In a jury trial, Clark Mitchell obtained a defense verdict on behalf of his client Defendant Huckleberry Entertainment, LLC. The Des Moines County jury found in favor of Huckleberry Entertainment by denying the Plaintiff Kimberly Ransdell from recovering for injuries she sustained while operating a go-kart. Ransdell moved for a new trial arguing irregularity in the proceedings, misconduct, accident or surprise, and insufficient evidence. The trial court denied Ransdell’s motion for new trial. Ransdell appealed.
At the beginning of the trial, the trial court ruled on a motion in limine to prevent Huckleberry Entertainment from offering evidence of comparative fault. In the ruling on the motion in limine, the trial court warned that issues of negligence will overlap at times with comparative fault and those issues will be addressed during trial. The Court of Appeals explained, “while a motion in limine provides guidance during the trial, it is not always the roadmap to the end. Instead, a ruling sustaining a motion in limine simply acts as a procedural step to the introduction of allegedly objectionable evidence.” Huckleberry complied with the trial court’s ruling, but Ransdell’s evidence – not Huckleberry’s – overlapped into the lane of comparative fault without objection. That is, Ransdell offered evidence of her own fault, such as offering a video of the go-kart accident in which she failed to maintain control, failed to keep a proper lookout, and failed to obey safety rules. “We have said a party cannot complain of evidence which the party, himself, introduced into the record.” “Thus, Ransdell’s arguments about irregularity in the proceedings, misconduct, and accident or surprise fail.”
With respect to the issue of sufficiency of evidence, the Court of Appeals explained, “[a]fter reviewing the ‘real time’ video of the go-kart accident, a jury could have found, as it did, that Ransdell created the situation she found herself in. . . . Reviewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Huckleberry, there was substantial evidence to support the submission of comparative fault to the jury.” The Court of Appels held, “[w]ith a party’s possible contribution to the accident and her injuries in the record, it would be error to not instruct on comparative fault if supported by substantial evidence. After weighing the sufficiency of the evidence to support the comparative fault instructions, we find that a reasonable juror could accept it as adequate to reach the conclusions found in this verdict.”
The Court of Appeal affirmed Mitchell’s defense verdict in favor of Huckleberry Entertainment.
Ransdell v. Huckleberry Entertainment, LLC, No. 19-0545 (Iowa Ct. App., September 23, 2020).