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

Samuel De Dios v. Indemnity Insurance Company of North America and Broadspire Services, Inc.
The Iowa Defense Counsel Association and The American Insurance Association filed an amicus brief authored by IDCA member Keith P.  Duffy of Nyemaster Goode, PC, in Des Moines.

Summary: In this case, the Iowa Supreme Court is being asked to consider whether to expand the tort of bad faith denial of workers’ compensation benefits to third-party administrators of workers’ compensation claims even though the insurance carriers and self-insured employers who retain third-party administrators already face liability for bad faith denial of workers’ compensation benefits.  Click this link to view the brief.


Naima Cerwick v. Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc.
The Iowa Defense Counsel Association filed an amicus brief by Tyler Smith of Smith Law Firm in Altoona.

Summary: The subject of this appeal, Naima Cerwick v. Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc., concerns an allegation that a hearing officer allowed implicit bias to impact a review of evidence and a final agency decision denying benefits to a worker’s compensation Claimant. The issue framed by the appellant on appeal was: did implicit bias improperly play a role in the decision-making process? The Claimant in Cerwick argued that because the Administrative Law Judge questioned why the Claimant’s attorney requested an interpreter when the Claimant could speak English, that implicit bias improperly motivated the decision. Throughout the proceedings the Claimant requested an interpreter and then asked if she could answer questions in English, instead of Arabic. During the proceedings she often could not think of the words in Arabic. During the hearing, she ultimately waived her right to an interpreter because she was having so much difficulty answering questions in Arabic. The Claimant had injured her back when she fell. However, it was not until much later that she alleged a hip and shoulder injury. She also changed her description of the fall over time.  Click this link to view the brief.


Hawkins v. Grinnell Regional Medical Center, et al.
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 Insurance Institute and Iowa Association of Business and Industry.

Summary: The subject of this appeal, Gregory Hawkins v. Grinnell Regional Medical Center et al., a Poweshiek County, an Iowa jury awarded over five million dollars to Plaintiff for an employment discrimination case. Plaintiff claimed he had been terminated because of his age and disability and retaliated against. 

After a ten-day jury trial and less than 90 minutes following closing arguments, the jury returned a $5.3 million-dollar verdict against Defendants; over $4 million dollars for past and future emotional distress damages. 

The specific defendants in this case are the employer and supervising employees of the Plaintiff, but the issue here is much broader. The longstanding and well-respected role of the jury is to serve as a fair and dispassionate arbiter of the facts of the case. The present case exemplifies a trend in which the concerted strategy of the plaintiff’s counsel is to turn jury decision-making on its head and implore jurors to make decisions based on inflamed passion and emotion. The strategy of urging jurors to abandon fair and dispassionate analysis of disputes negatively impacts all defendants and, in fact, all Iowans who rightfully turn to the judicial branch for fair and impartial dispute resolution.  Click this link to view the brief.


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.