, Oskaloosa, until his withdrawal, and then Robert K. Clements and Joel D. Yates of Clements Law Firm, Oskaloosa, for appellant

Harry Perkins III and Patrick J. Waldron of Patterson, Lorentzen, Duffield, Timmons, Irish, Becker & Ordway, L.L.P., Des Moines, for appellees.

Considered by McGIVERIN, C.J., and LARSON, CARTER, SNELL, and TERNUS, JJ.

TERNUS, Justice.

The appellant, Dennis Hasselman, sued the appellees, Homer Hasselman and Doug Hasselman, claiming their negligence resulted in personal injuries to him. On appeal, Dennis challenges the court's order directing a verdict in favor of the defendants. He claims the trial court had no authority to direct a verdict after the jury was unable to reach a decision and the court had already declared a mistrial. Dennis also asserts the trial court erred in concluding that the evidence was insufficient to submit his claim to the jury. We affirm for two reasons: (1) the trial court had the power under Iowa Rule of Civil Procedure 243 to direct a verdict after having declared a mistrial; and (2) there was insufficient evidence to support a finding

596 N.W.2d 543
that any negligence of the defendants was a proximate cause of the plaintiff's injuries

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

Because this appeal is taken from the trial court's ruling on a motion for directed verdict, we view the evidence "in the light most favorable to the party against whom the motion was directed," in this case, the appellant. Bangs v. Maple Hills, Ltd., 585 N.W.2d 262, 268 (Iowa 1998). Viewed in this light, the evidence introduced at trial would support the jury finding the following facts.

In the summer of 1992, Dennis, his brother, Doug, and their father, Homer, were working together to salvage materials from an old commercial building that was being torn down. On the day of the accident, Dennis and Doug were removing structural steel from the roof. Dennis asked Doug to place a ladder up against the building so Dennis could remove the bolts holding the rafters to the steel beams. Doug did so and Dennis then ascended the ladder. As Dennis reached the top, the ladder telescoped down. Dennis fell and severely fractured his left tibia.

Dennis brought this suit against Doug and Homer, claiming that he had been "engaged" by them, individually and as a partnership, to assist in the removal of scrap materials from the building. Dennis claimed Doug was negligent in his placement of the ladder in an unsafe manner or condition, thereby causing Dennis' injuries.

The case was tried to a jury. Although the district court expressed doubts about the sufficiency of the plaintiff's evidence, the court overruled the defendants' motions for directed verdict made upon the completion of the plaintiff's case and at the close of all the evidence. After deliberating for several hours, the jury informed the court that it was deadlocked and could not reach a verdict. The trial court declared a mistrial and dismissed the jury.

Four days later the defendants renewed their motion for directed verdict. The court granted the motion on several bases, one being that the evidence was insufficient to establish proximate cause. The plaintiff appealed.

II. Power of the Court to Direct a Verdict After a Mistrial.

A. Scope of review. This issue turns on an interpretation of the relevant rules of civil procedure. Our review, therefore, is for correction of errors of law. See Neill v. Western Inns, Inc., 595 N.W.2d 121, 123 (Iowa 1999).

B. Discussion. The plaintiff relies on Iowa Rule of Civil Procedure 200 to support his argument that the court has no authority to direct a verdict after the jury has been discharged. Rule 200 states that "[t]he court may discharge a jury ... if they have deliberated until it satisfactorily appears that they cannot agree. The case shall be retried immediately or at a future time, as the court directs." Iowa R. Civ. P. 200 (emphasis added).1 The plaintiff argues that rule 200 requires the court to order a case to be retried whenever a mistrial is declared. He cites two Iowa cases in support of his argument: Harden v. Illinois Central Railroad, 254 Iowa 426, 118 N.W.2d 76 (1962) and Mid-Country Meats, Inc. v. Woodruff-Evans Construction, 334 N.W.2d 332 (Iowa App.1983). We think the plaintiff's position ignores the interplay between rule 200 and Iowa Rule of Civil Procedure 243. Moreover, the cited cases do not support the proposition that retrial is mandatory after a mistrial.

Initially we note that the very action the plaintiff contends the trial court was without authority to do is explicitly allowed under rule 243, which states:

Any party may, on motion, have judgment in his favor despite an adverse
596 N.W.2d 544
verdict, or the jury's failure to return any verdict:
. . . .
(b) If the movant was entitled to have a verdict directed for him at the close of all the evidence, and moved therefor, and the jury did not return such verdict, the court may then either grant a new trial or enter judgment as though it had directed a verdict for the movant.

Iowa R. Civ. P. 243(b) (emphasis added). This rule clearly addresses the situation in which the jury has failed to return a verdict, and clearly authorizes the court to direct a verdict in that situation.

This result is consistent with the purpose of rule 243, namely, "to afford the trial court an opportunity to correct its error in failing to sustain a motion for directed verdict where the movant was entitled to a directed verdict at the close of all evidence and moved therefor and the jury did not return such verdict." Bangs, 585 N.W.2d at 268. It would be illogical to conclude that a trial court is not authorized to reconsider whether a defendant is entitled to a directed verdict under circumstances in which the jury could not reach a verdict, yet may reconsider this question when a jury unanimously finds in favor of the plaintiff. We also note that federal courts interpreting a comparable federal...

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48 practice notes
  • Housley v. Orteck Intern., Inc., No. 4:05-cv-00531-JEG.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States State District Court of Southern District of Iowa
    • June 6, 2007
    ...that the product involved was defective. Martin v. E-Z Mart Stores, Inc., 464 F.3d 827, 830 (8th Cir. 2006); Hasselman v. Hasselman, 596 N.W.2d 541, 546 (Iowa 1999) ("When a jury is left to speculate on whether the defendant's conduct in fact caused the plaintiffs damages, the evidence is i......
  • Perkins v. Bd. of Supervisors, No. 99-0583.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • November 15, 2001
    ...(Iowa 1988). Evidence is substantial when "a reasonable mind would accept it as adequate to reach a conclusion." Hasselman v. Hasselman, 596 N.W.2d 541, 545 (Iowa 1999) (quoting Johnson v. Dodgen, 451 N.W.2d 168, 171 (Iowa 1990)). Although our standard of review concerning certiorari action......
  • State v. Roache, No. 17-0931
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • November 16, 2018
    ...a reasonable mind would accept it as adequate to reach a conclusion." Bonstetter , 637 N.W.2d at 165 (quoting Hasselman v. Hasselman , 596 N.W.2d 541, 545 (Iowa 1999) ).III. Analysis.We must decide whether the district court erred by including the $1900 fine for the stolen study guide in th......
  • State v. Bonstetter, No. 00-2044.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • December 19, 2001
    ...(Iowa 1998). "Evidence is substantial when a reasonable mind would accept it as adequate to reach a conclusion." Hasselman v. Hasselman, 596 N.W.2d 541, 545 (Iowa 1999) (quoting Johnson v. Dodgen, 451 N.W.2d 168, 171 (Iowa III. The Merits A. Offset in the Restitution Order Bonstetter claims......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
48 cases
  • Housley v. Orteck Intern., Inc., No. 4:05-cv-00531-JEG.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States State District Court of Southern District of Iowa
    • June 6, 2007
    ...that the product involved was defective. Martin v. E-Z Mart Stores, Inc., 464 F.3d 827, 830 (8th Cir. 2006); Hasselman v. Hasselman, 596 N.W.2d 541, 546 (Iowa 1999) ("When a jury is left to speculate on whether the defendant's conduct in fact caused the plaintiffs damages, the evidence is i......
  • Perkins v. Bd. of Supervisors, No. 99-0583.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • November 15, 2001
    ...(Iowa 1988). Evidence is substantial when "a reasonable mind would accept it as adequate to reach a conclusion." Hasselman v. Hasselman, 596 N.W.2d 541, 545 (Iowa 1999) (quoting Johnson v. Dodgen, 451 N.W.2d 168, 171 (Iowa 1990)). Although our standard of review concerning certiorari action......
  • State v. Roache, No. 17-0931
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • November 16, 2018
    ...a reasonable mind would accept it as adequate to reach a conclusion." Bonstetter , 637 N.W.2d at 165 (quoting Hasselman v. Hasselman , 596 N.W.2d 541, 545 (Iowa 1999) ).III. Analysis.We must decide whether the district court erred by including the $1900 fine for the stolen study guide in th......
  • State v. Bonstetter, No. 00-2044.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • December 19, 2001
    ...(Iowa 1998). "Evidence is substantial when a reasonable mind would accept it as adequate to reach a conclusion." Hasselman v. Hasselman, 596 N.W.2d 541, 545 (Iowa 1999) (quoting Johnson v. Dodgen, 451 N.W.2d 168, 171 (Iowa III. The Merits A. Offset in the Restitution Order Bonstetter claims......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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