District Court’s Finding of “Trespasser” Reversed and Remanded on Appeal

Posted on: April 11th, 2016

A personal-injury plaintiff appealed a directed verdict in favor of the defendant construction company. The plaintiff was injured after she tripped on the orange plastic webbing of a construction fence laying across a walking trail in Waterloo, Iowa. The plastic fence was the property of Vieth Construction, who had contracted with the City to build a portage for kayaks and canoes to dock along the near-by Cedar River. When the accident occurred, Vieth Construction had abandoned its portage project due to flooding and cold-weather months. The plaintiff filed a negligence claim against Vieth Construction, claiming the company failed to maintain the fence in good condition and failed to warn trail users of the dangerous condition. At trial, the district court granted Defendant’s motion, finding Plaintiff a trespasser as a matter of law.

Plaintiff appealed the district court’s ruling, claiming the district court wrongly labeled her a “trespasser” when she was walking on a public trail at a time when the circumstances did not show the trail was closed to the public. The court of appeals agreed that the evidence at trial did not establish her status as a trespasser as a matter of law. The Court reversed the district court’s grant of Defendant’s motion for directed verdict and remanded the case for a new trial.

Robeson v. Vieth Construction Co., No. 14-2137 (Iowa Ct. App. April 6, 2016).

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