Lavery v. Ren Testing Corp., 21-1778

CourtCourt of Appeals of Iowa
Writing for the CourtSCHUMACHER, Judge.
PartiesJUANITA LAVERY, in her Individual Capacity and as Administrator of the ESTATE OF JOHN LAVERY, CHELSIE GOHLMANN and ALLISON LAVERY, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. REN TESTING CORP. and STEVE CAMPBELL, Defendants-Appellees.
Docket Number21-1778
Decision Date07 December 2022

JUANITA LAVERY, in her Individual Capacity and as Administrator of the ESTATE OF JOHN LAVERY, CHELSIE GOHLMANN and ALLISON LAVERY, Plaintiffs-Appellants,

REN TESTING CORP. and STEVE CAMPBELL, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 21-1778

Court of Appeals of Iowa

December 7, 2022

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Story County, Kurt J. Stoebe, Judge.

The plaintiffs appeal the grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendants in their wrongful death action. AFFIRMED.

Steve Hamilton and Molly M. Hamilton of Hamilton Law Firm, P.C., Clive, for appellants.

Jeffrey D. Ewoldt of Hopkins &Huebner, P.C., Des Moines, for appellees.

Considered by Bower, C.J., and Tabor and Schumacher, JJ.



On January 18, 2018, John Lavery (John) suffered fatal injuries in a workplace accident.[1] The accident occurred when a protective hood on a hydraulic motor test stand (stand) malfunctioned. In November 2019, plaintiffs Juanita Lavery, Chelsie Gohlmann, and Allison Lavery[2] (collectively, "Lavery") filed a petition claiming the negligence of multiple defendants, including Ren Testing Corp. (Ren),[3] led to John's death. Ren designed and manufactured the stand, and sold and delivered the stand to John's employer in 2000. In November 2021, the district court granted summary judgment dismissing Ren as a defendant based on the statute of repose, barring the claims against Ren. Lavery appeals.

We review a district court's grant of summary judgment for correction of errors of law. Summary judgment is proper if the record shows that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The moving party must show an absence of a genuine issue of material fact. We view the facts in the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, and we draw every legitimate inference in their favor

Downing v. Grossman, 973 N.W.2d 512, 518 (Iowa 2022) (internal citations omitted).


The instant summary judgment turns on the interpretation and application of Iowa Code section 614.1(2A) (2019). When engaging in statutory interpretation, "[o]ur goal 'is to ascertain legislative intent in order, if possible, to give it effect.'" Carreras v. Iowa Dep't of Transp., Motor Vehicle Div., 977 N.W.2d 438, 446 (Iowa 2022) (quoting State v. Coleman, 907 N.W.2d 124, 136 (Iowa 2018)). "To ascertain legislative intent, we examine 'the language used, the purpose of the statute, the policies and remedies implicated, and the consequences resulting from different interpretations.'" Id. (quoting Albaugh v. The Reserve, 930 N.W.2d 676, 683 (Iowa 2019)). "It is not our role 'to change the meaning of a statute.'" Id. (quoting State v. Zacarias, 958 N.W.2d 573, 582 (Iowa 2021)).

The Iowa Supreme Court has characterized section 614.1(2A) as a products-liability "statute of repose." Albrecht v. Gen. Motors Corp., 648 N.W.2d 87, 88 (Iowa 2002). Like a statute of limitations, a statute of repose is "designed to prevent the trial of stale claims because evidence gathering is usually made more difficult by the passage of time." Id. at 91 (quoting Fisher v. McCrary-Rost Clinic, P.C., 580 N.W.2d 723, 725 (Iowa 1998)). Unlike a statute of limitations, a statute of repose typically runs from an earlier date "related to an act of the defendant" and "extinguish[es] existing rights or prevent[s] rights from arising." Id. at 90-91. A statute of repose embodies "the legislative conclusion that a point in time arrives beyond which a potential defendant should be immune from liability for past conduct." Id. (citation omitted). "In other words, a statute of limitations affects only the remedy, not the right, . . . whereas a statute of repose affects the right itself, extinguishing existing rights or preventing rights from arising." Id. at 91.


Iowa Code section 614.1(2A)(a) provides in relevant part:

Those [actions] founded on the death of a person or injuries to the person or property brought against the manufacturer, assembler, designer, supplier of specifications, seller, lessor, or distributor of a product based upon an alleged defect in the design, inspection, testing, manufacturing, formulation,

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