Iowa Supreme Court Issues Ruling on Appeal Deadline

Posted on: May 5th, 2021

A mother whose son developed disabling injuries from bacterial meningitis brought an action for medical negligence against the physicians, and their employers, who treated her son. Various Defendants entered settlement agreements with the mother. Two physicians and an employer of one physician went to trial. The jury issued a verdict in their favor, finding the remaining physicians were not negligent. The mother appealed and presented several issues on appeal. The Defendants contested these issues on the merits, and also maintained the appeal was untimely because the mother failed to timely file her notice of appeal. The Defendants contended that the district court’s judgment was a final, appealable order pertaining to them, and Plaintiff failed to file a proper notice of appeal within thirty days of that judgment.

Five months after the district court judgment, Plaintiff filed a dismissal of the settling Defendants. After another month, Plaintiff filed a motion requesting an order entering final judgment. The district court entered the proposed order the next day. Plaintiff filed her notice of appeal approximately twenty-six days later.

The district court judgment following trial “only disposed of some, but not all, of the issues as additional Defendants remained in the case, pending probate court approval of their proposed settlements with Plaintiff.” The Iowa Rule of Appellate Procedure regarding timeliness of appeals, provides, “A notice of appeal must be filed within 30 days after the filing of the final order or judgment.” Iowa R. App. P. 6.101(1)(b). The Supreme Court provided that the Plaintiff’s dismissal of the remaining Defendants marked the date of finality for appeal purposes, not the date the district court entered Plaintiff’s proposed order for dismissal. Moreover, Plaintiff may not rely on a motion requesting the district court “enter a superfluous order of final judgment” as a sidestep to the deadline.

The Iowa Supreme Court concluded the appeal was untimely and therefore, it lacked jurisdiction and dismissed the appeal.

Valles v. Mueting, et. al., No. 19-1066 (Iowa March 19, 2021).

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