Amicus Briefs

Amicus Brief Requests

The Iowa Defense Counsel Association may participate in litigation as amicus curiae in matters selected in accordance with specific guidelines from the Board of Directors. The Executive Committee will conduct a preliminary review of amicus curiae opportunities to determine if presentation to the Board of Directors is warranted. The Executive Committee will arrange for the filing of amicus briefs in noteworthy cases pending before the state courts of Iowa. The Executive Committee will review petitions for IDCA participation from members to determine whether an amicus brief in support of a particular defense position would be appropriate. The guidelines for IDCA participation as amicus curiae specify that the case must present an opportunity for IDCA to make meaningful and original arguments that could result in a contribution to jurisprudence. The case must be of significance to the defense bar or the defense practice and the points raised in the brief must be consistent with the general Mission Statement and Purpose of the IDCA.

If you are interested in requesting the IDCA’s participation as an amicus curiae, IDCA Executive Director Heather Tamminga, CAE, at staff@iowadefensecounsel.org.


Filed Amicus Briefs

Johnson (Helmers) v. Humboldt County
The following entities have filed an amicus brief authored by IDCA members Thomas Boes and Catherine Lucas of the Bradshaw Fowler Proctor & Fairrgrave PC in Des Moines: Iowa Defense Counsel Association, Iowa League of Cities, Iowa State Association of Counties, Iowa State Association of County Supervisors and the Iowa Municipal Utilities Association.

Summary: The subject of this appeal, Johnson (Helmers) v Humboldt County, involved a woman who was injured in an auto accident after hitting a concrete retaining wall in Humboldt County’s right of way. The District Court dismissed the case under the public duty doctrine which says that a breach of duty owed to the public generally (e.g., maintenance of roads) is not actionable unless the plaintiff has some special relationship with the government entity that the general public doesn’t have. The plaintiff is asking the Supreme Court to overrule that doctrine and the Iowa Association of Justice has filed an amicus brief in support. If successful, this would expose counties to significant claims and increased insurance premiums.  Click this link to view the brief.


Bell Bros. Heating & Air Conditioning v. Gwinn

The Iowa Association of Business and Industry (ABI), the Iowa Insurance Institute (III), the Iowa Defense Counsel Association (IDCA) and the Iowa Self-Insured Association (ISIA) together authorized Ryan Koopmans of Nyemaster Goode, PC, to file an amicus brief in a case before the Iowa Supreme Court. Brewer-Strong v. HNI Corporation is a workers’ compensation case that addresses the standard for when a claimant can get benefits for unauthorized care. The Iowa Association of Justice (IAJ) is asking the Iowa Supreme Court to lower the standard for unauthorized care. The IAJ wants to revise the test so that the claimant no longer has to prove that the unauthorized care leads to a “more favorable outcome.”
 
Summary: Here’s the issue summarized by Ryan Koopmans.
 
In Bell Bros. Heating & Air Conditioning v. Gwinn, 779 N.W.2d 193, 202 (Iowa 2010), the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the claimant was not entitled to benefits for unauthorized care because he couldn’t prove that the care resulted in a more favorable outcome than would have been achieved from the authorized care. In that case, the claimant received treatment from an unauthorized doctor that his authorized doctor said was unnecessary. 
 
In this case, the claimant also received unauthorized care, but there’s a twist. The Commissioner found that the authorized doctor would likely have done the same procedure as the unauthorized doctor (surgery for bilateral carpal tunnel). So the issue isn’t so much about what procedure is being done; it’s about who’s doing it (the authorized doctor or an unauthorized doctor).  
 
The Deputy Commissioner and the Commissioner concluded (and the district court agreed) that Bell Brothers still applies: Because the claimant could not prove that she achieved a better result by having the surgery done by the unauthorized doctor, the claimant couldn’t get benefits.  The Deputy said that this result may seem “unfair” and “harsh,” but he concluded that Bell Brothers dictates as much.  
 
The Iowa Association for Justice is now asking the Iowa Supreme Court to lower the standard for unauthorized care—both for cases like Bell Brothers (where the type of care is different) and for cases like this (where the care is the same but the doctors providing the care are different). It wants to revise the test so that the claimant no longer has to prove that the unauthorized care leads to a “more favorable outcome.”  Click this link to view the brief.